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August 04, 2020 Tuesday 01:19:59 PM IST

Living in Harmony

Cover Story

What could be several reasons for the drop in Relationship and Social Quotient among children? Are our children to be blamed for the lack of confidence, insecurity and emotional issues they face in life?

The purpose of education is wholesome development of an individual. An integral part of personality development is the development of good relationships. The United Nations has proclaimed July 30 as the International Day of Friendship. It has said that the root causes of the challenges and crisis faced by humanity is the inability to form good and lasting friendships. Poverty, violence, human rights abuses, social disharmony, lack of peace and security emanate from poor relationship building. UN has stated that friendship can enable us to accumulate bonds of camaraderie and developing strong ties of trust for a better world and greater good of society.

The New Education Policy (NEP), 2020 has rightly focused on the need to develop Life Skills in students. This includes co-operation, teamwork, communication and developing resilience. Inculcation of ethics, human and Constitutional values are also given prime importance in the policy.

Perfectly competitive economies thrive on homogeneity that helps in improving market efficiency. When it comes to individuals- each one of us is unique and there should be an integration of competition, co-operation and collaboration to succeed.   Even as children are encouraged to develop friendships they also need to be ensured of not falling into bad company. As goes the popular saying, you are known by the friends you keep.

Emotional Intelligence
Mental health professionals have pointed out to the unhealthy competition for good grades created at school in early childhood that has put tremendous stress on children to meet the expectations of the family, school and society. Consequently the average to poor performers fall into isolation or rejection, fail to develop good relationships among peers and outside as they grow up.

"While a large part of emotional intelligence (EI) is inborn, training and exposure to certain situations in life can change EI. Being exposed to unpleasant childhood with aggressive or abusive parents or family members can damage the EI," according to Philip Daniel, Corporate Trainer.

 A recent study by researchers at Beijing Normal University showed that parent-child conflict was directly and indirectly linked to worse peer relationships while positive mother-child and father-child relationships were associated with better peer acceptance by peers. By contrast, the higher levels of mother–child and father-child conflict were linked to children’s lower acceptance and higher rejection from peers  through lower levels of academic achievement. These findings support the spillover theory between parent-child and peer relationships.

Hillary Hinchliff, Principal, Gems Modern Academy said that schools need to have a strong pastoral, social, health, culture, education (PSHCE) curriculum. "Even in Kindergarten, we have mindfulness, meditation and yoga sessions. We had hoped to introduce peer massage this academic year. But students have to be tracked using a tool that measures emotional well being. There are a number of really good tools, some that are free," she said.

Avoil Labelling
Sujata Gautam, Clinical Psychologist in Delhi pointed out that teachers have to take care about the language they use. "Don't add to their pain, stress, discomfort and fear through such words as-look at my eyes when I am talking. Stop playing with your hair, take your fingers off your mouth. Sit up." Label your feelings rather than your students. The teacher could tell, 'I am confused about why you aren't doing your work,' rather than judging him as 'you are being lazy.'

Express your emotions rather than issuing commands. For example – ‘I feel bad when I see you take things from others without asking. I am afraid you might lose their friendship.’ Learn to take responsibility for your own feelings rather than blame them on your students, she added.  For example, say ‘I felt embarrassed when the principal was here,’ rather than ‘You embarrassed me in front of the principal.’ First validate the student’s feelings before addressing their behavior. For example – ‘It looks like you a re feeling a little restless today. It looks like you really don’t want to come inside.’

Learn to Collaborate
A concept in high school mathematics teaches the relationship between time, effort and work, according to Janani Ramanathan, Senior Research Analyst, The Mother's Service Society, Pondicherry.

Students are usually asked to solve problems such as: If it takes 5 men 10 days to do a task, how long will it take 10 men to complete the same task. This is a question for all of us to think about. If all the laboratories around the world that are racing with one another to find a vaccine to COVID-19 had worked together in the past five months, could the world have had a vaccine by now, and saved tens of thousands of lives?  “It is possible and vital that parents, teachers and our entire education paradigm replace competition with collaboration, in our content and pedagogy, so we have the solutions to all that ails our society today,” she added.

How to Improve Child EI?
# Recognising emotions of oneself and others
# Understanding the causes and consequences of the emotions
# Labeling emotions accurately
# Expressing the emotions in the way that are appropriate for the time, place and culture
# Regulation of the emotions

No feelings are bad.  Sometimes, an unpleasant feeling can be helpful too. For eg, minimal anxiety enhances hard work and improves performance, mild frustrations may help a child perform and complete a challenging act. Some amount of sadness is necessary to develop empathy to others. So we need to provide strategies to both accept and manage their feelings when they occur (Courtesy: Dr Elsie Oommen)

Sunila Athley, Principal of Amity International School, Ghaziabad was highly appreciative of the Life Skills Curriculum introduced by Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE). This along with Value Education with their modules based on hands on activities can be a part of the weekly student schedule where qualities related to the heart and building positive relationships with the family, community, environment and nation can be nurtured through everyday school activities like Assemblies, Role Plays, Circle Time, Street Plays, Model United Nations, Project Based Learning and Work Experience  Clubs.

Teaching Life Skills
#1  A period of play time on the sports field can teach a child valuable lessons of life that cannot be taught within the 4 walls of a classroom or pages of a book.  Togetherness, strength of character, value of goal setting and focus, fair play, camaraderie, team spirit, healthy competition, never give up attitude, accepting defeat with grace can be inculcated.  

#2  For primary children, Circle Time is an appropriate platform to teach them values of life for example the teacher can discuss the good habit of not wasting food, opinions of children can be taken and how they can avoid this.  Values of caring, sharing, empathy, tolerance can be fostered and also Self Development Goals (SDG 1 & 2) can be unconsciously conveyed of Poverty Alleviation and Zero Hunger.

#3 Through a Problem Based Learning (PBL) based project approach children can prepare a presentation on SDG files (Gender Equality).  This will sensitize them towards unequal gender division, discriminatory attitude towards women and girls, bias and violence against female and economic and social exploitation.  They can be made socially and emotionally aware that empowering women will lead to economic growth and development.

#4 Weekly assemblies on specific themes like World Family Day, Friendship Day, Gratitude Day can be organized and through mini presentations, poem recitations, Ted-Talks, Role Plays, importance of a good value system can be highlighted.

#5  Club activities are an important component of a school schedule.  The Cyber Club can be installed that can help educate children on online abuse, cyber bully, virtual victimization, cyber safety workshops, frauds and hacking, net-etiquettes.  This club can also organize awareness campaigns on this very powerful medium that has affected the Emotional Quotient (EQ) & Relationship Quotient (RQ) of many children today. (Courstesy: Sunila Athley, Principal, Amity Intl School)

Radhika Rele, Vice Principal of Birla Public School, Doha-Qatar also vouched for the Life Skills Curriculum.  The spirit of 'life care' is most important and should be kept in the forefront while implementing it. The age-appropriate student-led dedicated activities and dedicated time will ensure that the curriculum is driven effectively to a common vision 

“Cultural differences and various other sensitive topics should not be a hindrance to run this curriculum for the benefit of the larger group. The schools will be able to launch stable, responsible, courageous, and ready individuals into the social environment,” she added. 

Radhika believes that people remember the Alma Mater for the emotional connect. The students remember how the teachers and school made them feel about themselves. That's the reason 'Schools that Care' will be the schools of the future. Students spend almost 12 years in school and that is when  the value of peace, caring, and trust  are to be instilled among the students.