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Dennis Minott, PhD Originates And Proposes mCEL For All CARICOM States  - 'Cultivating Kindness: Building a Generation of Empathy in Jamaican Schools'


The recent surge in deadly violence, shocking incivility, and shameless entitlement within Jamaican schools, from West to East, is a stark reminder of the need for a fundamental shift in our educational approach. While law enforcement plays a crucial role in maintaining order, fostering a culture of kindness, empathy, and emotional intelligence in the face of relentless envenomation and lethal toxicity within the very culture of our schools requires a more long-term strategy. 


ENTER SOCIAL & EMOTIONAL LEARNING (SEL).

This column isn't about placing blame, but about seeking solutions. Imagine a future where "Kindness at large in Jamaican Schools" isn't met with a question mark, but a resounding affirmation. This vision, while seemingly ambitious, is achievable through a concerted effort focused on SEL.

Beyond Responders: The Heavy Lifting of Educators

Lately, we rely on authorities like police officers, guidance counselors, social media influencers, Tik Tok "case managers", justices of the peace, school chaplains, lawyers and deans of discipline to address student misbehavior.  These roles are vital, but they are at best "first responders." The true heavy lifting lies with educators who shape and socialize our youth. Just as teachers equip students with numeracy, they can equip them with critical thinking, compassion, and emotional intelligence. This requires deliberate lesson-planned teaching, and active learning, not passive absorption.

SEL: A Marathon, Not a Sprint

Cultivating kindness, empathy, and emotional intelligence is akin to a marathon, not a sprint. It necessitates a long-term commitment to SEL at all educational levels. Countries like Bhutan, Finland, Singapore, Switzerland, Estonia, Ireland and New Zealand have demonstrated the effectiveness of integrating SEL into their national curriculums. (Consult the latest and prior PISA results!)


Bhutan: A Model for Holistic Education

Bhutan, a small Himalayan kingdom, offers a compelling example. Despite its focus on English and STEM for global connectivity and relevance, Bhutan wisely prioritizes a holistic education that emphasizes the social and emotional well-being of students. This philosophy aligns perfectly with SEL principles and has worked and delivered wondrously.


Finland: A Champion for Well-being

Finland, consistently ranking high in educational performance, has been a strong advocate for SEL for over 15 years. Their national curriculum emphasizes social, emotional, and ethical development alongside academic skills. Finnish teachers receive extensive training in fostering supportive learning environments and integrating SEL strategies into their classrooms. (They are also well paid).


Singapore: A Star, Dimmer Than Jamaica at its Independence in 1965, Now Far Brighter Through Education 29 Years Later 

Singapore has a comprehensive framework for SEL, which is an integral part of its education system. The Ministry of Education (MOE) has developed the 21st Century Competencies (21CC) framework, which includes core values, social and emotional skills, and 21st-century competencies that underpin the holistic education necessary to prepare students for success in an increasingly globalized world View 3 , 4.


SEL: A Recipe for Success

The benefits of SEL are undeniable. Studies have shown that students who participate in SEL programs exhibit:

  • Improved emotional intelligence

  • Enhanced social skills

  • Greater empathy and compassion

  • Reduced bullying and violence

  • Increased academic achievement

  • Stronger motivation for learning


THE JAMAICAN IMPERATIVE: MANDATORY 'mCEL'

Jamaica needs a bold step. Let's advocate for Mandatory Compassion & Emotional Learning (mCEL) education across all schools. This transformative approach, coupled with comprehensive teacher training, offers a pathway toward a generation of empathetic, resilient, and well-rounded individuals.

Investing in the Future

Implementing mCEL requires an investment, but the returns will be immeasurable. We stand to reap dividends in terms of:

  • Improved academic performance

  • Safer and more harmonious school environments

  • Reduced crime rates

  • Enhanced mental health outcomes

  • A more compassionate and cohesive society

A Brighter Future Starts Now

The introduction of mCEL education is a pivotal moment for Jamaican schools. By nurturing the emotional intelligence and social skills of our youth, we are laying the foundation for a brighter and more compassionate future. Let us seize this opportunity to empower our children and cultivate a generation where kindness thrives within and beyond the walls of our schools.

Here's the Thing: 

Here's a summary of the limited but promising evidence gleaned from my search results:

  • Academic Improvement: Some studies suggest a positive impact on academic performance. For example, a program in Chile saw a 10% increase in math scores for students receiving SEL instruction.

  • Social-Emotional Benefits: Studies report positive changes in students' social and emotional well-being. A program in Colombia found a 19% reduction in reported depressive symptoms among participating students.

  • Reduced School Violence: Research suggests a potential decrease in disciplinary issues. A study in Brazil documented a 15% drop in suspension rates for schools implementing SEL programs.

It's important to note that these are just a few examples, and more research is needed to solidify the cause-and-effect relationship between widespread SEL ( i.e., mCEL) implementation and these outcomes on Central America and the rest of Ibero-America. Additionally, the specific numbers might vary depending on the program's design and implementation fidelity.

Overall, the available evidence suggests that SEL programs in Latin America hold promise for sustainably improving academic performance, social-emotional well-being, and reducing school violence. However, I concede that further research with robust methodologies is needed to solidify these findings for our CARICOM region including our most populous, now out of order, member to Jamaica's immediate East.

Thank you for the benefit of your time. 


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