Alfiya Shaikh is a Grade 9 student at the Matoshri English Medium School, Pune (run by the Akanksha Foundation). She used to get irritated frequently, even over trivial things. Today, she has learnt how to manage her anger, cope with difficult emotions, and also channel her anxiety in productive ways.
Sakib Sayyed is a Grade 10 student from Acharya Vinoba Bhave Municipal School, Pune. Once he used to be a restless child, but today he actively participates in classroom discussions.
Like Alfiya and Sakib, 9,800 students have experienced this transformation, which, Akanksha Foundation says, is because they were exposed to Social, Emotional and Ethical (SEE) Learning.
What is SEE Learning?
SEE Learning is a tool aimed at providing socio-emotional support, while honing fundamental skills, developed by Emory University in partnership with the Dalai Lama Trust. Currently, all 21 Akanksha schools employ SEE practices as part of their timetable (these include quality circle time for students, check-in grounding/mindfulness activities before the class each day, and yoga and meditation).
Curated by His Holiness the Dalai Lama, SEE Learning provides educators with the tools they need to foster the development of emotional, social and ethical intelligence for students, as well as for themselves. Emory University, US, has provided this curriculum the shape, form, research and science backing.
In April 2019, the Vana Foundation (founded by Veer Singh, brother of Tara Singh Vachani, the managing trustee of Max India Foundation) partnered with the office of His Holiness and Emory University for the international launch of the SEE Learning curriculum in India. A few months after that, Max India Foundation incorporated it as a programme, and since then Max India Foundation’s funds are supporting SEE Learning India.
“Since the time we officially launched, we have worked with over 500 educators, training them (and this is a very deep and immersive training), and have touched over 40 schools including civil society organisations who have a further reach, and indirectly we have touched around 40,000 children,” says Vachani. “Over the last couple of months, we have worked with more than 200 educators.”
“Covid-19 has made us relook at the way we teach our next generation, and reimagine the whole education landscape. While education is about economic empowerment, it is also about human flourishing,” adds Reshma Piramal, head, Operations, South, SEE Learning India.
How does SEE Learning work?
A school or an NGO can choose one or few educators to get trained for SEE Learning. Once they do so, that educator undergoes a customised orientation for four days. Post that, the educator can commit himself/herself to the L1 track (hours and weeks of exposure to the curriculum). It is only after the L1 track that the educator is in a position to take the curriculum to students. If an educator wants to train other facilitators, he/she has to complete the next level (L2). “In this track we offer the CBC (cognitively-based compassion training) module, which is a mix of theory, research and ideology,” adds Vachani.
SEE Learning India is in the process of compiling a detailed research, and Vachani says that in a year from now, with enough data inputs in place, they would be able to share the impact this curriculum has had on teacher, schools and students.
SEE Learning and moral science
The moral science subject, taught across schools in India, can be preachy (what to do and what not to do), but SEE Learning is not only about morality, it is also about ethics. “We are talking about the ethics of compassion at SEE Learning. While we spend time educating the mind, we don’t spend enough time educating the heart; kindness in itself may not enough, we need kindness with wisdom,” says Vachani. “We wish to integrate SEE Learning into the school culture, and not just curriculum, so that the culture becomes a compassionate culture.”
She adds that some of the schools that have taken SEE Learning for over a year have seen teachers positively sharing how this has transformed their lives, and students asking for more SEE Learning.
Vachani says currently there is no long-term plan on SEE Learning. “Our immediate focus is to facilitate as many people as we can.” Piramal adds: “While STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) learning is important, we cannot code for emotions. That’s why the new generation of students, as well as teachers, need SEE Learning.”