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Creating an Environment for Emotional and Social Well-Being: An important responsibility of a Health-Promoting and Child Friendly school

WHO Information Series on School Health. Geneva, Switzerland (2003)

A growing body of research illustrates the very powerful connection between the psycho-social environment of a school and students’ feelings of connectedness. Selected research studies around the world have found that a positive school environment and students’ connection to school does reduce risk behaviors and improve academic achievement.

The school is an important social environment and plays a crucial role in the social and psychological development of students.  Likewise, the social and psychological well-being of students affects their ability to learn, have healthy relationships with other students and teachers, and continue their education.  Thus, education and health officials need to give careful consideration to the school’s psychological and social environment as they strive to achieve education and health goals.

WHO describes an environment that fosters social and emotional development of students as one that promotes cooperation, communication, and creativity; provides a warm and friendly atmosphere; and discourages violence, bullying, harassment, and discrimination.  Teachers, administrators, staff, students, and parents play an important role in such an environment.

WHO developed “Creating an Environment for Emotional and Social Well-being” as part of its Information Series on School Health as a guide for assessing and addressing psycho-social aspects of the school’s environment.  It is intended to help school personnel, parents, and students recognize the aspects of their environment that are supportive of emotional and social well-being and those which need to be improved. The document addresses how to administer the Psycho- Social Environment (PSE) Profile questionnaire, score results, and initiate discussions about the use of the assessment results.

The PSE Profile questionnaire and its results provide school personnel and others with an opportunity to assess and openly discuss their school’s environment, leading to recognition of both positive qualities and qualities that can be improved. The questionnaire is used to assess seven “quality areas” of the school’s environment.  These areas are:

(1) providing a friendly, rewarding, and supportive atmosphere

(2) supporting cooperation and active learning

(3) forbidding physical punishment and violence

(4) not tolerating bullying, harassment, and discrimination

(5) valuing the development of creative activities

(6) connecting school and home life through involving parents

(7) promoting equal opportunities and participation in decision-making

These seven quality areas characterize a healthy psycho-social environment.  The quality areas emerged as a result of research in the topics of school effectiveness and the emotional well-being of children and adolescents.

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