The whole child approach in education
We often say today’s children are tomorrow’s future. Hence, it is our responsibility to give them the most for a better and healthier tomorrow.
A child is a like a bud which needs a lot of care and nourishment for it to bloom into a beautiful flower. A bud does not only need water and sunlight but also a care-taker who removes the weeds that grow around it to make sure that this bud becomes a healthy flower in future. Likewise, the child doesn’t only need a good education but a fulfilment of many elements that are associated with a child’s overall development.
One such significant factor that we often fail to notice is the mental health of the child. According to WHO, mental health is defined as a state of well-being in which every individual realizes his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to her or his community.
Family being the primary institution in the society, has a lot of responsibilities towards a child. It is the first agent of socialization where a child learns the moral values of life. A child’s future, therefore, doesn’t shape when s/he starts going to school but from the time s/he enters the family.
According to Erik Erikson’s (a German psychoanalyst) theory on psychosocial development, the personality development of a child depends on the impact of external factors, parents and society. Taking this theory into consideration, it is needless to say how important it is to keep a check on a child’s mental and emotional health. In this fast moving competitive world, we, as parents and teachers, often tend to pressurize the budding children to compete with each other just to satisfy our dreams and goals through them. In the long run, these children become machines and do exactly what they are asked to do and eventually their critical thinking ability and self- identity is lost. They become ‘Cyborgs’ (half human half machine). Do we want our future generation to become Cyborgs who are machines in a human body? Certainly NOT!
After family, it is the school which plays a major role in moulding a child. However, with time its roles have changed. The whole child approach to learning needs schools to modify the educational experience and the classroom environment so that the social emotional learning of the students is addressed and enhanced, in turn creating confident and holistically developed students for the future.
Gone are the days where students would sit patiently and listen to their teacher’s lectures which were considered ‘supreme’. Teachers were the gurus for sharing their knowledge and for moulding the students into responsible citizens. It was more of a lecture than a discussion. However, change is pertinent and the 21st century demands an alternative and a more up-to-date path in every field for the all-round development of a child. The Teacher-Student bonding should be positive. The teacher should always be there for the student to support him/herin his/her hour of emotional crisis which only means that the role of teacher is not limited to teaching any more. The teacher, being the first contact point for the child, needs to be alert at all times and must take the necessary steps in times of crisis.
Another major component is the need to bring in a change in the pattern of learning. Along with a theoretical understanding of the subject, a practical understanding is very important. Practical knowledge would be highly fruitful as students today believe in ‘hands on activities’. Thematic and Cross Curricular Systems of learning can be effective for imparting practical knowledge which in turn builds a sense of curiousity to know the unknown. Assessments and Challenges should be creative / project and activity based / can be a group challenge instead of an individual centric assessment. These can definitely help us not create Cyborgs in future.
Apart from academics, it is also very important to foster the mental and emotional health of a child. The proverb, a healthy mind in a sound body defines it all.
Eating right and nutritious food, abstention from drugs and alcohol, regular exercise can definitely help the child to be physically fit and mentally healthy. Safe classrooms where there is no abuse / bullying / harassment / neglect of a student, so that s/he can concentrate on his / her work. Rules for safe classroom should be laid down by the students and teachers which should be revisited / reviewed at regular intervals.
Thus, today’s educational institutions should not merely focus on delivering basic knowledge but must work towards the holistic or the all-round development of the child. It should be a collective effort of the teachers, parents, and the society to create a healthy future for the child, for him/her to be a responsible citizen.
Ashutosh Aggarwal, B.E.(Mech). Hons, is Founder & Secretary, Sanskriti The Gurukul, Guwahati; Co-Founder, The Atelier (www.the-atelier.org), Guwahati & Bangalore; and Jt.Secretary, Happy Child High school, Guwahati. He has been awarded the White Swan award by AsiaOne Magazine, as the Most Influential Leader in Education, 2015-16. He is passionate about bringing a change in the education system of the country. He is a dedicated Maths Educator and teaches classes X-XII. He is also the Charter President, The Toastmasters Club of Guwahati. He is an able leader and administrator andbelieves in the empowerment of the team. He believes in 7C’s in Education: Critical Thinking, Creativity, Collaboration, Communication, Citizenship, Character Building & Compassion.
Ankita Das born on the 21st of May, 1989, in Guwahati, exploring life has always been my passion. Holding a dual Master’s degree in English with Communication Studies from Christ University, Bangalore and MSW from St. Joseph’s College of Arts and Science, Bangalore, I have always wanted to work with children to motivate and understand them. Hence, to fulfill this objective, I returned to my hometown as an English and Life Skills educator. This has made me achieve the ultimate purpose of getting to know the psyche of children and teenagers.
Apart from being passionate about teaching, I am a Toastmaster and a strong believer in constant self-improvement. I am also, a cycling enthusiast and a nature lover who finds deep connection with nature.