Guyana Chronicle
August 1, 2004

Related Links: Articles on education
Letters Menu Archival Menu

Developing Emotional Literacy in our Children
UNDERSTANDING emotional literacy is key to helping young people develop self-esteem, self-control and so become socially and educationally successful. The Ministry Of Education will introduce the Life Skills Education curriculum from September 2004 and this would greatly assist our children and young people to develop and understand their Emotional Literacy.

In our society today, we often meet brilliant young people who, unfortunately just don't have good social skills. We now know that if you want to get on in life, the most critical faculty you will need is not technical competence but emotional literacy - that is, the ability to manage your own emotions, be more responsible and to understand what other people are thinking and feeling.

Most good leaders master these techniques. Their platform skills are excellent; they can strike just the right note of concern, humour, toughness or tenderness depending on the situation. Essentially we expect our leaders to be good at managing their emotions, so when they don't, we respond with concern and surprise.

Nonetheless, in the growing knowledge economy, it is not just our leaders who need to be expert in these areas, but all of us. More and more organisations are now recognising, the need for effective teamwork where the management of relationships among employees becomes a critical factor. Therefore, good social skills are more of a requirement for a job along with academic qualification.

Up until now, schools did not have much concern with these issues. With the introduction of life Skills Education in schools throughout Guyana from September 2004 more and more primary and secondary schools would be trying to get a better grip of these new concepts. The central proposition is that pupils' emotional states, including their understanding of themselves and others, have a critical impact on their learning.

The entire curriculum from grades 1- grade 12 was designed in a collaborative effort between the Ministry of Education and other agencies.

What is emerging today is that pupils with problematic deportment suffer from poor social encounters. It is believed that these, often negative, encounters ensure that such individuals develop an ineffective 'theory of mind'. Most research on this theory concentrates on the intriguing question of where we get our understanding of other people's minds. An explanation today would be that have realistic insights into the behaviour and likely thought processes of others would obviously aid survival of the group. Even so, these skills can be translated into the realms of economic and social success.

What would the schools be doing? First they have devised and refined testing materials to define a range of normality for children of different ages. Second, they have developed intervention strategies, which include: Creating situations with successful social interactions to help build children and young people's self-esteem and develop a positive theory of mind designing activities where pupils have to work together cooperatively, then debriefing them on the nature of the cooperative skills they used. Modelling effective social behaviour and encouraging children to talk about these and how people might feel in hypothetical situations.

These lessons are age appropriate for children beginning from grade one .In this way they learn better emotional control techniques, from an early age, since for children the prospect of being taken over by their emotions is a very real one.

Additionally, awareness of these processes offers the practical outcome of teaching students self-control. This would be achieved by focused debriefings of children who have, as one might describe it, 'flipped' as well as discussion of emotions and hypothetical situations. Of course, good teachers and schools do that in any event. What is different here is the potential for shifting to a 'taught not caught' model. This research-driven programme offers the prospect of more children becoming more socially and educationally successful. This inevitably would lead to a more responsible citizens and an overall healthier and peaceful society. (MINISTRY OF EDUCATION)