Mental health and well-being in the learning environment
In Estonia, people often ask why children lose interest in learning at school and what aspects of our school environment1 helps children learn and feel good about learning. According to self-determination theory (Ryan and Deci 2000)), one of the most influential theories in this field, (learning) motivation and well-being are supported by the satisfaction of three universal psychological needs: autonomy (the ability to act independently), competence or self-efficacy (the success of actions) and relatedness (the existence and quality of relationships). To support students’ autonomy, they must be able to take responsibility for their own learning, which requires information, meaningful choices and interesting tasks. The exercise of autonomy is hindered by a controlling environment (both marks and punishments can serve as a means of control), where the teacher cannot understand the student. Contributing to self-efficacy is the student’s desire to develop in a supportive environment where students can test themselves and receive constructive feedback on their performance. Positive relationships with fellow students and teachers help create and maintain a sense of relatedness at school.
Internationally, it has been estimated that 10–20% of students suffer from mental health problems and poor well-being (Kieling et al. 2011) and that one in two adult mental health problems started before the age of 14 (Choi 2018). The OECD Programme for International Student Assessment PISA has revealed that anxiety and depressiveness have increased, while bullying at school and suicides have decreased internationally among 15-year-olds in the past few decades (Burns and Gottschalk 2019).
Along with the home, the school environment plays a key role in children’s wellbeing, as well as mental health and performance.
comes with self-realisation and meaningful development and is related to learning motivation.
We proceed from the understanding of self-determination theory that there is a connection between learning motivation and wellbeing and that wellbeing at school is about more than just having fun and feeling comfortable. It is a subjectively perceived experience that comes with self-realisation and meaningful development. A learning environment that supports learning and wellbeing – described in Estonia as a modern approach to learning> – was among the goals of the lifelong learning strategy for 2020 and emphasised in the vision document for education Smart and Active Estonia 2035. >. Its implementation is monitored, among other ways, through the National Satisfaction and School Environment Survey (referred to below as the national satisfaction survey2).
Children’s wellbeing as students reflects their perceived school experience, relationships and sense of wellbeing at school. According to the International Survey of Children’s wellbeing (ISCWeB)3 a majority (77%) of 10-year-old children in Europe are very satisfied with their life as a student (more than 8 points on a scale of 0–10, Figure 3.3.1). The wellbeing of 10-year-old Estonian children is close to the average of the studied European countries. As a general trend, children’s perceived wellbeing decreases with age: among 12-year-olds, about one-tenth fewer respondents are very satisfied with their life as a student than among 10-year-olds. Compared to other countries, Estonia’s decline in wellbeing ratings is one of the largest: nearly 20%. Twelve per cent of 10-year-olds and 19% of 12-year-olds are not satisfied with their life as a student in Estonia (ratings of 0–4 on the same scale).
library(ggplot2) library(tidyr) library(tibble) #faili sisselugemine ja andmete formaadi korrigeerimine J331=read.csv("PT3-T3.3-J3.3.1.csv",header=TRUE, encoding ="UTF-8") names(J331)[2:3]=c("10-year-olds","12-year-olds") J331$Riik[J331$Riik=="Eesti"]="EESTI" levels=reorder(J331$Riik,J331$`10-year-olds`) J331=pivot_longer(J331,2:3,"Vanus") J331$Riik=as.factor(J331$Riik) J331$Vanus=as.factor(J331$Vanus) J331$Riik=factor(J331$Riik,rev(levels)) J331$Vanus=factor(J331$Vanus,levels(J331$Vanus)[order(c(2,1))]) font=rep(1,16) font=2 #joonis ggplot(J331)+ geom_col(aes(x=Riik,y=value,fill=Vanus),pos=position_dodge(0.8),width=0.6)+ theme_minimal()+ theme(legend.position = "bottom")+ coord_flip()+ scale_fill_manual(values=c("#FF3600","#0069AD"),breaks=c("10-year-olds","12-year-olds"))+ theme(text = element_text(color="#668080"),axis.text=element_text(color="#668080"))+ scale_y_continuous(limits=c(0,100),breaks=c(0,25,50,75,100))+ theme(legend.title = element_blank(),axis.text.y = element_text(face=font))+ ylab("%")+ xlab("")
## Warning: Vectorized input to `element_text()` is not officially supported. ## ℹ Results may be unexpected or may change in future versions of ggplot2.
In Estonia, one of the reasons for the decline in school-related wellbeing may be that children in this age range are moving to a higher school level. There, instead of one class teacher, the student has several different subject teachers, and the contact (relatedness) between the student and the teacher decreases. Furthermore, the formative assessment that was used in primary school is not being used at higher school levels, but marks are becoming important, and many students find this stressful. The amount of homework is also changing. According to the national satisfaction survey, this is a problem for almost every third student in the 8th and 11th grades but only for 13% in the 4th grade. Perception of the amount of homework is related to wellbeing at school.
higher in the fourth grade, bottoms out in the eighth grade, increases in upper secondary school, and is again higher among adult students in upper secondary school.
The results of the national satisfaction survey in 2021 (Figure 3.3.2) reveal that the change in students’ school-related wellbeing, when mapped out, is U-shaped: perceived wellbeing is the highest in the fourth grade, bottoms out in the eighth grade, increases again in upper secondary school, and is again the highest among adult students in upper secondary school. The increase in perceived wellbeing at the upper secondary school level can be explained by an increase in conscious learning and appreciation for learning by that time. Moreover, significantly less bullying has been observed at the upper secondary school level.