Importance of Holistic Development in Education

Importance of Holistic Development in Education

Holistic education refers to a comprehensive approach towards teaching, wherein teachers go beyond the academic needs of students, endeavouring to engage and cater to their social, emotional, psychological, spiritual, and ethical needs. The purpose of such education is to promote holistic development of young learners i.e. prepare them for the challenges of the real world, encourage them to learn about themselves, and develop as socially, emotionally, and physically healthy individuals.  

A relatively new concept that developed in the United States during the 1980s, holistic growth in education was aimed at honing multiple facets of a learner’s personality. This school of thought held a contrarian view against the objective of traditional learning setupsthat placed emphasis on imparting skill sets that only helped students achieve success in the academic world. However, with changing perceptions, educators can now deploy various methods and strategies driven by this one overarching philosophy to foster a learning culture conducive to holistic development.

Why Holistic Growth Matters

Holistic development in education brings anumberof benefits to students, schools, and communities. Here’s listing a few:

  1. Boosts a range of intellectual skills including abstract thinking, comprehension abilities, logical and analytical thinking, and problem-solving abilities.
  2. Enhances emotional growth by developing intra-personal and interpersonal skills as well as by building self-awareness, confidence, compassion, empathy, and a sense of social responsibility.
  3. Helps in the development of social competencies including the ability to work in a team, and communicate, collaborate, and cooperate with others.
  4. Aids in development of physical capabilities. These include gross motor skills – such as running, walking, and climbing – and fine motor skills - such as painting, typing, cutting with scissors, chopping, and shaping a clay model.
  5. Improves academic performance when learners feel physically and mentally healthy, emotionally secure and connected to others.

There is also growing evidence to suggest that emphasis on holistic development reduces the psychological impact of domestic issues - such as abuse, violence, and poverty - on students’ academic performance, leading to a decrease in inequities within society.

Holistic Development & the Pandemic 

While most conventional schools in India are yet to adopt pedagogical practices conducive to holistic growth on a wide scale, its significance has become patently clear in the wake of the pandemic. As schools closed, children and adolescents found themselves grappling with online classes, familial and financial challenges and isolation from peers and friends. As young witnesses to the greatest global crisis in decades, students have been experiencing increased levels of stress, anxiety, and depression following the COVID-19 outbreak and ensuing lockdown. It is precisely these life obstacles and challenges that holistic learning prepares students to tackle and overcome.

However, things are changing, albeit slowly. India’s largest online learning platform Unacademy has already made some progress in the right direction with its pioneering initiatives aimed at holistic growth of students, such as its marquee programme - Legends on Unacademy. Students can participate in live interactive classes by eminent stalwartsfrom varied walks of life, who motive, inspire and offer life lessons to the youth. Icons, who have already taken part in these sessions, sharing their struggles and successes, include Nobel Prize winner Abhijit Banerjee, Sudha Murthy, Mary Kom, Shashi Tharoor, Kiran Bedi, Anushka Sharma, Virat Kohli, Brett Lee, and Brian Lara among others. The idea is to venture beyond the classroom and impart lessons that strengthen the mind and inspire students to chase their dreams despite obstacles.