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Dennis Minott | Building a generation of empathy through mCEL

Published:Sunday | May 19, 2024 | 12:09 AM
Dennis Minott
Dennis Minott

Erica Virtue’s riveting Gleaner articles on fear and maladjustment gripping our schools, including today’s “Help the Hopeless,” shines a harsh light on the disturbing reality of student behavior in Jamaican schools. Her call for “urgent psychosocial intervention” resonates profoundly with the vision I outlined in my previous columns, including “Cultivating Kindness: Building a Generation of Empathy in Jamaican Schools.”

Beyond Band-Aid Solutions: The Power of mCEL

Immediate past president of the Guidance Counsellors Association of Jamaica Angelica Dalrymple, the seasoned professional guidance counsellor, rightly criticizes the inadequacy of punishment-based approaches. These are Band-Aid solutions that fail to address the root causes of student behavior. My proposal for Mandatory Compassion & Emotional Learning (mCEL) offers a more comprehensive and long-term strategy.

Equipping Educators, Empowering Students

Just as teachers equip students with academic skills, mCEL equips them with the critical social-emotional tools they need to navigate challenges and build positive relationships. Imagine classrooms where students actively learn empathy, conflict resolution, and emotional regulation. These skills are not supplementary; they are fundamental to academic success and personal well-being.

Learning from Global Leaders

Countries like Finland, Bhutan, Estonia, and Singapore have demonstrated the effectiveness of integrating SEL into their national curriculums. Ms Virtue mentions the “School Mental Health Literacy Programme,” a positive step, but it falls short of the comprehensive approach offered by mCEL.

Investing in Our Future

Implementing mCEL requires an investment, but the returns are immeasurable. Improved academic performance, safer schools, reduced crime rates, and a more compassionate society are all within reach. This is an investment in the future of Jamaica, and it is an investment we cannot any longer afford to delay.

Addressing Mrs. Dalrymple’s Concerns

Mrs Dalrymple raises valid concerns about the lack of qualified personnel and potential misuse of religious figures in schools. (I, as a practising, “no-wata-ena-mi-mout” “save-soul” Evangelical Christian for over six decades, could not agree more. ALL Christians need to stop overpromising today’s Jamaica. Cho! That is not the Gospel.)

mCEL as a complex strategic prophylactic prescription acknowledges Dalrymple’s, Virtue’s, and other discerning teachers’ concerns and proposes solutions:

- Teacher Training: mCEL necessitates comprehensive teacher training to ensure effective implementation in classrooms.

- Qualified Professionals: mCEL advocates for collaboration with trained psychologists and social workers to provide deeper support for students with more complex needs.

A Call to Action

The current situation demands a paradigm shift. Punishment alone will not cultivate the empathetic, resilient generation Jamaica needs. Let’s embrace mCEL, empower our educators, and create a hard-won future where kindness thrives in Jamaican schools.

Together, we can build a generation of hope.

Dennis Minott, PhD, is the CEO of A-QuEST-FAIR. He is a multilingual green resources specialist, a research physicist, and a modest mathematician who worked in the oil and energy sector. Send feedback to: a_quest57@yahoo.com or columns@gleanerjm.com.