Thursday, September 18, 2008

THE IDEAL SCHOOL ENVIRONMENT: BUILDING SOCIAL AND EMOTIONAL COMPETENCE IN STUDENTS

A school is a place where children and adolescents have their initial education and academic learning. It is, indeed, the place where a child receives his/her first formal education. The initial stages of life of an individual are spent in a school. A child, usually, enters school at the age of five and stays there till the age of seventeen or eighteen. This means each person begins his/her school-life at early childhood and ends it at late adolescence. Thus, the time spent by an individual in school is known to be the most critical phase of human development.

The main aim of a school is to provide education and train students for academic achievement and build their intellectual ability. The environment outside the school premises is completely different from what it is inside. A school is known for its protectiveness and discipline. An individual spends so much of his/her early as well as critical life in school that it can become difficult for him/her when he/she passes out of school and steps into the unpredictable and somewhat unsafe environment that exists outside the school.

This gives an indication that apart from focusing on academic achievement, schools should also give a lot of importance to the social and emotional competence of students in order to make him/her cope and adjust to the stressful life and deal with varied life situations once he/she moves out of school and enters to face the unpredictable world. Social and emotional competence refers to the capacity to recognize and manage emotions, solve problems effectively, and establish and maintain positive relationships with others.

Learning of social and emotional competence should be in-built within the curriculum of the school so that each and every student is able to have maximum advantage from it and by the time he/she completes school, grows into a person who is fully secure as far as personal growth and adjustment is concerned. Social and emotional competence will also be very helpful for students to overcome many of the psychological and emotional problems that they face during their time in school.

Some schools categorize students in different sections in each standard (grade) according to the academic ability and/or the intelligence quotient (IQ) of the students to develop a sense of competition and to enhance their academic achievement. Instead of this it would be much better to categorize students in different sections according to their personalities rather than academic performance or IQ. It would be much more beneficial if students with similar personalities are kept together in one section. For instance, all introverts in one section and all extroverts in the other section. Likewise, students with a high need for affiliation can be put in one section and students with low need for affiliation in the other section, etc.

This will be a very good platform to encourage healthy interaction between students. Students with similar personalities will obviously gel very well with each other and will have many common needs and interests to share among each other. Once they mix-up well among each other and thus develop good communication skills, the students can later be gradually moved in and interchanged with students of different personalities to develop a much more healthy interaction and also build the ability to interact with different kinds of people.

This will also be very helpful for many students in overcoming the problems of the feeling of being left out and being unwanted, which is known to be quite common in schools. A school is a place where students meet different fellow students and get to know each other and develop friendships. The students also form small or large groups according to their needs and interests. But, unfortunately, some students do not find themselves to be a part of any group and develop feelings of worthlessness and low self-esteem causing them to feel unwanted. This will obviously not happen if students are made to interact with other students who have similar personalities.

Therefore, keeping students with similar personalities together in one section will be very good in enhancing the emotional wellbeing of the students that will contribute in a major way in building the social and emotional competence of the students.

Schools should also hold training sessions to train students in building their Social Intelligence. Social Intelligence is the ability to act wisely in human relationships. It is the level of mastery of the particular cluster of knowledge and skills relevan to interpersonal situations. Social Intelligence involves cognitive skills and attentional control to be empathetic, sensitive, influential, inspiring, compassionate, exciting, humorous, charming, etc. in interpersonal situations.

Within Social Intelligence comes Emotional Intelligence. It is a kind of Social Intelligence. Emotional Intelligence is the ability to use our emotions in a rational and intelligent manner. It is the ability or capacity for recognizing our own feelings and those of others, for motivating ourselves and for managing emotions well in ourselves and in our relationships and use this information to guide one’s thinking and actions. It is about expressing our emotions in the right way, at the right moment, in the right proportion, for the right reason, and towards the right object. Emotional Intelligence involves knowing one’s emotions, managing emotions, motivating oneself, recognizing and understanding emotions in others, and handling relationships.


Social Intelligence and Emotional Intelligence are very useful in enhancing the overall personality of an individual. They can be very useful in diverse life situations and provide a lot of help in the social adjustment of individuals. Thus, the skills of Social Intelligence will obviously be of a lot of significance for students, especially if learnt from an earlier age.

Students should be discouraged in getting involved in social comparisons and the school authorities should play a big part in this. When individuals evaluate themselves by comparing them to others, then it is known as social comparison. Students generally have a habit of comparing themselves with others. This should be strictly discouraged, because each student is unique in their own way. Each student has his/her own unique strengths and abilities and they should be made to believe in them and have confidence in them.

Social comparison is an incorrect and inadequate way of evaluating oneself. When students compare themselves to others, then it can give them a negative picture about themselves. This may create some kind of confusion among the students and lead them to evaluate themselves as someone who is unworthy and may develop the feelings of inferiority complex.

A student may not be good in a certain aspect compared to the other student, but that does not mean that there is something wrong with that student. That student obviously may have some kind of ability in which he/she is extremely efficient or has the potential to be so. Students should be encouraged to believe in themselves, have their own way of thinking, use their unique abilities to move forward in life, and create their own identity rather than comparing themselves with others.

Students should be made to build a positive and high self-esteem. Self-esteem is known as the self-worth and self-evaluation of an individual. It is perhaps the most important attitude that an individual has about himself/herself. It depends on the opinion of others as well as how one perceives specific experiences. Self-esteem is a very important aspect of an individual’s personality and depending on its degree (high or low) can affect an individual’s life in many ways.

A high self-esteem has a lot of benefits and plays a big role in adjustment, emotional stability, optimism, and goal attainment. A person with high self-esteem perceives himself/herself as better, more capable, and of greater worth than does someone with low self-esteem. A high self-esteem can make student’s realize their real potential and accordingly set goals in life. It helps in developing their own interests and build-in confidence and self-belief about their abilities and about the goals that they have set for themselves.

It also makes them understand the true meaning of success and failure. Success and failure depends on what an individual gives importance to. If a student is aware about the things that are important to him/her, then he/she will use their potential in a proper manner and try to become more and more competent in things that he/she values. All this tells a lot about the significance of having a high self-esteem and this is why schools should take special care in increasing the self-esteem of students.

In schools, students should be helped to enhance their creativity. They should be encouraged to use and develop their own creative ideas. Creativity is the ability to produce something that is novel as well as useful and appropriate. The enhancement of creativity in a student can help him/her to identify their own interests and real potentials.

Creativity may not be necessarily confined to a particular task. Being creative can also be helpful in many other aspects of everyday life. A student may like to do things in his/her own unique and creative style depending on his/her own comfort level and satisfaction. Rather than forcing students to follow the old conventional style of doing particular things, it will be much better if he/she is allowed to do things on his/her own way, which in turn will make it interesting for him/her and will also lead to enhancing his/her abilities.

Creativity can also be helpful in using decision making and problem solving, regarding various aspects of one’s life, in an appropriate manner. Rather than making the same stereotypical decisions, a student may use his/her creativity and make decisions that suit him/her. In this way, a student can make important as well as appropriate decisions of his/her life regarding his/her career as well as other facets of life. Thus, creativity can be a very important factor in a student’s life and rather than being curbed, should be enhanced and encouraged among students.

There is no doubt that academic achievement and intellectual ability are very important aspects of students’ life. However, social and emotional competence enables students to use that academic and intellectual ability in an appropriate manner. There is no use of having good academic and intellectual abilities without being able to apply them appropriately.

On the other hand, students with limited academic and intellectual abilities can achieve a lot more if they have a strong social and emotional competence. Due to their social and emotional competence, they have a realization of their strengths and weaknesses and have the ability to use it pertinently throughout life. This may not really be possible with being limited to only academic and intellectual abilities.

The skills of social and emotional competence are very useful and helpful in adjustment, coping with stress, realization of real abilities and interests, goal attainment, emotional wellbeing, and satisfaction in life. Such benefits cannot be provided by academic and intellectual abilities and this is where social and emotional competence score over them. In fact, research shows that most of the times social and emotional competence is much more important than academic and intellectual abilities and is more helpful in achieving success and happiness in life.

Learning of any kind is most affective at the time of childhood and adolescence. This is why schools should take up the responsibility in providing the learning of social and emotional competence. Also, learning of such skills at an early age will train them perfectly to use it effectively in the later stages of life, when such skills will be needed the most.

A curriculum comprising of learning of academic and intellectual abilities as well as social and emotional competence is the true sense of education. When such learning is provided, in a school, to all of its students like any other form of education, then it will enable to build the ideal school environment.

16 comments:

Kirat Singh said...

im going to forward this to my teacher...

the do- dreamer said...

hey, dat is a gr8 idea, categorizing students by their personalities to help them gel together...wonder why nobody thought of it before:-)
nice blog, do chek out mine

Saif said...

@ kirat
do tell me what your teacher thinks about it ... i hope the message that i'm trying to convey, reaches your school in a proper manner ...

@ the do-dreamer
well, even i had this thought that why didn't anybody think about it earlier to use this technique in schools ... thanks for visiting :)

writu said...

i so completely think the same as the do-dreamer.why has none ever thought like this before?
i was reading each paragraph,and i was saying to myself that,"YES..this guy is right."

good job saifu :)

Buddha said...

I am a cynical optimist. I believe it can be done but not on this planet :)
Other than that excellent job!

Saif said...

@ writu
i really appreciate your comment, it was really nice of you to read the whole post :)

@ buddha
hahaha ... i really liked the term "cynical optimist" ... that's really funny, made me laugh my heart out :D ...
anyway, that's your opinion that it can't be done on this planet ... i truly believe that if we want, then it can be done ... more importantly, it should be and must be done for the overall growth and betterment of children and adolescents.

sohit bhardwaj said...

the idea of bringing the creativity in schools is very nice but i dont feel emotional training is needed as it is learnt naturally,,,,,,,
more important would be TO BE PRACTICAL mean more practicals should be induced rather just THEORY...
but
WE CAN JUST TALK ,,,,here no one dare to change it

Saif said...

@ sohit
i'm sorry to say but your comment, that emotional training is not needed because it is naturally learned, is absolutely wrong because each individual is different from the other and everybody does not become emotionally competent and that's why many students/individuals require training in emotional competence, if it were learnt naturally then many people would not be suffering from emotional and psychological problems ...

further, when you say that more important is to be practical rather than just use of theory ... this does not make much of a sense, because here nothing is being discussed about theory and practicals ... also, there are proper psychological techniques for all the points that i have mentioned ... but if you really want to talk in terms of theory and practicals then you should know that it is common sense that before applying anything practically a theoretical plan of that is built up ...

finally, it is just your thought when you say that we can just talk and that no one dares to change it ... well, the need of the hour is a change in the educational system and psychologists and educationists realize this very well ... change is a gradual process, it can't be done suddenly ... humans, especially children and adolescents are not mechanical ... things have been changing before and they will continue to do so ... we need not always think in a pessimistic manner ... and these are not just plain talks ... all the things that i have talked about are proper psychological techniques and if used appropriately, they can be certainly applied in schools.

This Brazen Teacher said...

You should read "Multiple Intelligences" by Howard Gardner. Although from the sounds of this post- you might already have. Thanks for visiting my blog. I'll be back here again soon :-)

Cheers,
Brazen

Saif said...

@ this brazen teacher
yeah, i have read "Multiple Intelligences" and Howard Gardner has a lot of influence on me, but i don't think that this post has anything to do with Multiple Intelligences ... thanks for visiting ... take care :)

ruthleen said...

this is real informative,you r doing a great job

Saif said...

@ ruthleen
thanks for the appreciation ...

anu said...

Respected Sir,
No wonder likewise your other writings this is also an enlightening one. But while going through it, I was trying to fit it in the frame of Indian schools which can be probably divided into four categories: 1. Govt. 2. Govt. aided 3. Govt. Unaided, & 4. Self Financed.
Firstly, In present scenario the biggest problem with Govt. and Govt. aided schools are of its declining qualities which is creating shift in students inclination towards private schools leading towards privatization. The problem with privatization can be seen through the lens of equity where only rich section can afford education. This is posing serious question in front of the poor section of the society unfortunately devoid of quality education.
The sad part of the story is that Govt. schools are catering the needs of a large number of students belonging to poor section with its deplorable quality. Schools basically run by state government or local authorities are the most neglected and unprivileged one, and the standard of teaching is deplorable. The curriculum and teaching methodologies stand obsolete and outdated, with the emphasis being on rote-learning and merely developing reading and writing skills instead of holistic education.
Secondly, In my understanding learning is not an essentially individual process in the class. It is essentially social. But the rule against side talk is part of a general system of beliefs that ignores this. It presumes that each student learns as an isolated individual, even though part of a group. Even in our classroom setting it is expected from students that they will accept unquestioningly the words of the teachers and the text they produce for their students, which makes the students a passive receiver of ideas. Learning is seen as a product of teaching or of adults' provision of information. Adults see themselves as responsible for filling children up with knowledge, as if children are receptacles and knowledge is a product. Children are seen as receivers of a body of knowledge, but not active participants in learning. The children have little role except to be receptive, as if they could just open a little bottle cap to let adults pour the knowledge in.
And lastly, According to the UNESCO, India has the lowest public expenditure on education per student in the world. The figures go from bad to worse with the lowest being Uttar Pradesh spending a measly Rs 483 per child per year.
In such a scenario it is really hard to create an ideal school environment which promotes social and emotional competence in students. It is little difficult and far beyond our imagination that what sort of competence students are gaining without proper school infrastructure, with no sanitation facilities, less conducive environment & no teaching learning process.

Saif said...

@ Anamika
The thing is that we tend to focus too much on problems that result in complication things too much.
I agree with what you said, but you are taking things in a different way. Firstly, when you talk about underprivileged schools where even basic education is lacking ... obviously, in such schools the first thing to do is enhance the level of proper basic education ... so, social and emotional competence comes later. When you talk Indian setting then as you said things don't function equally all oven India. There are many differences, which in some of or the other effect the functioning of schools. Schools in Bangalore, Delhi, Mumbai, UP, Bihar, etc. are obviously very different from each. What I'm trying to say that I wrote about some changes to be taken place in the way schools function, which is not that simple. The needs of the schools have to be taken into consideration and the certain changes are to be taken place. So, while in many schools learning social and emotional competence may not be required, bcoz there other needs to be fulfilled first, there are many other schools that can include it in their curriculum. In all, the changes that i'm suggesting may not be necessarily applied universally ... they can be applied in some schools and later can be invigorated in other schools gradually.

Now coming to your point of learning being a social process and not an individual process. Here I disagree. This where the whole problem arises, bcoz learning in schools is taken to be a social process and not an individual process. Each student in a classroom is different from the other. There are individual differences, which cannot and should not be ignored. So when you say that learning is only a social process and not individual then I'd say that it should be both ... individual as well as social. The reason why students in the West accomplish so much in schools is that a lot of focus is given individual growth and its high time we do the same over here.

Lastly, I'd say that it is obvious that the Indian education system needs to go through a change ... some of your are valid, but I believe that rather than saying that something cannot be done due to various reasons, we should go ahead try out the changes to bring about a betterment.

While you say that including learning of social and emotional competence is difficult bcoz of the many reasons you gave ... I'll say that yes it is difficult, but not improbable ... lets rather think that how can it be done instead of saying how can it not be done :)

Thank you for your comment, because it has made to think more about it and has given me a few points to ponder about.

International School Bangalore said...

Such a wonderful facts about the school environment and aspects of making social and emotional competence in students.
ICSE School in Bangalore | IGCSE Schools in Bangalore

Jenna said...

Boards of education should pay more attention to that.

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