Does happiness matter?

It’s now well-known that happy people tend to live longer, be more successful and are more likely to have a lasting friendships. But what exactly is ‘happiness’?

Many people believe that happiness is about being able to make the most of the good times in life, but it is also about being able to cope effectively with the inevitable challenges or bad times we face in life. Or, in the words of the biochemist turned Buddhist monk Matthieu Ricard: “Happiness is a deep sense of flourishing, not a mere pleasurable feeling or fleeting emotion but an optimal state of being.”

Researchers at Wharton Business School found that companies with happy employees outperform the stock market year-on-year and a team at University College London discovered that people who are happy as young adults go on to earn more than their peers later in life.

So, if we have established that happiness matters, why does our current education system not put more emphasis on developing skills for coping with the pitfalls of life rather than academic results?

As one of the first schools in Singapore to adopt a Positive Education programme, Avondale Grammar School recently surveyed students to ascertain the impact of having ‘Wellbeing’ integrated into the curriculum.

Positive Education is taught at Avondale through the Bounce Back programme, which was launched in 201X?. Bounce Back is a pastoral learning programme that teaches children the skills and attitudes they need to become resilience, and guides them along the pathway of wellbeing.

Positive Education lessons and activities emphasise the benefits of a growing an optimistic mind and a grateful heart. The programme also prepares children for life’s challenges by strengthening their problem-solving skills and resilience, or ‘grit’.

The results of Avondale’s first Wellbeing survey has shown promising results:

• 96{254695081dc1e47c66b345e8cc00e7efe44eec9a430db2279f14dc8e0cafe4eb} of Avondale students said they were ‘happy at school’ where studies elsewhere have shown that 1 in 5 students are happy coming to school.
• 97{254695081dc1e47c66b345e8cc00e7efe44eec9a430db2279f14dc8e0cafe4eb} of Avondale students felt that ‘teachers and other grown-ups in the school care about me’, where as other studies of international schools indicate only 81{254695081dc1e47c66b345e8cc00e7efe44eec9a430db2279f14dc8e0cafe4eb}

The results demonstrate the importance of teaching children the tools of how to be happy. International Positive Education expert and Avondale Grammar School advisor Dr Toni Noble, said “Avondale is teaching the Bounce Back curriculum across the whole school and I am pleased to see that the students are benefitting. The students’ personal resilience skills, social skills and class connectedness have improved.”

As part of a small community that cares and knows their students as individuals, Avondale puts great emphasis on holistic wellbeing as well as academic results. Ultimately they are linked in that happy children make more effective learners. It is worth remembering, as parents, that academic results are only one lens by which to judge the best schooling options for your children.

For more details please go to Avondale Grammar School: www.avondale.edu.sg