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The New Education Policy’s Emphasis On Mental Health Is Welcome

Posted: September 7, 2020

In the Indian context, the very thought of monitoring the psychological well-being of students needs to be appreciated.

Education is not about loading a child with information. It is just to develop the body and the mind to the highest possible capability.

The New Education Policy (NEP) announced after 34 long years has taken many steps in this positive direction, and is expected to transform the education system. Allocation of 6% of the GDP to education, importance to vocational courses, standardisation of Indian sign language (ISL) are some of the highlights of the New education policy, 2020.

However, what attracted me is, as part of the regular health checkups for students, mental health checkups are also to be included. This new policy of education is still in its budding stage but the very thought of monitoring the psychological well being of the students is to be appreciated; for health is not limited to the concept of mere physical wellness.

The emphasis on mental health: An overview

The human mind thinks both emotionally and rationally. Right from birth, until adulthood, a child undergoes progressive stages of development with cultural, social, genetic and environmental factors contributing towards his/hers mental development.

Many schools in the developed nations check for the psychological well-being of the students periodically and the same is reported back to the parents. In this way the emotions and the emotional needs of the child are taken care of.

In our country, if this is implemented, we would be able to address the issues of the children and counsel them appropriately. Issues disturbing students may range from something very fundamental like less marks or improper sleep to severe issues like domestic violence or abuse.

It’s difficult for children to explain what they’re going through but psychologists observe how a child interacts with their parents, teachers and themselves. As the child develops, more complex emotions such as confidence, hope, guilt, and pride emerge. It is important to teach them how to cope with their emotions. Therapists/psychologists can identify unusual behaviours early and can help the child express their emotions in a healthy, positive way.

The schools’ contribution will be essential

The government’s initiative to improve and enhance the mental health of the students would be fulfilled only with the keen involvement and participation of the schools. Every school at the state, district, sub-district, and block level has to take the ownership. School counseling would lead to the adoption of a school curriculum promoting not only intellectual development but also personal and psychological development.

Schools may organize online workshops on the highlights of the new education policy for better clarity.  Appointment of a psychologist or counselor as a permanent staff in the school (rather than a visiting faculty) would yield the best results because students need not wait to discuss their issues until their next visit. The school managements can also encourage their teachers to take up diploma courses on child psychology/school counseling.

Mental health check-ups

The modus operandi for the Psychologists /school counsellors can be as follows although it is not limited to this.

  1. Along with parent-teacher meetings, sessions on realizing the normal and abnormal psychological patterns of a child can help parents understand how to communicate and connect with their child in the best way possible. Also, assisting parents and teachers in identifying children’s needs and supporting their development
  2. Teach the students to appreciate and respect their bodies. They need to be educated about the difference between good touch and bad touch so as to prevent harassment of children
  3. Children have to be informed about the child helpline number 1098, Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act (POCSO), and The Prohibition of Child Marriage Act. As per 2018 NCRB (National Crime Records Bureau) reports, 109 children are sexually abused every day in India
  4. Making the children understand that its always okay to make a mistake/fail in an exam or a project and that suicide is not a solution.
  5. Creating awareness about the importance of learning martial arts
  6. Assigning team activities to the children that enhances positivity, creativity and communication
  7. Most importantly, information on menstruation has to be provided since many girls while encountering it for the first time, get scared that they might die because of it, because of lack of knowledge
  8. Being an adolescent, it’s quite natural to get attracted to others and have a crush. Psychologist can handle the students’ feelings better without judging anything about them
  9. Drug prevention programs should be organized
  10. Make the students understand that we live in a diverse world and teach them to respect each other’s differences
  11. Training on self management and social competency skills
  12. Helping students in shaping their attitude and behaviour, instilling ethics and discipline

A checklist for parents and teachers

(Again, need not be limited to this list).

  1. Accept that the new education policy 2020 is not going to be a cakewalk for anybody, but it needs to be done
  2. Be nurturing and supportive towards the children as they would encounter a lot of teething problems when NEP 2020 replaces the existing system of education
  3. Fragment the policy and discuss one part at a time with the children
  4. Allow children age-appropriate decisions, responsibility, and independence
  5. Remind yourself that it is okay to ask for help and be open to new things

Though we live in a world of Artificial intelligence (AI), in order to achieve a life of high quality, with harmony and good health, emotional intelligence and emotional well being should be prioritised over the Intelligent Quotient (IQ). We have achieved tremendously in the field of education and if educators rise to the occasion by taking up this challenge, we are certain to witness and be part of an amazing societal transformation.

Image source Pixabay

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