Education through uncertain times: Dealing with Emotional Intelligence, Anxiety and even Pandemics
We know more about emotional intelligence than ever before. In the developed world, anxiety is higher than at any other point in our history. South Africa has many educational challenges. The COVID-19 pandemic has had a negative impact on education the world over. South Africa has been particularly vulnerable considering the existing state of education over the last few decades.
But we are rising to the challenge. As a country and as a people, we are facing this crisis with fortitude and even good humour.
Many schools and individuals have found creative ways to address the sudden need for distance leaning. Collaborating on their thinking, people are ensuring that the children of this country continue to learn, and learn well. Japari is on the forefront of addressing the learning needs of our students.
There were psychiatric studies undertaken at the turn of the century. They revealed that the anxious child of today was much more anxious than in the 1950’s. They displayed the same anxiety level at psychiatric patients from fifty years earlier.
Anxiety is linked to the innate flight-or-fight response we are all born with. When faced with a dangerous situation in a more primitive situation people would either fight or run. In our modern world, this isn’t nearly as clear an option as it used to be. In a more primal scenario, you either defend yourself against a predator or escape the danger.
In a modern context, these are not options. A child who has to deal with the stress of doing excessive homework cannot attack the teacher or run into the hills. When anxious about a test they can’t flee the classroom or punch their peers.
And this is ongoing. The class test can’t be avoided, it must be taken. But there is another test to prepare for the next day, or week. More homework will be issued the same day the project is handed in.
The challenge of anxiety is real. Students need to learn to cope with stressful situations.
J.R. Dvitz and Michael Beldoch first identified emotional intelligence in 1964. Not much attention was paid to it. For a long time, the emphasis had been on a person’s intelligence quotient, rather than emotional quotient. How intelligent someone is emotionally depends on their ability to manage and identify what they are feeling. It also means being alert to the emotions of others.
In the 1990’s this all started to change. Daniel Goleman published a book that popularised and evoked interest in Emotional Intelligence. Studies have shown that those with the skills to deal with their feelings made for better employees and employers. Those who could gauge how their peers or subordinates felt could better navigate the complexities of corporate and private life. There was a study that tracked highly intelligent individuals from youth to old age. It found that their emotional intelligence was a key factor in success.
Managers and owners of companies saw the value in developing their enterprises with staff and management that were better equipped emotionally. Many books have been published to increase awareness of the realities of emotional intelligence. Particular attention has also been paid to developing emotional awareness and skills in children.
Children with well-developed emotional intelligence are found to be happier in general. They are able to handle the stresses and challenges that life brings in such a way that they do not falter under anxiety. They experience anxiety as we all do. But they do not suffer from it chronically. They understand that the feelings they have are real. But they don’t let those emotions overwhelm them when they are negative.
Emotional intelligence is also considered a key skill needed for the future. We are moving towards robotics and the age of artificial intelligence. Amidst these developments, emotional intelligence is playing a greater part in the skills employers seek.
Education is key to the economic prosperity of a country. We are moving into a more digitised world. But literacy and critical thinking skills are still of utmost importance. Creative thinking will continue to be a valuable commodity. Numerate learners will always succeed.
School is a stressful time, for parents and children. Parents are concerned that their children are getting a quality education. The children are concerned that they will perform well and please their parents and teachers. Many children are hoping to attain the marks needed to pursue further education in the future.
Education and emotional intelligence produce an interesting interrelation. Children with better emotional intelligence are better equipped to deal with the challenges of school. They will be able to flourish where their peers are impeded by anxiety.
And yet, there is also the expectation for the educational system itself to develop the emotional intelligence of the children within it. This makes for an interesting relationship between the emotional well being of students and their results. And the responsibility of the schools they attend to produce emotionally intelligent graduates.
Generally speaking, South Africa continues to struggle when it comes to education. The decline in the standard of education has been documented. The foundational phase has been shown to be of intrinsic importance for later educational success. Private education is a route many take due to the limited opportunities that a subpar education can offer.
Institutions that produce learners who can read, compute, think creatively and critically are increasingly sought after.
COVID-19 has quickly become a term known throughout the world. The first cases of pneumonia were first reported on the 31st December 2019. These were in Wuhan, China. The disease rapidly spread across borders. Italy soon had more cases than China. As it stands at present, the USA has the most reported cases and most deaths in the world.
In South Africa, the first reported case was on March the 5th. To date we have just fewer than 4800 cases and 90 deaths. In response to the potential threat, a nation-wide lockdown was implemented on March 26th. It was extended by another two weeks.
On the 1st May, we will move from level 5 lockdown to level 4. It is hoped that we have managed to flatten the curve. Over the next few weeks and months, we expect to see the lockdown levels continue to decrease as life gets back to normal.
Anxiety in this time has seen a further spike. Many people fear the uncertainty of the times. At moments like these, many people lose what little confidence they had. Those with more developed emotional intelligence are able to process the stresses better. But with an unprecedented global pandemic, even the most emotionally intelligent people have taken strain.
Education has been severely disrupted. It is those who have responded with creative strategies that will see robust results in the future.
Japari in uncertain times
Japari has been quick to respond in this crucial time. We have moved our learning online, and continue to offer support to out parents and teachers.
In this time students need emotional support from parents. How they respond to times of crisis will reflect the way their parents have shown them to process their feelings. They will also need a collaborative effort from both Japari and their parents to ensure that they continue to learn, as they need to.
We all hope to be back to face-to-face learning soon. But ensuring that the children’s educational needs are met is our top priority, while observing all applicable safety measures. We are using the Class Dojo App, which can assist our leaners at their particular levels.
Japari takes a holistic approach to learning. This is why we seek to develop emotional intelligence in out learners. While no one has been unscathed by the stress of this crisis, our leaners know they are cared for and secure. Their parents also get a great deal of encouragement with our parental support group and other programs.
Community is vital. Nothing can replace physical interaction. But being in contact and providing that support in this time will continue. Japari cares for its students and parents, and will continue be supportive in these uncertain times.
Issues that South African schooling faces: