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KHDA announces ‘School of Hearts’ initiative which will focus on student happiness and wellbeing

A new initiative by Dubai’s Knowledge and Human Development Authority (KHDA) will reach out to school students aged between 10 and 14. Focusing on positive education and wellbeing of students, the ‘School of Hearts’ initiative will be the first of its kind in the UAE.

Hind Al Mualla, Chief of Creativity, Happiness & Innovation said, “Teachers, school principals and families should be supported in their effort to promote both academic performance and healthy social and emotional development of students. Students who share good relations with their teachers and family are likely to perform better while enjoying a sense of belonging at school.”

Inspiring schools and families to look beyond examination results, the ‘School of Hearts’ initiative will focus on three key areas – school environment, personal wellness and peer-support. As part of the initiative, school students will be invited to take part in a survey, which will ask questions relating to their safety, health and interactions at school.

Hind Al Mualla added, “Being happy at school is an important aspect of student wellbeing. Every student should have an opportunity to nurture a positive relationship with an admiring adult which helps in building a supportive environment at school.”

The initiative will help understand whether students in Dubai feel engaged, both socially and academically. Schools will also be encouraged to host listening circles – which will bring together parents, students, teachers and school leaders to share ideas.

A 2015 publication by OECD confirmed academic success is invariably linked with stress and as a result, there is less enjoyment of learning. The Pisa on 50 publication read, “Academic achievement that comes at the expense of students’ well-being is not a full accomplishment.”

The ‘School of Hearts’ initiative will work towards helping schools to build a balance between academic achievement and development of character-strengths and wellbeing.

Research studies have shown positive school practices have a significant overall effect in terms of greater inspiration among students and staff. Findings showed that there was a great appreciation for learning from each other and connecting with others around shared values.

WestEd, a non-profit agency based in San Francisco, has used similar studies to understand the link between wellbeing and academic performance for over 10 years.

Dubai’s private schools will be invited to take part in the ‘School of Hearts’ initiative starting today, February 7.

What does the research say?
  1. On average across OECD countries, 71% of students attend schools whose principals reported that teachers value the social and emotional development of their students as much as their students’ academic proficiency.
  2. Four out of five students in OECD countries agree or strongly agree that they feel happy at school or that they feel like they belong at school.
  3. Teacher-student relations are strongly associated with both performance in mathematics and students’ happiness and sense of belonging at school.

Source: OECD