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Open Letter to Australian Prime Minister -Teach Emotional Intelligence in Schools

By Yvette Vignando – 16th November 2010

An open letter via video from parent of three boys, emotional intelligence expert and parenting publisher Yvette Vignando – asking for Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard and Minister for School Education Peter Garrett to take action on including a quality social and emotional learning program in the Australian National Curriculum.

If you want Emotional Intelligence to be taught in Australian schools, please vote in the Poll on the left hand side column of this website, thank you.

Included below is the original letter sent to the former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and the former Minister for Education Julia Gillard in April 2010.

Letter to Australian Prime Minister and Minister for School Education (first sent in April 2010 – also submitted to the Australian Curriculum Assessment Reporting Authority)

Social and Emotional Learning – ‘Education is the Pathway to the Future’
The Australian Labor government has a strong focus on education and emphasises that education is more than an issue of social expenditure. Excellent education has been identified as an economic investment and the Prime Minister has stated that education is part of the government’s plan to secure Australia’s long term prosperity.  

Integration of evidence-based Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) in school curricula has been demonstrated to contribute significantly to academic outcomes, social and health outcomes, retention and graduation rates and has been demonstrated to offer positive economic returns.

The drafting of a National Curriculum is a unique opportunity for Australia to ensure a world-class education system and, like the United States , we should be incorporating a quality SEL curriculum in that process.

SEL and its components could be measured and reported on by the Australian Curriculum and Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA). The Labor government has flagged the possibility that ACARA might survey parents about “the level of respect, quality of relationships, and culture of a school” – these are all elements improved by quality SEL.

What is Social and Emotional Learning (SEL)?
SEL is an evidence-based approach to education that integrates the academic, emotional and social dimensions of the learning process. SEL improves outcomes for children by teaching them how to manage emotions, build effective relationships and work through challenges in constructive and ethical ways. Research has demonstrated that SEL can be effectively implemented across all grade levels and subject areas.

Why Include SEL in an Australian National Curriculum?
The Labor government’s policies are focused on these three qualities: Strong- Fair – Future.

The drafting of a National Curriculum in 2010 is a pivotal time in the maturity of Australia’s education system. SEL is the ideal lever to ensure that students emerge from their school life with a strength of character and vision, a sense of fairness in their dealings with others and an ability to contribute to their own and Australia’s future prosperity and success.
Identified priorities of the Australian government include quality in teaching, a 90% Year 12 retention rate by 2015 and providing everyone an opportunity to realise their potential regardless of social background. SEL has been demonstrated to positively impact all these aspects of a child’s education .

In brief, best practice SEL programs have been demonstrated to result in:

  • Higher scores on standardised tests – gains of 11% or more were found in one major study soon to be published in Child Development  
  • Improved attendance and stronger commitment to learning
  • Decreases in negative behaviours and emotional distress that lead to school failure
  • Benefits that last into adulthood and offer a substantial economic return on investment: one longitudinal study showed that 15 years after participating in SEL as primary school students, 21 year olds outpaced their peers in educational attainment, economic performance, mental health and community involvement; the project returned $3.14 for every one dollar spent    

Implementation of Quality SEL in Schools – Part of National Education Policy

Well researched proven curricula are already in use globally . Research has documented what a quality SEL program looks like and why this matters. With the drafting of a National Curriculum, Australia now has an unprecedented opportunity to set the bar high and weave SEL into its national education policy framework.

SEL as part of national educational policy is being considered by the U.S. Congress  where it has been proposed that SEL be part of the next generation of federal education policy. Support for this now widely-accepted educational approach spans political affiliations, socio-economic categories and geography. It is likely that such an initiative in Australia would receive bi-partisan support and be warmly received by the large and engaged community of Australian parents and educators

Yours sincerely and hopefully

Yvette Vignando

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1. The Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning Act (HR 4223) was introduced in December, 2009 by Congressman Dale E. Kildee, Congresswoman Judy Biggert and Congressman Tim Ryan.
2.The Positive Impact of Social and emotional Learning for Kindergarten to Eighth Grade Students-Findings from Three Scientific Reviews
 3. Executive summary of meta-analysis of SEL programs and their benefits  (207 studies and over 280,000 students)
 4. Hawkins, J. David, Rick Kosterman, Richard F. Catalano, Karl G. Hill, and Robert D. Abbott. “Promoting Positive Adult Functioning Through Social Development Intervention in Childhood: Long-Term Effects from the Seattle Social Development Project,”   Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine,   Vol. 159, No. 1, 2005, pp. 25-31.  
5. Safe and Sound – an educator’s guide to SEL programs
6. The Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning Act (HR 4223), introduced Dec 2009 by Congress Members Kildee, Biggert & Ryan.

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Comments (1)

It’s all there

Yvette, The way you have laid this out it’s a complete no-brainer! Who wouldn’t want this considered in our schools? Schools and parents need to work in partnership in raising successful human beings. But some kids are not lucky enough to have parents who are with them, or care, so if it’s at least included in schools, they still stand a chance for vital life skills.

C’mon Julia… you know you want to.

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