What is education meant to achieve? It seems to me that the events of the past 12 months have given us more opportunity to look at that question than ever before. I’m not sure I’m best placed to provide the answer, but as the saying goes, I know a man who can – Lord Richard Layard.
An economist with a strong focus on mental wellness and education may seem an unusual combination, but Lord Layard is an unusual and remarkable man. His view of the purpose of education is perhaps somewhat remarkable too. He states: ”The sole purpose of education is to develop capacities that will increase the happiness of the pupil (adult and child), and the happiness of the rest of society.”
That is a big statement. And according to all we know about Positive Education it is a correct one. By happiness, we do not mean constant laughter or ignoring the fact everyone’s life faces challenges, difficulties and failures. It is more of a longer-lasting, deeper way of looking at life as a way to experience joy and live with purpose and meaning.
When we do those things we become kinder, more compassionate, more resilient and perform better including academically.
In devising his PERMA model of Positive Psychology it is no accident that Prof Martin Seligman put positive emotions front and foremost. (The other elements are engagement, relationships, meaning and accomplishment). Without them, the impressive list of evidence-based outcomes would simply not occur. A list that includes improved decision-making, better coping skills, enhanced problem-solving skills, greater relaxation and more creative brainstorming. It also improves mental health, life satisfaction, reduces depression and anxiety and improves academic success and creative thinking.
Lord Layard’s vision talks about developing the capacities that increase happiness. Such capacities will include literacy, numeracy and the capacity to learn, but they include so much more. If we want children to perform at their best, they need to feel at their best, and at the heart of that truth is all that Positive Education can bring to education, as this animation shows.
You can read more about our work bringing Positive Education to schools by clicking on the schools’ tab here.