Human-Centred Education takes a holistic approach to student and staff well-being in schools. To cultivate a culture of well-being across the learning community, we believe that it is important to create opportunities to reflect on those activities, processes, experiences and relationships that constitute our well-being. In other words, bringing about a shift from ill-being (mental health disorders, exclusion, disaffection) to well-being starts from developing our well-being awareness. Understanding better what counts as our well-being also helps identify the kind of environments, relationships, curriculum structure, pedagogical approaches, feedback and evaluative practices that are meaningful for learning and well-being.
From a human-centred perspective, we suggest that the unprecedented rise in mental ill health in young people be understood as a symptom of a failure of our education system. In this sense, the term ‘well-being’ includes but also reaches far beyond ‘mental health’, embracing a vision of the whole person who is both motivated and enabled to pursue, with others, a rich, meaningful and flourishing life. That is to say, learning is inseparable from well-being.
From a practical perspective, conversations about well-being (and ill-being) should be part of the fabric of a school. For instance, there may be facilitated small group discussions on social-emotional and relational aspects of students’ life in the school, along with adult-to-student mentoring and peer-to-peer mentoring. There could also be designated listening sessions, such as termly or yearly learning reviews, when students’ voices are attended to with respect and appreciation.
Human-Centred Education promotes the well-being of all in the school. Staff’s well-being matters as much as that of students. In particular, developing professionally is always integral to teachers’ well-being. The school should provide spaces for teachers’s learning and professional development.
Practically, there can be a number of innovative approaches. For instance, as a starting point, the school might consider a shift from teachers performance management to teachers’ professional development. This means moving away from a one-size-fits-all standardization in teachers’ performance targets, and instead, the focus is on nurturing the qualities of teachers’ work, such as facilitation, guidance, mentoring, and engagement. Another practical step involves creating spaces for teachers to become researchers. Teachers’ action-based (research) inquiries are part of their professional learning. Other good practices include timetabling protected time for staff teams to meet without a fixed agenda, for open dialogue and sharing. Likewise, setting up peer-mentoring between staff members for mutual learning also contributes to well-being.