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Mental health knows no age: Parents, teachers laud KHDA wellbeing initiative in schools

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According to research, it will enable students to have more positive experiences

School management, teachers and parents have wholeheartedly welcomed the new inclusion framework set forth by Knowledge and Human Development Authority (KHDA).

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“This has been in the works for so long,” said Dr. Tayyaba Anwer, whose daughters study at Arab Unity school. “We have been expecting it and I think it is going to be a game changer. The introduction of this framework will ensure that well-being is not just a buzz word, but something that needs to be applied to daily school life.”

International research points to wellbeing as an enabler of improved educational outcomes, enabling students to have more positive experiences of school; higher levels of self-esteem; and increased motivation.

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“This framework represents the next stage of our wellbeing journey, enabling us to work more closely with schools, teachers and parents to ensure better learning outcomes and happier, healthier futures for our children,” said Fatma Belrehif, CEO of Dubai Schools Inspection Bureau

Gamechanger for ratings

According to Dr. Tayyaba, who is also an inclusion governor at two schools in Dubai, the framework will help school leaders and educationists develop strategies to prioritise and optimise the wellbeing of both staff and students. “It will also help in assessing the effectiveness of wellbeing initiatives and help modify them when needed.”

“I am pretty sure that henceforth, wellbeing is going to play a major role in deciding the ratings of school,” she said. “And it should because schools are not just there to prepare students for exams, but to help them prepare for life.”

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Peter Jacob, who has three children in schools in Dubai, said that he hoped the framework would provide guidance, measures and processes to schools on how they should promote and encourage mental and physical well-being. “Now more than ever, well-being is important for every age and that includes children,” he said.

“As a parent of three, for us the important thing is finding balance between promoting enriching experiences and activities and also encouraging free unstructured time where the child decides what they want to do.”

Relief for teachers

Seema Lodha, who works as a teacher at a school in Dubai, said the introduction of the framework is going to be a welcome relief. “KHDA has come up with a well-being framework for teachers and I am happy about it,” she said.

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“This will ensure that they are provided with the latest technology and means to ensure a good work-life balance. I am hoping for salaries and appreciation to be improved as this is a noble profession. A teacher’s good mental health affects his or her relationship with their students and this is the first step towards ensuring it.”

Seema, mother to a Grade 12 student, said she was relieved. “This is going to be a wonderful step as it will give students the freedom of expression and they would develop a healthy and a more trustworthy relationship with their teachers,” she said.

“This can improve the mental health of students and will help in the overall growth of a child’s cognitive, physical and mental health.”

The KHDA’s Wellbeing Matters framework will give parents, teachers and students a shared understanding of what wellbeing looks like in schools, and how it can be improved.

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Here are four key takeaways from the document:

  1. Rating for wellbeing efforts: Schools will be rated on a scale ranging from Low to Very High for the efforts they take to improve the wellbeing of both students and teachers. To achieve the Very High rating, schools must have exceptional provision to promote student wellbeing. The wellbeing vision and direction will be realised in the daily work of the school and will strongly engage students, staff and parents. In this school, students are proactive in improving their own wellbeing and that of others.
  2. Wellbeing of teachers: The role of teachers and other staff members, with whom students spend much of their time, is essential to the work of school-based wellbeing advancement. Aspects such as teacher turnover and teacher confidence have been identified as barriers to this process and the framework advocates for securing healthy, supportive, and empowering working conditions is a crucial enabler, which is a matter of importance for school governance and leadership. The document stipulates that teacher wellbeing, and that of other staff members must be a core, strategic focus for school leaders.
  3. Key Guiding Principles: Five guiding principles have been laid down for school leaders to ensure student wellbeing. The key out of this is to understand the uniqueness of each student and their wellbeing journey, considering their personality, character, and context and focus on the individual’s personal strengths alongside their existing social and community assets, rather than on their deficits.
  4. Focus areas for wellbeing evaluation: Schools have been asked to set and pursue a wellbeing vision that is clearly communicated to an engaged school community. They have also been asked to use reliable information and data collaborate to design and implement provision that actively promote wellbeing. Routines, activities and resources must be managed to inform the development of a wellbeing-focused environment.

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