Home LearningDid You Know? Academia Is No Longer Enough

Academia Is No Longer Enough

by Eddie Rayner

By Her Royal Highness, Princess Noor Bint Asem of Jordan

Chairwoman and Founder of Kyan Foundation, Her Royal Highness, Princess Noor Bint Asem of Jordan, discusses the opportunity Covid-19 has presented for educators and parents across the UAE to evaluate the way we educate future generations. With children going back to physical classrooms, she argues in favour of the implementation of social and emotional learning (SEL) to become an intrinsic part of the education system across the UAE.

As we move forward into an unpredictable world, at Kyan, we believe the implementation of wellbeing through social-emotional learning is a necessity in the classroom. With 1.5 billion students out of school and hundreds of millions learning solely online, the pandemic has reshaped schools as we know them. The idea of education and what learning looks like should evolve to meet today’s needs and tomorrow’s minds.

The current education paradigm lacks the life skills necessary to equip children with the ability to embrace who they are and develop their innate skills. Nonetheless, these are skills that can be taught. Growing up and discovering that our education moulded a great part of our personalities, determining how we related to ourselves and the world, my sisters and I wanted to create something that allowed for introspection, self-improvement and self-discovery that can be practised both at home and at school. I wish I was taught how to self-reflect, understand and accept my unique self from a younger age.

Kyan’s intention is to re-design our life journey focusing on comprehensive development, starting at home and extending to schools. Kyan programs are facilitated by our own professional, qualified practitioners certified in Positive Psychology, Mindfulness, Neuro-Education and Emotional Intelligence, fields in which I have been active since 2011.

80% of educators believe positive emotions are critical for academic success

92% of executives believe skills such as problem-solving and communication are equal to, or more important than, technical skills

Martin Seligman encapsulates the principals of the change for which we are advocating when he said: “The premise of positive psychology is that wellbeing can be defined, measured and taught. Wellbeing includes positive emotions, intense engagement, good relationships, meaning and accomplishment (PERMA). Questionnaires can measure it. Trainers can teach it. Achieving it not only makes people more fulfilled but makes corporations more productive, soldiers more resilient, students more engaged, and marriages happier.”

At Kyan, our Essence-Led Education is focused on introducing comprehensive development to schools where life skills and wellbeing are an integral part of the curriculum. As an advocate of change in existing education curriculums, I believe now is the time to implement Social and Emotional Learning as a core part of all curriculums in the region. Social and emotional learning (SEL) is the process through which children and adults acquire and effectively apply the knowledge, attitudes, and skills necessary to understand and manage emotions, set and achieve positive goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain positive relationships, and make responsible decisions.

SEL is a key part of all education and human development. Through this learning process, students can acquire and apply the knowledge, skills and attitudes in order to create and maintain a healthy identity, manage emotions and achieve personal and collective goals. Including this element of SEL in our education system should be the direct result of co-creation between educators, parents and the community. This will lead to establishing learning environments and experiences which will demonstrate trusting, collaborative relationships, rigorous, meaningful curriculum instruction, and ongoing evaluation. More than two decades of research has demonstrated education promoting SEL gets results. Findings come from multiple fields and sources, including improved academic performance with an eleven-percentile point gain on academics, decreases in anxiety with improved attitudes about self, others and school, overall health, increased employment rates and the prevention of youth problem behaviours.

There is already global support for the implementation of SEL within curriculums. A survey of 762 educators from 15 countries by The Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) found 80% of educators believe positive emotions are critical for academic success, and emotional wellbeing is crucial for developing foundational literacies and communication skills. According to the 2018 Social and Emotional Learning Report from McGraw-Hill Education Morning Consult, as many as 81% of parents believe SEL is just as important as academic learning.

Six of the top ten skills identified by the World Economic Forum (WEF) involve social and emotional competence. In another survey by, the WEF, 92% of executives believe skills such as problem-solving and communication are equal to, or more important than, technical skills. Global giants such as Google are prioritising SEL because the whole world is moving toward mental wellbeing, and it should be a mandatory part of our school system, not a privilege. We can no longer exclude work on personal development from schools.

Transformative change is fundamental for individuals and education systems to grow and evolve in meaningful ways. A key component of this is the ability to reflect on existing curriculum models and modifying anything which does not support the individual or the facility’s growth. While this process is not easy, with the right level of motivation and tools, it is possible. As many of us begin a new chapter in going back to classrooms, now is the time to reflect and bring a new dimension to learning, taking this global phenomenon as a platform for change. When the storm of the pandemic passes, schools should be revolutionised by this experience, or they may revert back to what they know. But the world in which they will exist will demand more. Education may be slow to change, but the post-coronavirus society will demand it.