Happy schools - it's not rocket science

In a recent report entitled "Happy Schools - a framework for learner wellbeing in the Asia Pacific" (p XII), Friendships and relationships in the school community ranked as the most important factor among respondents in terms of what makes a happy school, with the findings identifying school practices that encourage parental involvement, foster interactions and friendships between students of different grades, and school activities that directly involve community members. I believe Scotch is an exemplary community in this regard.


Another important criterion for happy schools is positive teacher attitudes and attributes, which include characteristics such as kindness, enthusiasm and fairness, and the role of teachers in serving as inspiring, creative and happy role models for learners. At Scotch, we take this into account through our teacher recruitment and evaluation processes, so as to place more emphasis on teacher personality, attitude and ethics when hiring and assessing teachers. Choosing teachers and all other staff based on cultural congruence and fit is vital.

Why is it that in many indigenous tribes, and/or developing countries, that their members appeared to be so satisfied and happy; something I experienced first-hand on a service tour to the village of Matipwili in Tanzania? Why is it that their general well-being appeared to be in such good shape when from our perspective they have comparatively less material resources?

Wilkinson and Pickett (2010) in their book 'The Spirit Level – Why Equality is Better for Everyone' argue that happiness in different countries is very much the product of their culture. Ever increasing wealth, while in its initial stages may lead to an increase in wellbeing measures such as life expectancy and happiness, there comes a point where increasing material wealth can actually lead to a decrease in happiness as the gap between the 'haves' and 'have nots' increase.

It is a dangerous assumption to make that, because we may be well resourced, then it follows that happiness will automatically follow. Our role as a community is to ensure that everyone, including current, past and future students and parents feel a genuine sense of connectedness to our College and its interaction with the wider community, whether locally, nationally or globally. It is a genuine sense of belonging and cultural congruence that will ensure we are a 'Happy School' not just a well-resourced one.