08 SES 05, Purposes of Health Education: Framings in and beyond curriculum
Wellbeing of children in rich countries, (including those in Europe) has been highlighted as an international cause of concern (UNICEF Office of Research 2016). Increasingly wellbeing is seen as key role of schools, with close links to learning and to social justice (e.g. McLaughlin 2015). The introduction of wellbeing into school policies and practices raises some complex issues which invite further critique. In trying to make sense of the intricacies of the relationships between wellbeing and education we need to consider: the purposes of education; the conceptualisation of wellbeing and; the nature of social justice, all of which are contested. This paper uses Amartya Sen’s (2009) Capability Approach as an analytical framework through which to examine these issues.
Educators world-wide recognise the tensions between increasingly target-driven, market-orientated policies and personal / professional values which may favour a more intrinsic purpose of education for personal enrichment and democratic engagement. In this vein Biesta (2010) identifies composite purposes of schooling and distinguishes between education that seeks to socialise children towards pre-determined norms and education that seeks to support children to recognise and develop their own unique characteristics and interests (subjectification). Whilst both are legitimate purposes of education, socialisation without subjectification, he argues, is anti-educational. In this multifaceted educational landscape the role of wellbeing merits close scrutiny.
In spite of its ubiquity as a policy term, wellbeing is an elusive concept, open to multiple interpretations (Watson, Emery et al. 2012) . It has roots in different professional and academic disciplines, including psychology, health promotion, social care and philosophy. Whilst this commonality of language unites professionals around a shared interest, the lack of clarity can create confusion and obscure purposes (Spratt 2016).
In education policy, wellbeing is often conceptualised as a set of skills of self-management informed by the fields of emotional literacy and physical health promotion, emphasising understanding and managing feelings, coping with adversity, and negotiating risk, referred to by Watson et al (2012) as ‘responsibilisation’. Wellbeing is construed as a support for learning, as it fosters desired character traits such as motivation and resilience. In other words wellbeing is for learning, and it has a socialising role. In this view wellbeing contributes to social justice by supporting children to develop their capacities to engage with education, and ultimately with the job market.
An alternative understanding of wellbeing - eudaimonic wellbeing - is articulated in the Capability Approach, where it defined as leading a life you have reason to value. Social justice is understood as providing the opportunities for individuals to recognise and pursue those things that they value (Sen 2009). In this view, the purpose of education is to enhance young people’s opportunities to develop the sort of ‘functionings’ that enable them to flourish, thus learning is for wellbeing (Walker, Unterhalter 2007). The Capability Approach sees human beings as thoroughly diverse, so its vision of education for social justice involves responding positively to the differences between children, and providing opportunities for ‘subjectification’ though learning.
Supported by interview data from a qualitative study, this paper will use the Capability Approach as a framework to explore the relationships between learning and wellbeing in schools to show how the multiplicity of understandings can be drawn together to produce a more comprehensive understanding (Spratt 2017 in press).
How do teachers and policy actors understand their role in supporting wellbeing?
How does they see this in relation to teaching and learning?
What are the implications for social justice?
This study which was conducted in the Scottish context, raises issues that are of concern to a wider audience across Europe and beyond.
BERNSTEIN, B., 2000. Pedagogy, symbolic control and identity: Theory, research, critique. 2nd edn. Oxford: Rowman and Littlefield Publishers Inc. BIESTA, G., 2010. Good education in an age of measurement: Ethics, politics, democracy. Boulder: Paradigm Publishers. EREAUT, G. and WHITING, R., 2008. What do we mean by "wellbeing"? And why might it matter? Research Report DCSF - RW073. London: Department of Children, Schools and Families and Linguistic Landscapes. FAIRCLOUGH, N., 2010. Critical Discourse Analysis: The critical study of language. 2nd edn. Harlaw: Pearson Education Limited. MCLAUGHLIN, C., 2015-last update, The connected school: a design for well-being [Homepage of Pearson and NCB], [Online]. Available: https://www.sussex.ac.uk/webteam/gateway/file.php?name=the-connected-school.pdf&site=26 [Sept 16, 2016]. SEN, A., 2009. The Idea of Justice. London: Penguin. SINGH, P., THOMAS, S. and HARRIS, J., 2013. Recontextualising policy discourses: a Bernsteinian perspective on policy interpretation, translation, enactment. Journal of Education Policy, 28(4), pp. 465-480. SPRATT, J., 2017 in press. Wellbeing, equity and education: A critical analysis of policy discourses of wellbeing in schools. Springer. SPRATT, J., 2016. Childhood wellbeing: What role for education? British Educational Research Journal, 42(2), pp. 223-239. UNICEF OFFICE OF RESEARCH, 2016-last update, Fairness for children. A league table of inequality in child wellbeing in rich countries. Innocenti Report Card 13 [Homepage of UNICEF], [Online]. Available: https://www.unicef-irc.org/publications/830/ [20th Jan, 2017]. WALKER, M. and UNTERHALTER, E., 2007. The Capability Approach: Its potential for use in education. In: M. WALKER and E. UNTERHALTER, eds, Amartya Sen's Capability Approach and Social Justice in Education. Basingstoke: Palgrave MacMillan, pp. 1-17. WATSON, D., EMERY, C. and BAYLISS, P., 2012. Children's social and emotional wellbeing in schools: A critical perspective. Bristol: The Policy Press.
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