Emotional Literacy – who is teaching it?

According to a recent  Education Guardian article  written by Katherine Ecclestone. professor of education of Oxford Brookes University, we are investing lots of time, money, effort and resources into taking care of the psychological wellbeing of students without our having any proof that what we do has beneficial effect at all. Indeed all the evidence that has been done, says Ecclestone, whose book, co-authored with Dennis Hayes, The Dangerous Rise of Theraputic Education is published later in the year by Routledge-Falmer, much of the evidence we do have, from studies done in the US and the UK, suggest that it doesn’t

Recent figures suggest that one in six adults will suffer from depression in their lifetime, and one in 10 11- to 15-year-olds has significant emotional or behavioural difficulties. England now has over 240,000 counsellors, mentors, therapists and life coaches working in schools, hospitals, universities and private practice. Many act as advisers to help schools implement policies for wellbeing and emotional literacy.  

Helping children and adults to “deal with” their emotions is both a sacred cow and a holy grail. There is huge support for the belief that schools and universities must help students to deal effectively with their own and others’ emotions as the key to social and educational success, and to pre-empting depression later in life.

Yet research in the UK and the US challenges the theoretical validity of concepts such as “emotional literacy” and “self-esteem” and shows little practical evidence of their benefits. Many of the evaluations that claim to show positive effects are carried out by those implementing the initiative in the first place. And carrying out an evaluation just after a programme has finished runs the risk of encouraging positive claims after something novel has been tried out.

Is this another instance of clutching at straws and taking advice from the wrong people, people who have a vested interest in claiming all sorts of great things for the things they want to sell? I certainly sounds to me as though it is. Oh well, here we go again!!!


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