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Students' well-being

A key aspect of 21st century education

An aspect of education which is addressed more and more in the literature is the well-being of the school community—vital to 21st century education.

Education is much more than the transfer and assimilation of knowledge. Traditionally, education has mainly focused on students mastering the curriculum content, passing tests and exams, and obtaining high grades, and on schools achieving high positions in rankings. For some time, however, this approach to education has been changing and educators have been paying increasing attention to other, key elements of the learning process.  continue reading...

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Well-being of the school community

One of the areas that has been neglected previously, now highly emphasized, is the area of ​​soft skills (competences), such as assertiveness, communicativeness, conflict resolution, logical thinking, creativity, and many others. We write extensively about them in the article “Soft skills. Important skills for the 21st century in private schools”.

The focus on soft skills reflects schools’ care for the students' well-being. Schools that care about well-being create a safe space for their students to learn, but also to develop physically, mentally, emotionally, socially, and spiritually, and simply to enjoy their educational experience.

The Finnish model of school well-being from the University of Tampere, based on research conducted in schools in Finland, shows that school well-being is influenced by:

In many countries, according to reports from Canada, Great Britain, Ireland, the Netherlands, Scandinavia, and Australia, educational initiatives and programs aimed at student well-being are appreciated and supported. Substantial resources are allocated to them, teachers and school staff are trained, and there are many programs as well as information and educational material available.

From the report of the project "School for an innovator," under the leadership of Prof. Jan Fazlagic, we learn that in Polish schools there’s little systematic support for creative attitudes, conscious development of innovation/creativity, the ability to think outside the box, or to solve tasks in unusual ways. The authors of the report explicitly state: “One of the main barriers to pro-innovation competences is the education model promoted all over the world, not only in Poland, in which standardized tests were introduced to check certain competences of students.” In Poland, the trend in education focusing on well-being at school is particularly visible in private education. In Our Kids’ conversations with private school principals, students, and parents, we’ve been hearing these institutions pay a lot of attention to creating appropriate conditions for the entire school community’s well-being.

In 2021 we learned that nearly a billion people (13% of the world's population) have been diagnosed with a mental illness. Mental illness and mental instability are as dangerous as any physical illness, so it's very important to pay close attention to them. Prevention is the key and educational environment has a great role to play here.

Mental health of students and the pandemic

The issue of well-being has become even more relevant recently in the wake of the pandemic, which, as ample research shows, has had an extremely negative impact on the mental health of children and teenagers. This is confirmed by doctors and educators around the world, sounding the alarm that they’re dealing with young patients affected by an exceptionally wide range of mental health problems—from eating disorders to severe depression—caused by the pandemic. "We've never seen so many children with severe depression, suicidal thoughts, and severe eating disorders," says a paediatrician at the Ottawa Community Paediatricians Network.

Hence the number of initiatives, such as mindfulness or stress reduction courses, as well as other forms of support often based on positive psychology.

Private schools and well-being

The great importance of the emotional and mental sphere in education is confirmed by the results of our own nationwide survey, "Why do parents choose private schools?," which was part of the second edition of the Our Kids "Report on non-public education 2019" (available in Polish here). It showed that parents value a safe, student-centred environment offered by private schools, where children are treated individually, with good interaction with teachers and the school, and giving children the opportunity to acquire soft skills, not only knowledge.

The most important features of private schools emphasized by parents are: emotional safety of the child, individualized approach, the development of soft skills, good opportunities and conditions for learning foreign languages, ​​and smaller classes.

The fact that private schools pay a lot of attention to well-being is highly valued by parents.

Here’s what one mother said in our survey:

“A private school is primarily a community of teachers, students, and parents, which not only teaches but also shapes young people and helps them to develop as open-minded individuals. It respects everyone, is open to discussions and projects, as well as supports and motivates students in all they do.”

The study included in the Our Kids report was carried out in 2019, i.e., before the pandemic, but in a series of our articles we also showed how well private schools have done in both waves of the pandemic. The students’ and parents’ positive assessment of the work of private schools in the difficult and challenging times of COVID-19 confirms the quality and value of private education and its increasing advantage over public education in the eyes of students and parents. Private schools have proved their worth in times of crisis and this is the direct cause of the systematically growing interest in them.

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