Education for well-being
To have a society built around well-being, we need schools that prepare students for this. When we think about the aims of education, there is a question that pops up in our mind: How central to education should be universal well-being? We all know that it is not the only aim of education; supporting the economy, and preparation for citizenship are also part of education’s primary goals.
But, it is hard to think of any of these aims, actual or ideal, without some link to personal well-being. In the book, Exploring Well-Being in Schools, John White says that economic goals do not end in themselves. Its point is to help people lead more flourishing lives. The same goes for being a good citizen.
The fact that some of the aims are about a child’s own well-being and some of them are about general welfare provokes another question. If the child is a part of the larger collective, why do we not go straight for the bigger picture and aim only at the well-being of all?
According to White, if the school serves only the general good, then depending on whether the parameters are national or global, each individual pupil’s welfare counts for no more than one sixty-millionth part, or ten-billionth part, of the whole. In other words, we can say that it counts for virtually nothing at all. Sacrificing it completely for the sake of totality is a hair’s breadth away. Instead of using individuals merely as a means to something else, schools should help each pupil lead a fulfilling life.
Parents and teachers can bring children up within a generous enough conception of their own good. They should encourage children to have friendly, kind, and concerned relationships with those close to them. Then, children will see others’ well-being in their local, national, and global communities as inextricably related to their own.
Whole-hearted enjoyment should be a more valued aim than it is in schools today.
The role of family in shaping a child for the future is as significant as schools. Teaching and learning starts from family itself. When the child becomes capable of doing intentional action, parents should initiate them into small activities. When the children are at the edge of starting to understand things, parents should teach them that their own well-being and that of others are closely intertwined.
Aims of well-being
Education for well-being involves preparing children for a life of autonomous, whole-hearted and successful engagement in worthwhile activities and relationships. Parents and teachers will want them to make their own choices about these; they have to acquaint children, partly drawing on their powers of imagination, with an array of future possible options. It also means children engaging in worthwhile pursuits.
Success is an educational and social ideal applicable to everybody.
Being autonomous means more than the two-year-old’s ability to choose between playing with the diggers or the train set or the doll – it requires personal qualities and levels of understanding still far beyond him/her/them. At the same time, his/her/their kind of choosing is the first step for more considered and informed choices later.
If we think that wholeheartedness is key to well-being, we should expect it to permeate every learning activity. Whole-hearted enjoyment should be a more valued aim than it is in schools today. There should be less boredom, switching off, divided attention and classroom disruption.
Success is an educational and social ideal applicable to everybody. Barring ill-luck and misjudgements, everyone’s life should be a “success’. This has nothing to do with fame or ending up with higher-than-average income and social status. Both parents and teachers need to be clear on what counts as intrinsically worthwhile pursuits. The range of the activities should be much wider, including work activities of all kinds, paid and unpaid, provided that other conditions of autonomy and wholeheartedness are met. It should embrace cooperativeness. These activities intend to further other people’s well-being, either face to face or at the civic level. Personal relationships, especially those of friendship and intimacy, are also vital elements in flourishing. Schools and families should do what they can to equip children for these.
Teachers and parents should have confidence in their judgments about worthwhileness and should pass it on to their children/pupils. In addition, parents and teachers should acquaint young people with both deeper as well as surface levels of enjoyment. They should make sure that learners are keeping in touch with the world of human concerns and to not lose themselves within some technical specialism. The arts, especially literature, is significant here.
In the existing curricular tradition, artistic subjects, not least literature, are to some extent assimilated to the knowledge tradition. This tradition has prized the acquisition of knowledge and insufficiently valued aesthetic and imaginative pursuits. Our system of testing and examining helps children critically assess a text but it certainly holds them back from forming an enjoyable immersion about it. For example, studying Shakespeare’s Macbeth and writing examinations based on factual questions about plots and characterisation may restrict children from immersing in the beauty of the play and in using their imagination powers.
In this part, we discussed the well-being and the role played by parents and teachers in ensuring it. In the next part, we will discuss about knowledge and understanding to be imparted for well-being and the changes that need to be brought about in the curriculum.
Now put on your thinking hats and think about the following questions for a couple of minutes.
How would you describe the term “well-being” to your students?
Can you think of the role played by parents and teachers in ensuring the well-being of children?
Write down your thoughts and discuss them with your students, children and your colleagues. Listen to their views and compare them with your own. As you listen to others, note how similar or different your views are to others’.
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