For those of us who are lucky enough to have had access to education have spent on an average between 12-18 years in a classroom. That is 12-18 years of learning. Still, despite all these years of education and learning, there are yet so many people who have not learned how to love themselves and why it is so important. Bearing this in mind I cannot help to ask the question; should it be a component of education and are educators and educational institutions somewhat responsible for promoting it?
When I say “loving yourself” I am talking about having a positive and healthy level of self-esteem. Low self-esteem is a widespread mental condition and can be found in all societies, cultures, ages, and genders. Although it is not a diagnosable disorder, it is the source of many of our emotional and psychological problems. In fact, in today’s society, it has reached epidemic proportions and this specifically applies to young people. Young people that spend the majority of their time in educational institutions, being prepared for the future.
What is self-esteem & why is it important?
Self-esteem is simply put the way you think and feel about yourself and the core beliefs you have of who you are as a person. These beliefs have been shaped by experiences you have had in your life and the messages that these experiences have given you about the kind of person you are. The self-evaluation you make aka self-esteem has a profound impact on the choices you make since it determines, to a great extent, what you consider yourself capable and worthy of doing. There is, therefore, a direct link between self-esteem and actions. Our self-esteem is being shaped throughout our lives but it begins to form in early childhood so the earlier the foundation of a healthy self-esteem is built, the better.
Is education, learning, and self-esteem linked & who is responsible?
Now what does self-esteem has to do with education you might ask? And shouldn’t this be the responsibility of parents, not school? Yes, and no. One of a parent’s biggest responsibilities is to foster a loving and supportive environment that contributes to the development of self-esteem.
But what about educational institutions? Should they not focus solely on teaching? Yes, they should focus on teaching, but the fact is that self-esteem is directly linked to learning. Furthermore, educators play a crucial role in preparing young people for the future. The objective of any educational institution is learning, whether that be for the student to gain an ability, a skill or to acquire knowledge. But what if I say that a person level of self-esteem has a direct impact on their learning ability and motivation to get the best results. So are school obliged to include some sort of program or investment in activities that promotes a healthy self-esteem among students? No, it is not an obligation but I would refer to it as a responsibility considering their important role. Many times an educational institution’s objective is to produce as many high performing students as possible, and as their level of self-esteem has a direct impact on performance, I would say that it is an investment that more educational institutions should look into.
As I have talked about in my other articles, our sense of self-worth and self-esteem have a significant impact on almost everything we do and when it comes to learning and education they are no exception.
The level of self-esteem affects the way students engages in activities, how they interact with others and how they deal with challenges. In many studies, it has also shown a direct impact on academic performance. A low self-esteem can decrease a student’s desire to learn and his or her ability to focus. It is also linked to a numerous of destructive behaviors among young people such as dropping out of school, criminal behavior, alcohol, and drug abuse, earlier sexual activity, and eating disorders. In other words, a healthy and positive self-esteem provides a firm foundation for learning and increases the prospect for a brighter future.
How can educators contribute?
There are many ways an educational institution can do to promote a healthy and positive self-esteem among students. Of course, in many cases, it will depend on resources and budget. One way to promote it is through a formal program which can include workshops or lectures on the topic. However, this is not the only way to go about it. Educators shape self-esteem every day, in the normal course of interacting with their students. Although they can not teach a student to feel good about herself, what they can do is to nurture their self-esteem through a continual process of encouragement and support. By teaching educators about the foundation of self-esteem and everyday actions that they can do to instill a positive self-esteem in their students can make a big difference. This can include showing appreciation for the things they do well, expressing confidence that they will improve in the areas in which they don’t do well, and adjust instructions so they can experience success.
There are various approaches and strategies that can be used but the conversation needs to be on the agenda, on all levels.
And as an end-note…
School and education exist to prepare young people for the future. Promoting positive self-esteem in schools is providing a firm foundation for learning, as well providing tools for them to better be able to handle life’s challenges, both in work and in private life when they enter the adult life. By promoting a positive and healthy self-esteem within the school environment, we increase the possibility to create a generation of healthy, confident and resilient minds.