Inner-Peace in the Global Education System: Building Sustainable Well-being and Better Living Environment

Social IssuesLifestyle

  • Author Bivash Panday
  • Published November 16, 2021
  • Word count 3,073

The fundamental components of sustainable well-being, and a peaceful environment is the protection of people against threats to life, health, livelihood, personal safety, and human dignity. The concept of well-being and a peaceful environment is people-centered, and it transmits attention to development methods from increased productivity to individual human development to empowering people and societies as a means of overall well-being. In the twenty-first century, humanity is in an ultimate disaster in several ways because of the traditional concept of development, which is ‘material growth’ oriented and not ‘people centered’. There has been a huge development happening in several sectors including infrastructures, technology, communication, economics, and health. But human development including inner-peace building is underprivileged because of the intermittent implementation of appropriate actions by the UN. The entire humanity is the victim of the so-called superpowers as the UN has been failing to intervene on time to protect peoples ‘vital core’. This study will explore how individuals’ consciousness and morality are gradually developed through inner-peace (SEL-social and emotional learning) programs.

The Fetzer group first introduced the term social and emotional learning (SEL) as a conceptual framework to address both the needs of young people and the fragmentation that typically characterizes the response of schools to those needs (Elias et al., 1997). Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) is a methodology that is an integral part of education, human development, and peacebuilding. Although there is no universally accepted definition of social and emotional learning (Hoffman, 2009), it is generally agreed upon that social-emotional learning is the acquisition of core competencies including one’s ability to recognize and regulate one’s own emotions, set and achieve goals, recognize the emotions and perspectives of others, constructively manage interpersonal situations including problem-solving and conflict resolution, and maintain positive relationships with others (Elias et al., 1997). They also remarked that in the modern era, most effective SEL programs are considered as being provided in more harmonized, sustained, and methodical tools using inclusive, long-term, multidimensional approaches. As per Zins et al. (2007), “social-emotional skills also can be infused into the regular academic curriculum so that academic and SEL skills are coordinated and reinforce one another (p.199)”.

According to the OECD’s Survey on Social and Emotional Skills – SSES (2021), “the benefits of developing children’s social and emotional skills go beyond cognitive development and academic outcomes; they are also important drivers of mental health and labor market prospects (p.9)”. The OECD’s survey in the title of ‘Beyond Academic Learning’ is one of the first universal efforts on the SEL, and they collected data from students, parents, and teachers on the social and emotional skills of students at ages 10 and 15. Ten cities participated in the study: Bogota (Colombia), Daegu (Korea), Helsinki (Finland), Houston (United States), Istanbul (Turkey), Manizales (Colombia), Moscow (Russia), Ottawa (Canada), Sintra (Portugal) and Suzhou (China). All cities are located in OECD countries, except Moscow and Suzhou, which are located in partner countries. This global survey has revealed that

While global education systems are constantly adapting to the new challenges posed by the pandemic, it is also important to recognize that with their classrooms, peer relationships, and support systems upended by the school closures, many students might be facing the emotional stress of adapting to their new learning environments. Developing strong social and emotional skills are fundamental if pupils are to remain focused and motivated in difficult learning environments and could therefore be key to addressing the main difficulties that students may encounter again in the near future if the second wave of school closures were to materialize before the health crisis has been fully addressed. If the COVID-19 crisis has taught us anything, it is that to stay ahead and thrive, people need not just cognitive skills but social and emotional ones too. Only together can they equip us for an uncertain and demanding world, and help us achieve prosperous and healthy lives (p.7).

According to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (article 25) as human beings all we have the same rights, and reasonable access to food, clothing, housing, medical care, and necessary social services. But, unfortunately, in reality, lots of people around this world cannot maintain a peaceful life in their states as well as outside because of the traditional ‘Development Model’, which is controlled by the superpowers. To take several studies in point on inclusive development, the focus on the production in the development policy does not offer the best strategy to build sustainable well-being, and a peaceful living environment but rather gives importance to the material growth which insisting power mobilization. The human development approach has referent objects of people, communities, and states which ensure the security of human rights, protection of individual security including the freedom to choose freedom from fear, and dignity. Whereas traditional development models including economics, infrastructures, technology, and communication failed to meet all requirements to secure individuals, and international communities because of their limited referent objects, values, perception of threat, and practical instrument to protect.

World Peace will not arise from overthrowing dictatorial supremacies or increasing productivity, it will happen when humanity raises individual consciousness with an unconditional love beyond that of fear and hatred. To build sustainable well-being, and a peaceful living environment, we need to set up our intelligence, and experiment in a common ground through a distinctive philosophical approach – the ‘Inner-Peace (SEL- social and emotional learning) Method’ in the global education system. The SEL as an ‘Inner-Peace Method’ will focus to place prevalence on the human to incite transformation through the training, and development for individuals in academic programs, participating learners in the different moral, and social learning programs. The vigorous competencies of SEL are self-awareness, self-management, responsible decision-making, social awareness, and relationship skills. Throughout the SEL program students of all ages and educators/staff can develop healthy behaviors, manage emotions and maintain a sympathetic and responsible manner in the classroom and life. Keyes (2005) expanded on the dimensions of social-emotional learning with the dual-continuum model that operationalized the World Health Organization’s recognition in 2004 that mental health is not simply an absence of mental illness, but rather “a state of well-being in which an individual realizes his or her abilities, can cope with normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to his or her community” (p. 12). For empirical support that inner-peace through SEL leads to peaceful outer action, Dorn (2001) pointed out that there are many Nobel Laureates who placed great importance on the inner dimension of their peace work: Presidents Woodrow Wilson, Mikhail Gorbachev and Nelson Mandela, and, of course, religious figures like Mother Theresa and the Dalai Lama (p.161).

Based on research and scientific evidence, SEL as the inner-peace method would significantly contribute to building sustainable well-being, and a peaceful living environment because of its fundamental characteristics such as organic, universal, people-centered, interdependent, and early prevention. The findings from several individual studies and narrative reviews suggest that universal social and emotional learning (SEL) programs are associated with positive results such as improved attitudes about the self and others, increased prosocial behavior, lower levels of problem behaviors and emotional distress, and improved academic performance (Catalano et al., 2002; Greenberg et al., 2003; Zins et al., 2004). Eight positive youth development programs led by Catalano et al. (2002) and focused on school-age children in school, family, and or community domains. They used a quantitative research method through experimental strategies and random assignment of school children to intervention and control groups. This project provided a sustained intervention experience during eight months and had a measurable impact on students including greater self-control, assertiveness, improved academic performance, and emotional support, and reduced problem behaviors.

At present, academic and SEL issues are addressing in a parallel manner. Implementing an ‘Inner-Peace Method’ through SEL in the global educational system creates strength and balance, as well as heightened wisdom of well-being of students, learners, and educators. Abedin (2019) conducted a study on the universal education system through descriptive research method and revealed that as the fragment of SEL, moral education is a very effective method to helping children and adult learners acquire essential virtues or moral habits that will create a positive impact on the individual which led a good life and live peacefully and at the same time become productive, contributing members of their societies or communities. A Study by McCormick et al. (2015) done on one SEL program- the Responsive Classroom approach has found that SEL programs are beneficial for academic performance because they target interpersonal skills such as “appreciating others’ perspectives, initiating and maintaining positive relationships, and using critical thinking skills to make responsible decisions” (pg. 2). In their meta-analysis, Durlak et al. (2011) discovered that SEL programs generated significant positive effects on targeted social-emotional competencies and attitudes including students’ behavioral adjustment in the form of increased prosocial behaviors and reduced conduct and internalizing problems, and improved academic performance on achievement tests and grades (p.417). This study was conducted through a meta-analysis of 213 school-based, universal social and emotional learning (SEL) programs involving 270,034 kindergartens through high school students and revealed that compared to controls, SEL participants demonstrated significantly improved social and emotional skills, attitudes, behavior, and academic performance that reflected an 11-percentile-point gain in achievement.

Remaining open to sanguinity by using inner-peace tools can give the flexibility necessary to be more productive in the classroom and in personal life. There is growing evidence that as the most effective inner-peace mechanism, Meditation and Scientific Breathing Technique (Pranayama) in wide-ranging impacts participants in the areas of inner-peace including physical, mental, academic, social, and behavioral outcomes. The scientific breathing technique ‘Pranayama’ is the most ancient holistic method which has incorporated in meditation practice to regulate mind and breathe. The main moto of the Pranayama is regulating of breath to enhance life force for long-term. To explaining Buddhist theory of inner peace, Tanabe (2016) disclose that, ”Inner peace means an awakening to an ultimate inseparability between our own well-being and happiness and that of others, which inspires us to make an effort to gratify the basic needs of all and promote our freedom and justice and that of others equally “(p.1)”. Waters (2020) suggests that there is a strong case for implementing meditation in schools and this can be done in a number of ways. Primarily, meditation training can become a core part of teacher education so that all teachers are skilled in the use of mediation as part of their teaching toolkit ( p.1). The author also argues that schools can bring in evidence-based meditation curricula such as those that have been developed in Australia (Smiling Minds; Meditation capsules), India (The Alice Project), the UK (Mindfulness in Schools Project), and the US (Inner Kids, Mindful Schools, Mind Up, Learning to Breath) (Waters, 2020, p.1). The effects of school meditation have been examined in relation to numerous aspects of well-being, including student anxiety, stress, depression, optimism, positive affect, self-concept, self-care and self-acceptance (Waters et al., 2015, p.117). Throughout their study, Waters et al. (2015) used qualitative interviews research method and it has been implemented across junior, middle and senior schools, across different school systems (e.g., public schools and private schools), in different countries, with students of both genders and various races. The study was conducted quantitative research through randomised controlled experimental trials and quasi-experiment strategies by using pre-existing psychometrically established surveys and appropriate statistical analysis procedures. Throughout the lived experience of students in the meditation research, all data was collected through testimonials which provided richer descriptions of the underlying processes of meditation.

Accordingly, Greenberg et al. (2001) suggested that to reduce levels of mental illness in children, early preventative interventions are necessary, and furthermore, these interventions must be broadly accessible to children who may not have access to regular medical treatment. Young people aged 15 to 24 are more likely to experience mental illness and/or substance use disorders than any other age group (Pearson et al., 2013). Unlike the many “categorical” prevention programs that targeted specific problems, SEL programming could address underlying causes of problem behavior while supporting academic achievement (Greenberg et al., 2003, p.467). Therefore, SEL programs geared toward students in schools must include training for staff so that they can better address the needs of students in their classes and facilitate quality education. The above circumstances provide comprehensive reasoning for the implementation of SEL to increase levels of psychological support and programming geared toward improving the psychosocial wellness of the students and educators.

The SEL has several limitations as the causal analyses require strong assumptions. One of the persistent issues surrounding SEL is the lack of a reliable theoretical definition. A

current challenge on social and emotional skills research is to describe the long-term impact of

social and emotional development programs (Moreira et al., 2014, p.1). According to McCormick et al. (2015), there are also additional possible mechanisms needed to be done across levels (classroom, family, child, school) including improvements in teaching practice, peer interactions, parent-child relationships, overall classroom behavioral engagement, and specific intervention components including coaching, training, PD (p.18). Challenging experiences on SEL programs should not be seen as negative; on the contrary, few SEL expertise would argue a certain level of challenge is necessary for mental health and personal growth. Despite these limitations, an educational institution is also a place where students/learners can learn, grow, and come to be much happier by practicing inner-peace through SEL that is scientifically proven to reduce the stress hormone cortisol and release organic chemical dopamine to become peaceful.

In conclusion, based on researches and practical evidence, the inner-peace program through Social and Emotional Learning at the schools, colleges, universities, vocational institutions can be the most valuable tool to improve pupils/learners’ overall well-being including perspective, resilience, moral competence, attitudes, spirituality etc. Adelman and Taylor (2000) argue that if educational instructions emphasize only academic teaching and administration in their attention to support students achieve academic success then pupils/learners will miss their full potentials as human beings. Zins et al. (2007) stated that as the Person-Centered Focus, “social and emotional education involves teaching children to be self-aware, socially cognizant, able to make responsible decisions, and competent in self-management and relationship-management skills to foster their academic success (p.195)”. Modern science has proven that through an inner-peacebuilding practices, people can train to become peaceful but unfortunately, people do not take this revolutionary idea seriously. Even in a situation where being stressed, feeling anxious and emotional scars are realistic and existing threats, inner-peace/happiness has the power to improve an individual’s life immensely through awareness, compassion, patience, and inspiration. As Siddhartha Gautama Buddha said, “There is no way to inner-peace, inner-peace is the way”. I would recommend policy makers to implement the inner-peace programs through “Social and Emotional Learning” in the global education system. It will be tremendously effective to demolish hatred, corruption, nepotism, manipulation, and violence which will lead to building a conscious human generation and a peaceful living environment.

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Bivash Panday is the founder President of the “Universal Humanity Foundation (UHF), Canada. He is the innovator of “Pain2Peace Method”– a scientific Inner-peace program incorporated with Meditation, Mindfulness and an Indian ancient Breathing Techniques (Pranayama*) to improved overall well-being including sustainable mental-peace and moral/social competence.

Currently, Bivash is a post-graduate student of MA in Human Security and Peacebuilding at Royal Roads University, BC, Canada.

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