Educating for a flourishing Singapore: Is positive education the way forward for Singapore?

Educating for a flourishing Singapore: Is positive education the way forward for Singapore?

The School of Positive Psychology (Singapore) has partnered with psychology experts, researchers, and educators from Singapore and across the globe to take an active part in helping our nation to flourish.  A newly-created Graduate Diploma in Positive Education program is ready to launch in 2020, and it will teach educators about the science of positive psychology and how it applies to the education context.  This qualification is the first of its type in Asia and it provides educators with a sound knowledge to understand wellbeing and how to use evidence-based techniques to promote positive wellbeing in youth.

It’s can be hard these days to scroll through the media and not see something related to mental health or mental illness.  We see articles about people who are struggling, articles about stress or burnout, or there is an explosion of wellness, exercise, healthy diet and other activities for optimum health. Whichever end of the scale you look at, mental health is a hot topic in Asia.  This focus on mental health is not predicted to stop anytime soon, as the trend expert agency Trend Watch predicts that wellbeing is a growth area for the region.

Why is there so much focus on wellbeing?  Could it be that the world has become more volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous (VUCA)?  Is it that we expect more in a time of greater affluence?  Whatever the reason, in a country like Singapore, the people of the nation are the most important resources, and to continue to flourish as a society, Singapore needs citizens to operate at their optimum ability – and that includes having positive mental health.

As a nation, Singapore has worked hard and achieved a lot towards creating a flourishing nation.  The education system is of global envy, with Singapore often in the top 3 in international tests.  However, rates of mental wellbeing have been more unstable over the last few years.  According to the Institute of Mental Health, Singaporean youth seem to be struggling as they face higher expectations than ever before.  There has been higher levels of youth suicide, burnout and academic stress.  Is this stress and burnout the inevitable cost of the nations high academic achievement? What is the way forward?

According to the evidence base drawn from the science of positive psychology, there is another way.  Founded by Dr Martin Seligman, positive psychology is the scientific study of human flourishing.  The field has developed a knowledge base and a range of applications that can positively improve the wellbeing of entire populations, resulting in less people suffering and more people flourishing.   Within positive psychology, it is the presence of positive mental health where individuals may be able to live and operate at optimal levels.  According to positive psychology researcher and author of the Happiness Advantage, Shawn Achor, ‘It’s not success that leads to happiness – it is the other way around.  Having a positive and engaged brain is the greatest advantage’.

To achieve optimal levels of functioning, large-scale and wide-reaching policies and proactive practices are required.  Education is one effective way to help individuals to understand and improve their wellbeing, that can be offered on a large scale.  Positive education is the application of positive psychology in the education context, and is now a well-established in many schools across the globe.  In positive education, schools are proactively teaching young people topics like wellbeing, happiness, resilience and strengths.  Positive Education is not just about being happy, it is about equipping young people with the knowledge and skills to embrace the best parts of life, while navigating challenges with evidence-informed techniques.  Students who take positive education have been quoted as saying ‘I know what to do when I have hard times, I can think of what I am grateful for, I can put things into perspective and I know the hard times won’t last’ (quote from student who attended a school that delivers positive education, 2019).

Could positive education be a step towards sustainable wellbeing in Singapore? At The School of Positive Psychology, we want to be part of the solution for sustainable mental health, and our Graduate Diploma in Positive Education is specially designed to help our educators to bring out the best in themselves and the students they teach. We welcome applications from educators who are truly interested in helping students to bring out their best. If you would like to know more about the program, contact us at info@positivepsych.edu.sg

TARA SCHOFIELD

Programme Leader, Adjunct Lecturer, Positive Psychology Coach

Tara Schofield (MAPP) lives, loves and teaches the science and practice of positive psychology and wellbeing. A certified adult educator and wellbeing coach, Tara holds a Bachelor’s in Psychology and MSc in Positive Psychology. Her professional background spreads almost 20 years in Training and Development, Human Resources Management and as a Lecturer.

Currently working as a Programme Leader and Training Facilitator with the School of Positive Psychology (Singapore), she partners with MNC’s, schools, universities, private colleges, government departments and the general public to build wellbeing, resilience, positive relationships, strengths, mindfulness and positive emotions. Tara is a regular speaker at local and international con- ferences and wellbeing events.

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