What is Positive Education?
Positive education has been defined as education for both traditional skills and for happiness (Seligman et al., 2009). Whilst the study of happiness falls under this umbrella, so do other psychological constructs such as meaning, wisdom, creativity and many more. Positive psychology is extremely relevant to the school setting to assist in the understanding and development of high levels of psychological wellbeing in students, staff and school.
Why Positive Education?
Historically, schools have aimed for academic excellence as evidence for their success. Today there are growing numbers of schools that acknowledge the need for a more holistic approach that fosters the flourishing of the whole person (Huitt, 2010). Specifically, Positive Education seeks to combine the principles of positive psychology and best-practice- teaching to promote optimal development and flourishing in a school setting. (Norrish, Williams, O’Connor & Robinson 2013)
Positive Education recognises that the stresses and strains of the modern world have impacted on the learner, evidenced by the increasing statistics on psychological distress and mental illness in our children and adolescents. Beyond Blue has published some significant data around adolescent health that is noteworthy.
- Evidence suggests three in four adult mental health conditions emerge by age 24 and half by age 14 Breakdown: Half of all lifetime cases of mental health disorders start by age 14 years and three quarters by age 24 years.
- Young people are most concerned about coping with stress, school or study problems and body image in that order Breakdown: The top issues of concern to young people in 2013 were, in order, coping with stress, school or study problems, body image, depression and family conflict.
- Concern about mental health among young people is growing Breakdown: 15.2% identified mental health as a major issue facing Australia in 2013, up from 12.7% in 2012 and 10.7% in 2011.
- Young people see mental health as a more important issue than things such as the environment, bullying, education and employment Breakdown: In 2013, young people saw mental health as a more important issue than things such as the environment, bullying, education and employment.
This reality supports the need to take a more proactive rather than reactive approach to mental health. Mount Carmel has adopted a whole school approach to Positive Education so that all we do is mindful and timely in its willingness to foster flourishing for our students. Instead of having solo approaches to wellbeing throughout the school based on the effort of individual teachers, the aim is for every staff member to see themselves as a teacher of positive education and to have Positive Education principles, values, strategies/ interventions written into the strategic plan and embedded across the whole school Kinder through to Year Ten.
The research already documented indicates that if we can focus on wellbeing we will see the teaching of wellbeing to students, having a direct impact on academic success (Durlak, Weissberg, Dimnicki, Taylor and Schellinger 2011).
Mount Carmel College is particularly focused on the wellbeing and development of the whole person’s body, mind and spirit.
Miss Melanie Sluyters and Mrs Lisa Herd – Primary and Secondary Positive Education Coordinators
Norrish, J, 2015. Positive Education. 1st ed. Oxford: Oxford University Press.