You are born. You go to school. School becomes university. University gets you a degree. That degree gets you a full time job. The full time job becomes part of your identity until retirement. Then you die. 

This is the circle of life. 

From the moment we are born, there is a pathway that is ideal. A pre-existing journey that we are destined to follow. Whilst there is no problem with having structure to guide the journey of life, where does the social and emotional learning come into play? When are we taught about how to be friends with someone? When are we taught how to love our own selves and support our own ideas? When are we taught how to deal with change and fear? 

How is the interpersonal growth of children supported? 

Where is the focus on emotional development?

Modern day schooling focuses on the process of developing an individual’s learning in order to achieve higher grades. There doesn’t seem to be much about learning how to interact with others or learning how to deal with negative emotions. In my opinion that is a dangerous thing. 

The Dalai Lama recently posted a similar musing on his Facebook page. The post read: 

‘Modern education with its focus on material goals and a disregard for inner values is incomplete. There is a need to know about the workings of our minds and emotions. If we start today and make an effort to educate those who are young now in inner values, they will see a different, peaceful, more compassionate world in the future.’


Growing up I never knew how my actions affected others and so as a child, unintentionally, I hurt the feelings of a lot of people. This is one hundred percent impacted them in one way or another but there’s nothing I can do about it now. I was top of my class though and got straight ‘A’s in everything. That’s all that matters right? 


Thinking back, the only focus on emotional development was the anti-bullying rage. Bullying was discouraged, even punished but there was no further delving into the mind of the bully and no attempt to resolve interpersonal issues at the core. If kids had a better idea of what depression was or learnt that their self worth isn’t determined by others opinion of them, then I’m convinced there would be a lot less hate and pain later on in life. Not just for themselves but for every single human being they come into contact with. 

You could argue that its up to parents to lead the way and teach their kids about this stuff. Let’s face it though, not all parents are made alike and not all of them have the personal skills to provide sound advice when it comes to human interaction and emotion. Not every parent is a fit example of how to embrace self-love and respect for relationships with others. 

There is a however a change happening, to introduce this kind of learning into schools and can I just say FUCKING FINALLY! This is such a positive for not only the students themselves but for the community and the future of society as well. 

SEL (Social and Emotional Learning) is a concept that is being discussed and integrated into schooling practices. It is defined by CASEL (Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning) as:

‘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.’

Some major benefits of SEL that have been noted are: 

  • help with managing stress
  • encourage planning for the future
  • help with managing emotions, behaviours and relationships with others
  • assist in building resilience to change and unpredictability

These are only some of the things that SEL can help impact in the early learning stage. It is an extremely beneficial practice and there already have been examples of success with SEL learning. In 2006, 101 schools across Australia were asked to participate in a KidsMatter Primary project. 

KidsMatter is the first mental health initiative developed for primary schools. The aim is to involve the people who the students are most in contact with - parents, carers, families, teachers and community groups at the most developmental part of the students live to create awareness and support around mental health. 

This is a major breakthrough in education and will shape the future of Australia so positively it hurts. This kind of stuff gets me excited for where our country and its people are heading. 

For more information visit: http://www.casel.org/social-and-emotional-learning/


Sarah Long