The majority of nations and especially those that are developed, fail their students in the sense that not everyone can learn the same way. However, most educational systems require that everyone regurgitate the same information. Instead of actually empowering students, it's easier for school boards and teachers to throw tests at students and then determine who regurgitated the information best. A recent study of 20 elementary schools in Hawaii has found that a focused program to build social, emotional and character skills resulted in significantly improved overall quality of education, as evaluated by teachers, parents and students.
Education is something that has a formative effect on the mind allowing you to grow and develop. We must learn to not dwell on the negative experiences many of us acquire from our conventional educational system and surpass these events to make room for true unconditional growth. This is education.
One of most significant issues facing youths in this era is the deteriorating education system which does not respond to their needs. Youth is that chapter of life where dreams are built, hope is kindled, and a bright future is foreseen. Those are the years to understand yourself, discover your potential, grab opportunities and pursue success. Those are also the years to foster moral principles, construct your value system and begin a new journey on the path of the ‘right. ' Education is the pillar by which this is accomplished.
Our system stresses collecting knowledge without understanding its value. How about the processing of knowledge, and using inspiration, visionary ambitions, creativity, risk, the ability to bounce back from failure and motivation? Most education institutions don't consider these skills. These skills are associated with understanding the value of knowledge. Anyone who does not have the ability to put clear thoughts on paper is labelled a failure. All natural skills, including knowledge processing, do not count. The fact is, what is exercised grows stronger, what is ignored stays dormant. The classroom emphasizes academic learning, leaving all other natural skills in the closet.
The concept from Hawaii includes organized activities to build character that go beyond more traditional rules or policies to control or punish problem behaviors. But it still takes only about an hour a week away from traditional education, and previous research has documented much lower numbers of suspensions, lower absenteeism, and better reading and math scores on standardized tests.
The latest study, being published by researchers from Oregon State University in the Journal of School Health, found for the first time that teachers believed this approach improved “overall school quality” by 21 percent, with parents and students agreeing in slightly smaller numbers. It was based on findings from racially and ethnically diverse schools, half using the program and half that did not.
“Improved social and character skills leave more time for teachers to teach, and students to learn and be more motivated,” said Brian Flay, an OSU professor in the School of Social and Behavioral Health Sciences. “What we're finding now is that we can really address some of the concerns in our schools by focusing more on character in the classroom.
“These are not new concepts, they're the kind of things that have always been discussed in families, church and social groups,” Flay said. “A third-grade lesson, for instance, might be helping kids to understand how other people feel, to learn about empathy. That may seem simple, but in terms of educational performance it's important. ”
School quality, as defined in this research, includes a safe environment, involvement and satisfaction among individuals, student support, continuous improvement, standards-based learning and other features.
Past policies to curtail substance abuse, violent behavior and other problems have shown only limited results, researchers said in the study, in part because they don't address underlying issues such as student's sense of self and social attachment. The new trend being explored is what they call social-emotional and character development.
The program used in this research includes K-12 classroom curricula, a school-wide climate development component, teacher and staff training, parent and community involvement, continued positive reinforcement and other techniques.
Lessons include topics related to self-concept, physical and intellectual actions, managing oneself responsibly, getting along with others, being honest, and self-improvement.
The results have been impressive. Previously published results showed 72 percent fewer suspensions, 15 percent less absenteeism, and much better reading and math skills based on state tests. National tests showed a 9 percent improvement in these academic subjects.
“The current research supports the hypothesis that these programs can generate whole-school change and improve school safety and quality,” the researchers wrote in their report. “The present study shows improvements in school quality were made by relatively underperforming schools. ”
The findings suggest that schools, districts, states and the federal government should consider policies and funding directed toward social and character programs of this type, the researchers said.
Marco Torres is a research specialist, writer and consumer advocate for healthy lifestyles. He holds degrees in Public Health and Environmental Science and is a professional speaker on topics such as disease prevention, environmental toxins and health policy.