Why should inclusion of mental health be integral to the education curriculum?

The goal of every education system is not to make students excel in academics, but to prepare them as holistically able individuals of the society.

A recent 2021 study by UNICEF also highlighted that one out of every seven young people between the age of 15-24 years is depressed.

By Richa Singh,

For a very long time, IQ (Intelligence Quotient) was believed to be the primary factor in determining the success of an individual. Most of our formal education system is geared towards the same – and so is our culture and our homes.

Daniel Goleman, in his groundbreaking work, Emotional Intelligence, suggested that ‘Emotional intelligence can be as powerful, and at times more powerful than IQ’. He believed that while our IQ may get us a job, it is our EQ that determines how quickly we advance and are promoted.

Researchers have shown that our success at work or in life depends on 80% of Emotional Intelligence and only 20% of intellect.

Employers are increasingly looking for more people with emotional intelligence. The World Economic Forum has Emotional Intelligence in sixth position among the top 10 skills that employees will need to possess to thrive in the workplace of the future.

The importance of EQ for the youth is very well established. The next important question which arises is – Whether Emotional Intelligence can be learnt/ increased?

Well, according to one meta-analysis that looked at the results of social and emotional learning programs, the answer is YES.

The study found that approximately 50% of kids enrolled in SEL (Social and Emotional Learning) programs had better achievement scores and almost 40% showed improved grade-point-averages. These programs were also linked to lower suspension rates, increased school attendance, and reduced disciplinary problems.

A recent 2021 study by UNICEF also highlighted that one out of every seven young people between the age of 15-24 years is depressed. The study further found that youth in India are reluctant to seek help due to the stigma around it.

With all these facts, it’s not just the extremes – in the form of mental health disorders or youth suicides, but Mental Health programs have an integral role to play in any individual’s personal and professional success.

Including mental health in the education curriculum will empower today’s youth to grow into more resilient, sensitised and successful adults. It will help in all spheres of their life:

  1. As an individual – Emotional Intelligence will benefit students with an increased self-awareness, being able to recognise their feelings and acknowledge them, increasing their self-esteem and improving their life satisfaction.
  2. As a Student – A holistic approach will allow students not only to perform better academically but also fight their own battles while transitioning into a new phase of life and not succumb to temporary hurdles (like exam and placement performance). It will also provide them with the right skill sets to be more socially involved and active.
  3. As a Professional – Empathy is a very important part of professional life – especially when working in teams. Emotional Intelligence would help individuals develop that and also hone their problem solving skills, build better relationships and take care of their overall health and wellbeing. It will not just impact the career growth but also with the overall life satisfaction and happiness of an individual.
  4. As a Caregiver – With increased awareness and sensitisation, individuals will be more responsible, they will be able to understand, acknowledge and intervene for their friends and family in the time of need.

The goal of every education system is not to make students excel in academics, but to prepare them as holistically able individuals of the society. Mental health is an undeniable part of people’s lives and empowering students with sound mental health awareness could be the weapon to prepare the youth of tomorrow.

(The author is CEO & co-founder, YourDOST. Views expressed are personal and do not reflect the official position or policy of the Financial Express Online.)

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