Can Students Learn How to be Happy? Science Says Yes.

What if happiness isn’t an end? What if it isn’t something to aspire to and build up towards, but a vital component of learning – a starting point? What if, by assuming that success drives happiness and not the other way around, we are reducing our potential for both? There is increasing scientific consensus that cultivating a happy and positive mindset is key to unleashing the power of our brains. Furthermore, there is evidence to show that it can be learned by students like any other skill.

“Happiness depends upon ourselves” – Aristotle

Is it time for schools to put happiness first?

This paper will explore three questions:

(1) Are young people happy in 2016?

(2) Can happiness drive success?


(3) Can happiness be learned?

Then we will investigate ways that schools can put happiness first – looking at specific case studies.

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Primary Tests

Primary Tests, Basic Skills and Mental Health

In 2014, published a press release stating that “new primary tests will help eradicate illiteracy and innumeracy”. Literacy and numeracy in England became a key concern after a 2012 OECD survey found that current standards were unacceptable. Based on the survey’s findings, the OECD recommended that students “with low basic skills should not normally enter three-year undergraduate programmes.” In addition to these findings, a survey of 291 companies and 1.5 million employees showed that 85% of businesses felt that there needed to be more focus on literacy and numeracy at primary schools in England.

Primary tests and tougher exams

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Character Building: the Real Goal of Education?

“Intelligence plus character – that is the goal of true education. The complete education gives one not only power of concentration but worthy objectives upon which to concentrate.” – Martin Luther King Jr, ‘The purpose of education’. In recent years, character building has been emphasised in education from primary school all the way up to further education and beyond. Producing students with good morals, ‘soft skills’ and ‘skills for life’ is magnified as an important aim of teaching. In practice, facilitating both character building exercises as well as the national curriculum is a difficult juggling act. One element often falls by the wayside and there is not a clear way of countering the imbalance. More often than not, character education is the forgotten element.

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