Understanding The Whole Child Development Framework

    • By,
      Oshin Sahare – Student, Kautilya

Whole Child Development, prioritizes all aspects of a child’s developmental needs to advance educational equity and to ensure that every child achieves their full potential. This approach recognizes that students’ education and life outcomes are influenced by their access to deeper learning opportunities both inside and outside of school, along with their school environment and relationships. It is a term that has no rigid definition and is scarcely discussed in Indian literature. However, the idea of Whole Child Development can be articulated as a growing web and its connecting strings to children’s social-emotional learning, cognitive, non-cognitive, academic, physical, and mental well-being. One of the commendable attributes of this approach is that it widens the definition of success. This is where it tries to enlarge the definition of success that a student or a person would only be successful if they score a grade A in exams or if a person earns a lot of money in some way or another it sets the value of a person. Whole Child Development intends to focus on all aspects of a child’s life. It guides teachers and parents to encourage and complement their academic and social learning, which will ensure that the child explores all the key aspects of one’s life that includes physical, mental,social-emotional, creative, cognitive, and non-cognitive capabilities.

A step toward the ‘Whole Child Development Framework’ has been made by the residential school system of the Government of Telangana in collaboration with the Global Center of Development of Whole Child(University of Notre Dame). The project aims to incorporate the Whole Child Development Framework and is named Project Sampoorna. Under this project, a team conducted intense research to examine how many attributes of whole child development are covered by the school curriculum through a ‘Whole Child Development Framework’ designed exclusively for these residential schools. As the Special Officer for the Government of Telangana School rightly said, “Project Sampoorna is an eye-opener for the administration since the students come from marginalized families. Many of them are first-generation learners and they have been in residential schools since the age of 10. Since these are the most crucial years of life, we must inculcate a whole child development framework in our schools.”. Project Sampoorna will interact at three levels—the educator/teacher, the school, and the larger educational system—with the backing of the government to promote holistic change.

Another attempt at integrating the Whole Child Development Framework in schools for the children in Jharkhand was made by the state government in collaboration with organizations like- Dream A Dream, QUEST Alliance, Kaivalya Education Foundation, Sattva Consulting, Porticus, and IDinsight. The name of the initiative is ‘Project Sampoorna’. This project mainly focuses on Social Emotional Learning of children as well as parents. The project aims to help students develop emotional fortitude, effectively handle challenging situations, pursue personal improvement, and engage in constructive social relationships.

The very first move in inculcating the framework for Whole Child Development is to assess the pedagogy of schools to understand how many attributes of the existing curriculum match with the Whole Child Development Framework. In this regard Ms. Vyjayanti Sankarfrom the Center for Science of Student Learning, while sharing her experience said that “assessing attributes of Whole Child Development is complex, and in India, assessment methods are to assess rote learning rather than real learning.” Moreover, things get compounded when educators claim that they are integrating social-emotional learning into the curriculum. However, it is often done at a superficial level without a holistic approach. They integrate a bit of meditation and yoga and teach students to be empathetic when the teachers themselves lack understanding of this topic. In a competitive educational environment where children are pushed into a rat race where their individuality is diminished heavily, inculcating ‘Whole Child Development in the school curriculum effectively will prepare children to make thoughtful decisions throughout their lives.

For effective outcomes of ‘The Whole Child Development Framework’, trained and dedicated teachers are needed to guide students through every stage of development, specific to their psychological, social, emotional, and educational needs. The results of implementing project Sampoorna in the state of Jharkhand were significant – 97% of children became better at understanding social-emotional learning, 80% increase in class participation, 70% increase in children sharing their personal experiences with their peers, and a significant increase in parents’ engagement with the child.

The Whole Child Development framework is focused on the commitment to create a sustainable, safe, nurturing, learning environment which provides a comprehensive ecosystem for the development of children. The big challenge to witnessing the transformative change in education through the Whole Child Development framework lies in its proper implementation since it requires long-term commitment and vision.

*The Kautilya School of Public Policy (KSPP) takes no institutional positions. The views and opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author(s) and do not reflect the views or positions of KSPP.