The Importance of Emotional Intelligence

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Do you recognize the emotion you are feeling? Can you manage those feelings without allowing them to swamp you? Can you motivate yourself to get jobs done? Do you sense the emotions of others and respond effectively?

If you answered yes to these questions, it is likely that you have developed some or all of the skills that form the basis of emotional intelligence.

Emotional intelligence (EI) forms the juncture at which cognition and emotion meet, it facilitates our capacity for resilience, motivation, empathy, reasoning, stress management, communication, and our ability to read and navigate a plethora of social situations and conflicts. EI matters and if cultivated affords one the opportunity to realize a more fulfilled and happy life.

What is the Importance of Emotional Intelligence?

The term ‘Emotional Intelligence’, first coined by psychologists Mayer and Salovey (1990), refers to one’s capacity to perceive, process and regulate emotional information accurately and effectively, both within oneself and in others and to use this information to guide one’s thinking and actions and to influence those of others.

Emotional intelligence can lead us on the path to a fulfilled and happy life by providing a framework through which to apply standards of intelligence to emotional responses and understand that these responses may be logically consistent or inconsistent with particular beliefs about emotion.

As the workplace evolves, so too does the body of research supporting that individuals (from interns to managers) with higher EI are better equipped to work cohesively within teams, deal with change more effectively, and manage stress – thus enabling them to more efficiently pursue business objectives.

Goleman (1995) recognized five distinct categories of skills which form the key characteristics of EI and proposed that, unlike one’s intelligence quotient (IQ), these categorical skills can be learned where absent and improved upon where present.

Thus, EI, unlike its relatively fixed cousin, IQ, is instead a dynamic aspect of one’s psyche and includes behavioral traits that, when worked upon, can yield significant benefits, from personal happiness and well-being to elevated success in a professional context.

Five Categories of Emotional Intelligence (EI/EQ)

Self-awareness: the ability to recognize and understand one’s own emotions and their impact on others.

Self-awareness is the first step toward introspective self-evaluation and enables one to identify behavioral and emotional aspects of our psychological makeup which we can then target for change.

Emotional self-awareness is also about recognizing what motivates you and, in turn, what brings you fulfillment.

  • Self-regulation: the ability to manage one’s negative or disruptive emotions, and to adapt to changes in circumstance. Those who are skilled in self-regulation excel in managing conflict, adapt well to change and are more likely to take responsibility.
  • Motivation: the ability to self-motivate, with a focus on achieving internal or self-gratification as opposed to external praise or reward. Individuals who are able to motivate themselves in this way have a tendency to be more committed and goal focused.
  • Empathy: the ability to recognize and understand how others are feeling and consider those feelings before responding in social situations. Empathy also allows an individual to understand the dynamics that influence relationships, both personal and in the workplace.
  • Social skills: the ability to manage the emotions of others through emotional understanding and using this to build rapport and connect with people through skills such as active listening, verbal and nonverbal communication.

Emotional intelligence has been shown to play a meaningful role in academic success, mental and physical health, as well as attainment in professional domains; the findings of Bar-On (1997) suggested that people with higher EI performed better than those with lower EI in life.

In the modern, agile workplace, there is an ever-increasing emphasis from employers on the importance of EI over academic qualifications.

The importance of EI should not go unappreciated; the ability to understand and manage your emotions is the first step in realizing your true potential. How can we achieve meaningful progress if we don’t recognize and acknowledge the point from where we’re starting? When checking directions on your sat-nav, a destination is useless unless we know the origin.

Whether it be connecting with others and improving interpersonal communication, achieving success in the workplace or social relationships, dealing with stress and improving motivation or refining decision-making skills – emotional intelligence plays a central role in realizing success in both personal and professional life.

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Value and Benefits of Emotional Intelligence

The value and benefits of emotional intelligence are vast in terms of personal and professional success. It is a core competency in many vocations, can support the advancement towards academic and professional success, improve relationships, and boost communication skills, the list goes on.

Bar-On (1997) goes so far as to suggest that people with higher EI tend to perform better than those with lower EI in life overall, regardless of IQ. There has been much discussion regarding the benefits of teaching EI in schools, with an emphasis on the idea that emotionally intelligent children grow up to become emotionally intelligent adults.

Proficiency in EI is becoming a vital prerequisite in prolonged or intense areas of ‘emotional work’ such as nursing, social work, the service industry, and management roles. High EI improves the physical and psychological health of people and encourages academic and business performance (Bar-On & Parker, 2000).

Emotional intelligence is an integral part of forming and developing meaningful human relationships. Schutte et al (2001) found that, over a series of studies, there were significant links between high EI and more successful interpersonal relations. Those participants who exhibited higher levels of EI also showed a greater propensity for empathic perspective taking, cooperation with others, developing affectionate and more satisfying relationships as well as greater social skills in general.

So far, we have focused on the social and psychological benefits of EI, it is important to note that self-awareness – the ability to manage emotions and stress – and the ability to solve personal, as well as interpersonal problems, are also significantly related to physical health.

Chronic stress and the prolonged negative effects which accompany it such as anger, depression, and anxiety can precipitate the onset and progression of hypertension, heart problems, and diabetes; increase susceptibility to viruses, and infections; delay healing of wounds and injuries; and exacerbate conditions such as arthritis and atherosclerosis (Bar-On, 2006, Black & Garbutt, 2002).

The value of EI is immense; developing emotional intelligence encourages many positive traits, from resilience to communication, motivation to stress management, all of which can be seen as conducive to effectively achieving personal, physical and occupational health, and success.

Self-Management, Self-Regulation, and EQ

While it’s commonly accepted that our emotions are driven by impulses over which we have little-to-no control, we do have the capacity for self-management and self-regulation; the ability to manage – if not control – the resultant emotions and our reactions thereto.

Consider the calm and rational pilot despite the aircraft’s landing gear being jammed or the surgeon who carries on with their duties despite losing a patient.

This form of self-regulation builds on the basis of self-awareness and is an integral part of becoming emotionally intelligent by exercising the capacity to liberate ourselves from impulse-driven reaction (Goleman, 1995).

Self-management builds on this further and allows an individual to use knowledge about their emotions to better manage them in order to self-motivate and to create positive social interactions.

Leaders with an aptitude for self-regulation are far less likely to be aggressively confrontational and make snap decisions. Self-regulation and self-management do not pertain to the absence of anger; rather it’s about remaining in control of your emotions and not allowing your actions to be emotion-driven. In instances of negative emotions such as anger, EI can help identify what you are feeling and determine the cause of the emotion through reflection and self-analysis allowing one to respond in a rational manner.

Self-regulation is critical in relation to other facets of EI and can be developed from early childhood, adolescence and throughout adulthood. Mastering self-management allows us the opportunity to open the door to the other beneficial aspects of EI while in the absence of self-regulation other competencies, such as effective communication and conflict management, are challenging.

The good news is that it’s never too late to embark on self-management and regulation training; the potential benefits are numerous and should not be underestimated.

The skills enabled through the development of self-regulation can aid success for (but by no means limited to) counselors, psychotherapists, small business owners, managers, and executives.

Those with stronger skills in this area are less likely to become angry or exhibit stress while being more likely to respond calmly to negative environments, harness personal needs in order to achieve goals and remain motivated.

Resilience and EQ     

Emotional intelligence is undoubtedly a valuable tool to utilize in the face of adversity; it has the potential to enhance not only leadership abilities and teamwork effectiveness but also personal resilience.

Focusing on the impact of EI on one’s resilience, that is, one’s ability to cope with stressful conditions, research suggests that those who display higher levels of emotional intelligence are less likely to succumb to the negative impacts of stressors.

In the context of a leadership role, one might expect increased responsibility to coincide with elevated potential stressors, highlighting the importance of strong EI for those in leadership or management positions.

An investigation into the relationship between emotional intelligence and the stress process found that participants who displayed higher levels of EI were less likely to be negatively impacted by the presence of stressors. Participants completed an ability-based test of EI before rating the subjectively perceived threat level posed by two stressors, they then self-reported their emotional reaction to said stressors and were also subjected to physiological stress-response tests in order to assess their response.

In summary, the findings suggested that “EI facets were related to lower threat appraisals, more modest declines in positive affect, less negative affect and challenge physiological responses to stress… This study provides predictive validity that EI facilitates stress resilience,” (Schneider, Lyons & Khazon, 2013, pp 909).

Further research suggested a link between higher emotional intelligence, resilience and the propensity for depressive behaviors. In an examination of medical professionals – an occupation with a relatively high ‘burnout’ rate – Olson & Matan (2015) found a positive correlation between EI and resilience as well as a negative correlation between resilience, mindfulness, and self-compassion with the ‘burnout’ rate.

In a nutshell, those with higher levels of emotional intelligence also displayed greater resilience and were less likely to ‘burnout’ or succumb to depression.

These results build on previous research which found EI scores were positively correlated with psychological well-being while being negatively correlated with depression and burnout. Given the dynamic nature of EI, the study highlighted the potential ability to reduce one’s susceptibility to depression by way of interventions to increase EI (Lin, Liebert, Tran, Lau, & Salles 2016).

Interestingly, EI is strongly correlated with individual advancement and performance, with evidence suggesting a significant link between one’s resilience and one’s motivation to achieve (Magnano, Craparo & Paolillo, 2016).

Furthermore, it is suggested that resilience plays a mediational role between EI and self-motivated achievement. In other words, emotional intelligence is a prerequisite for resilience, and resilience can lead to greater motivation. Resilience has an underlying perseverance component that motivates endurance in the face of obstacles (Luthans, Avey & Avolio, 2010).

Does Emotional Intelligence Matter More Than IQ?

When psychologists began to discuss intelligence, the focus was very much on cognitive aspects relating to memory and problem-solving.

While there had been references to intelligence as having “non-intellective”, as well as “intellective” elements such as affective, personal, and social factors (Wechsler, 1943), historically, the concepts of emotion and intelligence, have been regarded as being mutually exclusive. How can one be intelligent about the emotional aspects of life when emotions can hinder individuals from achieving their goals? (Lloyd, 1979).

In reality, high IQ is no guarantee of success. How successful we are in life is determined by both emotional intelligence and by IQ, though intellect works best when it’s accompanied by high emotional intelligence.

Goleman (1995, 2011) suggests that it is not simply a case of IQ versus EI, instead, both have considerable value. Where IQ tells us the level of cognitive complexity a person can achieve and may to some degree predetermine levels of academic achievement, EI tells us which individuals will make the best leaders within top management positions, for example.

IQ has limited connections to both work and life success. Snarey & Vaillant (1985) suggested it is actually less of a predictor of how well we will do in life than our ability to handle frustration, control emotions, and get along with other people – characteristics not only accounted for but also learnable under current EI theory.

Today, standards of intelligence are still commonly applied to cognitive performance. The misconception that IQ alone is the predictor of success is still very real.

In reality, IQ contributes to around 20% of the factors that determine life success – we all know someone (or perhaps are that person) who has a high IQ yet struggles to do ‘well’. So what accounts for the other 80%? Outwith factors such as social class and plain old luck, Goleman (1995) argued that life success is influenced more by an individual’s ability to engage the 5 aspects of EI detailed above.

While there is much discussion regarding the capability of individuals to improve IQ scores, EI can be developed and refined over time with the condition – just like any skill – that it is given the necessary focus and effort to do so. Many would argue that the ability to connect with and understand others is a more powerful skill to possess than cognitive intellect alone.

In the words of American civil rights activist, Maya Angelou:

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

Is There a Link Between EI and Job Performance?

The increasing awareness of emotional intelligence in management-focused literature and leadership training suggests the link between emotional intelligence and job performance not only exists but has value in myriad areas.

The workplace represents a distinct social community, separate from our personal lives, in which there is a growing appreciation that higher EI allows a person to understand themselves and others better, communicate more effectively, and cope with challenging situations.

Utilizing and developing emotional intelligence in the workplace can significantly improve the personal and social capabilities of individuals within that workplace.

EI is about managing emotions in order to improve job performance and, in turn, helping people stay calm and to think logically in order to establish good relationships and achieve goals. There is an undeniable relationship between EI and the way senior executives manage their employees – managers with higher emotional intelligence have the tools at their disposal to not only manage stress but to also recognize and address stress in others.

If we think of emotional intelligence in terms of managing stress and building relationships, the link between emotional intelligence skills and job performance is clear, with stress management positively impacting job commitment and satisfaction.

It is also important to mention that EI does not only apply at management level, likewise, employees lower down the business hierarchy with sophisticated emotional intelligence skills have the desire and ability to establish and maintain high-quality relationships in the workplace (Lopes, Salovey, & Straus, 2003).

Additionally, individuals with high EI are better equipped to effectively manage conflicts and, in turn, sustain relationships within the workplace when compared to those with low to moderate levels of EI.

Increasingly, organizations are recognizing the value of employees who exhibit the skills to cope with change and respond accordingly. EI is an important factor in job performance both on an individual level and a group level. In fact, as an individual moves up an organizational hierarchy, the positive effect of emotional intelligence on coping with situations and doing tasks in effective ways increases (Moghadam, Tehrani & Amin, 2011).

How about Emotional Intelligence and Motivation?

Emotional intelligence matters for motivation, and motivation matters for success. Whether it’s in relation to work, personal goals or health, the emotionally intelligent individual understands the deeper meaning of their aspirations and the self-motivation skills required to achieve them. Goleman (1995) identified four elements that make up motivation: our personal drive to improve, our commitment to the goals we set for ourselves, our readiness to act on opportunities that present themselves to us and our resilience.

Magnano et al (2016) assert that motivation is the basic psychological process we use to stimulate ourselves into action to achieve a desired outcome. Whether it’s picking up the remote to change the TV channel or dedicating hundreds of hours to delivering a project, without motivation we’d be unable to act.

Motivation arouses, energizes, directs and sustains behavior and performance. Intrinsic motivation, that is, motivation that comes from within, pushes us to achieve our full potential. An Emotionally Intelligent individual not only possesses the skills for self-motivation but also the skills required to motivate others, a useful talent to have especially in management positions.

While self-motivation is central to achieving one’s goals, emotionally intelligent leaders within a business can also impact employee motivation. The capacity to recognize the emotions and, in turn, the concerns of others is an invaluable skill to have at your disposal in terms of realizing the most effective ways to motivate teams and individuals.

In a recent study, the EI levels of first-year medical undergraduates were found to be positively related to self-motivation to study medicine and satisfaction with choosing to study medicine (Edussuriya, Marambe, Tennakoon, Rathnayake, Premaratne, Ubhayasiri, & Wickramasinghe, 2018).

A study of senior managers with high EI employed in public sector organizations found that EI augments positive work attitudes, altruistic behavior, and work outcomes. It seems, unsurprisingly, that happy employees are motivated employees.

The ability to better cope with stress and anxiety, for example, is also a useful EI tool in terms of motivation – if one can recognize the emotions that may have a negative impact on motivation, they can be addressed and managed effectively (Carmeli, 2003).

Using Emotional Intelligence to Deal With Stress

We all endure stressful days, it’s completely normal and completely manageable if you have the right skills at your disposal. An individual with high Emotional Intelligence has sufficient self-awareness to recognize negative feelings and respond accordingly to prevent escalation. Uncontrolled and misunderstood emotions can exacerbate our vulnerability to other mental health issues, like stress, anxiety, and depression.

The skills associated with emotional intelligence can effectively help individuals deal with negative emotional states like stress and promote more positive emotions in its place. Failure to address and manage stress can lead to a further deterioration of one’s mental state and impact our physical health in turn.

Research into the social, psychological and medical components of stress emphasizes the importance of dealing with negative emotions to effectively cope with stress and in turn, reduce the potential for negative psychological and physical health outcomes.

Ganster & Schaubroeck (1991) consider our working and professional environment as the primary source of the stress, going on to suggest the ability to effectively recognize and deal with emotions and emotional information in the workplace is a vital tool in preventing negative stress and coping with occupational stress.

Emotional intelligence allows us to effectively cope with stress. Furthermore, emotionally intelligent people also have the ability to initially evaluate situations as less stressful.

While this has the obvious effect of lessening the adverse impact thereof, it also results in greater life satisfaction and happiness. Conversely, a deficit in EI and self‐regulation can lead to lower subjective well‐being and a relatively exaggerated response to stressors.

The intelligent use of emotions is a fundamental mechanism in psychological adaptation and well‐being. Individuals with higher EI have been found to report lower levels of stress and higher levels of happiness, indicating that the ability to regulate perceived stress directly impacts satisfaction (Ruiz‐Aranda, Extremera & Pineda‐Galán, 2014). The role of emotional intelligence in perceiving occupational stress and preventing employees of human services from negative health outcomes is essential (Oginska-Bulk, 2005).

The ability to effectively manage emotions and emotional information increases our ability to cope with a wide range of emotionally challenging scenarios.

Linking EI and Decision-Making

Emotional Intelligence is closely related to personal and professional development, it impacts on more than how we manage our behavior and navigate social complexities, it also affects how we make decisions.

Having an authentic understanding of the emotions we feel and why we are feeling them can have a huge impact on our decision-making abilities, if we can’t look at our emotions objectively how can we avoid making misguided decisions based on them?

Superior emotional intelligence is an important element in the prevention of decision making based on emotional biases, whereas lower EI can create anxiety and lead to poor decisions. It’s not about removing emotions completely from the decision-making process, rather it’s about recognizing the emotions that are unrelated to the problem and not allowing them to be influential to the final result.

Negative emotions can impede problem-solving and decision making both in the workplace and personal circumstances. The ability to recognize emotions that are superfluous to forming a rational decision and having the capacity to effectively disregard said emotions, negating their impact on the final outcome, holds obvious benefits for decision-making processes.

Through a series of questions and observations with a focus on improving EI awareness and using EI skills to enhance the decision-making process, Hess & Bacigalupo (2011) found that organizations and individuals benefitted from the practical application of EI in decision-making scenarios. The observations suggest EI training is an effective strategy to introduce when developing decision-making skills and aids in understanding the potential consequences of bad decision making.

Understanding the causes and consequences of emotions allows an individual to both manage the feeling and make an objective decision. Imagine you have a disagreement with your partner and go to work angry and a little stressed out, later that day you dismiss a proposal from a colleague without really paying attention to what they’re suggesting – you’re just not in the mood.

This form of emotional interference can be detrimental to the decision-making process, those with more developed EI can identify and manage this kind of emotional interference and avoid emotionally-driven decisions

Can Emotional Intelligence and Success Be Related?

Much like happiness, ask someone to define success and you will probably get more than one answer. Does your career make you successful? Your intelligence? How much money you have? Finding contentment and happiness? Depending on who you ask, it can be anything!

What is clear is that no matter your definition of success, emotional intelligence can play a vital role in achieving it.

As addressed, it isn’t always the most intelligent people who achieve the greatest success. IQ alone is not enough to excel in life. You can be the most intelligent person in the room, but if you don’t have EI do you have the skills to quieten negative thoughts or the mental fortitude to manage stress? Goleman (1995) described EI as being powerful and, at times, more powerful than IQ in predicting success in life.

It’s your Emotional Intelligence that really helps you achieve your goals and attain greater levels of success, developing EI can greatly influence our success by contributing to increased morale, motivation and greater co-operation (Strickland, 2000).

In the workplace, managers who consistently outperform their peers not only have technical knowledge and experience, but more importantly, they utilize the strategies associated with EI to manage conflict, reduce stress and as a result, improve their success.

There is growing evidence that the range of abilities that constitute what is now commonly known as ’emotional intelligence’ play a key role in determining success – both in one’s personal life and in the workplace – with real-life applications extending to parenting, relationships, businesses, medical professionals, service workers and so many more.

Emotional intelligence enables one to manage emotions in anxiety-provoking situations, such as taking exams at school or university and also has positive associations with success in personal relationships and social functioning.

Success within social relationships can be achieved by using EI competencies to detect others’ emotional states, adopt others’ perspectives, enhance communication, and regulate behavior.

Goals and EI

If we think of goals as an aim or desired result, we can see how emotional intelligence skills can help one to achieve personal goals and when exercised correctly by leaders and managers, can also help to drive change and progress in the workplace.

The facets of EI are interwoven, to achieve self-actualization, we must first achieve motivation, in order to achieve motivation we must also be happy in what we are doing. Without happiness, it is a challenge to reach the levels of motivation required to achieve our goals. In essence, if we are not motivated how can we expect to achieve our goals?

There is a wealth of management literature emphasizing the importance of utilizing EI in relation to success and performance, with a focus on how individuals with high EI perform better in all aspects of a management role. The average level of Emotional Intelligence of team members is reflected by the team process effectiveness and in team goal focus, conversely teams with lower EI skills performed at a lower level of goal achievement. (Jordana, Ashkanasyb, Härtelb, & Hooperb, 2007)

In order to produce our best and achieve our goals, we need positive self-regard, heightened emotional self-awareness, effective problem solving and decision-making skills. We must understand clearly what our goals are, and be motivated to accomplish all we can.

How EQ Affects Communication

Our ability to be aware of and understand our own emotions can aid our awareness and understanding of the feelings of others. This sensitivity, or lack thereof, impacts our communication capabilities in both personal and work life.

If we consider communication in the workplace, and more specifically, conflict resolution in the workplace, individuals with higher emotional intelligence are more likely to approach conflict resolution in a collaborative manner, working together with others in order to effectively reach a mutually acceptable outcome.

Relationships in the workplace are affected by how we manage our own emotions and our understanding of the emotions of those around us.

The ability to identify, manage, and understand emotions help us communicate without resorting to confrontation. A person with high EI is better equipped to manage conflict and build meaningful relationships given their elevated capacity to understand, and therefore address, the needs of those with whom they engage. (Lopez, 2005).

Emotional intelligence has unquestionably received greater attention in recent years as a driver of effective communication within teams, including the growing area of virtual teams (also known as remote or geographically dispersed teams). If we examine EQ as a predictor of virtual team success, the results support that not only is EQ a driver of team viability, but also positively impacts the quality of communication (De Mio, 2002).

The process of successful communication and, in terms of conflict, successful negotiation are closely linked to high levels of EQ. Where those with low levels of EQ may react defensively in stressful situations and escalate conflict, individuals with higher emotional intelligence have the skills available at their disposal to communicate effectively without resorting to confrontation or escalating tension.

Why Emotional Intelligence Matters For Happiness

Happiness seems like a simple enough concept, but have you ever tried to define it? Try now – what is happiness? It is more difficult than it seems because it means something different to each of us. While it is true that happiness means distinctly different things to different people, what is clear is that emotional intelligence really does matter for happiness irrespective of your interpretation.

EI facilitators such as happiness contribute to our self-actualization and self-actualization, in turn, contributes to our happiness in a positive feedback loop. Happiness, according to Wechsler (1943), is the key factor that has a positive impact on intelligent behavior.

Studies examining the link between EI and a range of interpersonal relations found that participants with higher EQ scores had higher scores for empathic perspective taking, self-monitoring and social skills, cooperation with partners, relationship satisfaction, and more affectionate relationships. (Schutte, Malouff, Bobik, Coston, Greeson, Jedlicka, Rhodes, & Wendorf, 2001).

By developing the skills for EI one can reduce stress, which consequently has a positive impact on well-being and happiness. In addition to its motivational value, happiness monitors one’s immediate well-being and interjects positive mood in the way individuals cope with daily demands, challenges, and pressures.

It is this positivity that encourages the emotional energy required to increase one’s motivational level to get things done, in short, it helps individuals to achieve what they want to achieve and tells them how well they are doing (Bar-On, 2001).

Research conducted by Furnham (2003) indicated that a large amount of the variance found in happiness and well-being to be determined by people’s emotion-related self-perceptions and dispositions such as the ability to regulate emotions, relationship skills, and social competence.

While these EI skills are not the sole contributor to levels of happiness, it is important to recognize their impact, with over 50% of the total variances in happiness being attributed to emotional intelligence competencies.

From Aristotle to Freud, the emphasis on the optimization of happiness has been thoroughly discussed. To augment happiness one is often required to use more sophisticated behavioral patterns such as self-regulation to subdue instant pleasure motivations.

Contemporary psychological research continues to recognize the need for this form of optimization. Mischel (1974) explicitly taught children how to delay immediate pleasures for greater long-term gain. The ability to delay gratification is important in many aspects of cognitive development given the capacity for such delays encourages an increase in cognitive competence and social maturity.

If we think of happiness in terms of overall life satisfaction, we can agree that developing an aptitude for EI can positively impact well-being and happiness.


Play in education: the role and importance of creative learning


Can learning through play really help teachers to achieve their formal lesson goals?

Don Ledingham, education blogger and director of education and children’s services for Midlothian Council

Over the years I’ve become a complete convert to the early years’ approach, where children are encouraged to learn through play and active learning. It’s been interesting to watch this approach percolate through the primary school, where play is now often used productively with older children.

Yet when I consider the secondary school curriculum, the notion of using play as an approach to promoting learning is rare and, in some subject areas, completely unknown.

The secondary school curriculum has evolved into a set of formal learning outcomes that often lead the teacher to adopt a methodology where they have complete control over the nature of the learning process, the criteria by which success will be measured and the duration of the learning experience. This is driven by a tacit expectation that ‘good’ teaching requires explicit goals and formalised learning steps.

But play has been used productively in secondary schools. For example, secondary teacher, @kenny73, told me on Twitter his class used sand trays and water to encourage students to simulate coastal actions.

He said: “I was very clear that I wasn’t looking for a definitive answer to anything, but I did want students to observe and record their findings before trying to link to actual coastal landscapes. The freedom allowed students to just try things their own way, experiment and probably make some different conclusions from mine, but some similar ones which they will ultimately keep from a memorable lesson. There are so many pieces and links we can pick up from this in future lessons, even if the learning was messy, with a different structure and an unusual way to explore the new topic.”

Teresa Cremin, professor of education at the Open University

The US researcher Sternberg argues that as children move through school, they quickly learn how the system works and suppress their spontaneous creativity. This doesn’t happen, however, at home, on digital platforms or out with their friends where they are often highly creative.

Some teachers, in seeking to achieve prescribed targets, which they are pressured to do, also curb their creativity, avoid taking risks and leading explorations in learning. But it needn’t be that way. A key issue in my view is being convinced that play and creativity have an important role in education, and that as professionals we have a responsibility to nurture these.

The world is changing and is more uncertain than ever before. Surely creativity is a critical component in enabling us to cope, to find pleasure, and to use our imaginative and innovative powers. These are key resources in a knowledge-driven economy and, as educators, we must take up the mantle and educate for tomorrow.

For an approach that fosters playful sharing of ideas, Teresa recommends The Helicopter Technique, developed by the team at MakeBelieve Arts in London.

Tim Taylor, AST working in Norwich

Play in education is still an important pedagogical tool for some educators. I would like to voice a word of caution, however. By declaring play as a child’s ‘right’, which should be somehow protected from adult interference, and that children in school should be free to lead the learning in whatever direction they desire, we leave ourselves open to attack of lack of rigour and professional responsibility.

I prefer to see play, and by extension the use of dramatic inquiry, as a well researched and effective pedagogical tool that develops children’s learning where other more traditional, direct instruction and open discovery methods are less useful. Nevertheless, they still have an important role in teaching and learning. Being a teacher is a practical occupation, where using the most effective methods we have available is paramount, and we should resist pressure to restrict our options by those who are fighting ideological battles.

Tim edits and writes for and

Sian Carter, English lead practitioner at The Mountbatten School in Hampshire

Surely, at its heart, if learning is fun and memorable, and you actually learn through it, that is the best kind of learning there is. Learn differently to think differently. Encourage students to question and develop their own ideas. There is nothing wrong with learning through play. Teachers must have the confidence to teach our students in this way and to develop this vital teaching and learning strategy.

Governments come and go. In 25 years time, I want students to remember my lessons and what they learned. I bet in 25 years time they won’t be able to tell me who the education secretary was. But they will remember that time when they were human punctuation marks or sang to learn key vocabulary. Or ran up and down the playground to learn tenses, or when they put a book character on trial in the conference room, judge wig and all. And that is why we should learn through play and continue to develop this vital pedagogy, despite any changes coming our way.

Sian shares her ideas for best practice and creative lesson plans with teachers on her blog.

Judith Raey, head of the Sue Hedley Nursery School, Hebburn, South Tyneside

Through the High Scope approach we have a strategy called SOUL: Silence Observe Understanding Listen. This is the process our practitioners go through before entering a child’s play. You are then making an informed decision as to how and if you should enter the play. Through this supportive climate for learning, the children and adults have genuine shared control. The adult highly values the child’s active learning and they become authentic play partners with the child, following their interests.

Jeremy Dean, English teacher working in Spain

I feel two of the most important things that play can develop in the class are interest and motivation. If we can encourage these, then the children are on board and contributing to their own learning.

Here’s an example that might interest the maths department. I use the ‘times table Macarena’ to teach counting in twos, fives, 10s etc. I play the Macarena and make sure the children know the moves. Here in Spain that isn’t an issue (in fact they correct me). How humiliating. Once we’re warmed-up, I write the answers to the table I want them to learn and practise on the board (three, six, nine, 12). I then show them how to sing the numbers in time with the movements of the song. Conveniently, there are 12 movements. Once we get the hang of it, I start rubbing a few of the answers off the board so the children have to remember them. I usually end the session by promising that we can do it again tomorrow. But only if they know the numbers. This often results in hastily scribbled notes being made. I’m always happy to see children setting their own homework. A word of warning, if you’re as old as I am, do warm up the muscles around your hips before attempting this.

Sally Wheeler, science AST at The Mountbatten School in Hampshire

I try to hand over the baton to students and relinquish control as much as possible. Bad science in movies as an introduction is always good. Could this really work? Why? How? A bit like the TV programme Mythbusters. Prove it. Students explore possibilities. I use abstract objects in the lesson to model key ideas: Lego and plasticine are a regular feature.

Before setting a problem, give students time to play with the equipment. Students will often plan a fantastic inquiry but stumble at the first hurdle. Let them play before they plan. This will pick up and address many misconceptions before they start. Give them direct, hands-on access to explore and generate their own questions. Pose the questions around the room and get each other to answer. They are in control.

Philip Waters, reader and participant in the live chat, is a play project coordinator for the Eden project, Cornwall. He is currently undertaking a PhD with the European Centre for Environment and Human Health

The tension within education about play being used as a vehicle for formal and informal learning is a ridiculous one, especially when you think about play as a biological drive. We should be asking ourselves what right we have in not allowing play to be a major part of children’s learning experiences. Who do we think we are, suppressing another human being’s natural way of engaging with the world?

Adults who tell children not to giggle, laugh, whisper, shuffle in their seats or stare out the window and dream, might as well gag and nail those children to the floor. They’re doing just as much harm. Adults who tell children what, when and how they are going to learn, and stifle every interest or self-pursuit, might as well sit all children in front of a screen and press the download button.

The problem is simple, really. Play is a challenge for schools because letting children play means handing over control, content and intent, and foregoing power. That’s the argument used by many play advocates. But play can be a reciprocal and social state of being. If schools could lose, just for a day, as a trial, their demarcations of authority and drop child/adult, teacher/student identities, and instead all be players for a day – and, dare I say it, all be learners too – then play just becomes another medium of practice used in the school experience.


Dad Turns Board Games Into Sheets To Help Children In Hospital Pass Time

Let’s face it – hospitals are boring. Being tied to machines, IVs and having to lay in bed all day is a terrible experience. While adults can find a way to entertain themselves with books or the TV, it’s a little bit harder for young children to stay in one place all day. While being sick is tough enough as it is, the dull environment of hospital rooms makes it even worse. Can you imagine being a kid struggling to understand what’s going on, being away from home, unable to play with your favorite toys, and forbidden to leave your bed?

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A father from Charlotte, North Carolina, named Kevin Gatlin knows these struggles way too well so he decided to help out. After visiting a friend’s child in the hospital, Gatlin realized how hard it is to be stuck in bed all day so he came up with a brilliant idea – board game bed sheets.

The idea to turn board games into bed sheets was inspired by his own family. “Because of space, my wife would use our son’s bed as a desk but it wasn’t until I visited a friend whose son was sick in the Hospital did I realize that there was very little stimulation for kids confined to their Hospital beds and rooms!” Gatlin told Bored Panda.

After thoughtful consideration, planning, and consulting with teachers and family doctors, Gatlin’s realization turned into a company called Playtime Edventures. “With the help of passionate teachers and parents, we created Playtime Therapy Bed Sheets. Playtime Therapy Bed Sheets extend the play area of the room and provide kids with a place they can play, learn, sleep and heal on! We quickly realized our Playtime Therapy Bed Sheets and Slumber Bags was exactly what the Doctor ordered for kids everywhere! With over 50 interactive games they provide the perfect daytime/night-time alternative to excessive TV watching, electronic devices and boredom. And the perfect structure to encourage kids to go to bed!”

It took him over 2 years to design the sheets.  Today, kids in need can choose from 50 interactive games printed on sheets of their bed linens. “”It truly took a team to create the bed sheets. I tell people I was just the creative one with the idea! My wife, my mom, and 5 teachers help me create the interactive bed sheets for kids,” the creator added.

While anyone can buy the Playtime Bed Sheets for their own children, the most important part of the project is the opportunity to donate for those who need them the most.

“As a company, our commitment is and always will be to children and communities. We currently partner with the Children’s Hospitals, Women Children shelters, and Internation relief organizations across the world! We believe that our bedding products create a calming distraction for children forced into safe places because of circumstances out of their control,” the company wrote on their website.

According to the Playtime Edventures website, people have helped to deliver around 3000 sheets for those in need. The company also gives an opportunity to choose a specific organization or an individual you’d like to help out.

The project has received a positive response from doctors, parents, and children. If you love this idea too, check out the company’s website to see how you can offer support.

Hospital Gives Kids Mini Cars To Drive Into Surgery So They Would Be Less Stressed

Having surgery can be an incredibly stressful and scary experience, even for the toughest of us who know exactly what to expect. But for kids who don’t understand what’s going on, being separated from their parents in a weird place full of bright lights and funny smells, it can be downright terrifying.

So anything that hospital staff can do to ease the anxiety before surgery is hugely beneficial. And what is more relaxing than cruising around the wards in a toy car?

Image credits: Doctors Medical Center

The good folk at Doctors Medical Center in Modesto, California, let their vulnerable little patients enter the daunting environment of the operating room in style and with a big smile on their faces. Cute mini cars designed for kids between 2 and 7 put everyone at ease, from the patient to the parents and doctors, and kids can choose between either a pink VW beetle or a black Mercedes.

Image credits: Doctors Medical Center

The cars can be operated by the kids themselves or by remote control, and have functioning headlights and taillights. They even have a radio so the kids can choose what kind of music can best put them at ease before their surgery.

Image credits: Doctors Medical Center

“When the children find out they can go into the operating room riding in a cool little car, they light up and in most cases, their fears melt away,” pre-op nurse Kimberly Martinez, who came up with the idea, told CBS News. “In addition, when parents see their children put at ease, it puts them at ease as well.”

“It can be traumatizing for a young patient to be peeled away from their parents as they head into surgery, this truly helps everyone involved.”

Image credits: Doctors Medical Center

Check out this little cutie happily making her way towards her operation, stress-free!

25 Kids From Around The World Photographed With What They Eat In One Week

We are what we eat. But how do our diets actually reflect us? To find out, photographer Gregg Segal has traveled around the world to shoot kids from different cultures surrounded by the stuff they stuff themselves with. Over the course of 3 years, the photographer has visited 9 countries (the USA, India, Malaysia, Germany, France, Italy, Senegal, the United Arab Emirates, and Brazil), documenting his findings in a book called Daily Bread: What Kids Eat Around the World. “I focused on kids because eating habits start young and if you don’t get it right when you’re 9 or 10, it’s going to be a lot harder when you’re older,” Gregg told Bored Panda.

Kawakanih Yawalapiti, 9, Upper Xingu Region Of Mato Grosso, Brazil

Kawakanih Yawalapiti, 9, Upper Xingu Region Of Mato Grosso, Brazil

Kawakanih Yawalapiti, 9, Upper Xingu region of Mato Grosso, Brazil, photographed August 19, 2018 in Brasilia. Kawakanih, a member of the Yawalapiti tribe, lives in Xingu National Park, a preserve in the Amazonian Basin of Brazil. The park is encircled by cattle ranches and soy In the past six months alone, 100 million trees have been felled to make room for When she was born, Kawakanih’s mother, Watatakalu, isolated her from those who didn’t speak Arawaki, their native language. Only 7 speakers of the language remained and her mother was afraid Arawaki would go extinct. In fact, Kawakanih is the first child to be raised speaking Arawaki since the 1940’s and her mother says it’s up to Kawakanih and her two siblings to keep the language alive. Kawakanih has also learned her father’s dialect as well as Portuguese. She loves to read history books, especially ones about the Egyptians. Most of her days are spent playing in the river or helping with chores, like harvesting manioc (cassava), making tapioca and fishing. Every couple of months, Kawakanih travels to Canarana for school where she learns computer skills, though no one in her village owns a computer; there is no electricity or running water. To get to the studio in Brasilia, Kawakanih and her mother traveled 31 hours from their village by boat, bus and car. The red paint Kawakanih wears, traditionally made from ground urucum seeds, protects her from bad spirits and energy. A cluster of seedpods are to the left of Kawakanih’s head. Rainforest tribes have used the entire Urucum plant as medicine for centuries. Kawakanih’s diet is very simple, consisting mainly of fish, tapioca, fruit and nuts. It takes five minutes to catch dinner, says Kawakanih. When you’re hungry, you just go to the river with your net.

Daily Bread grew out of another of my projects on consumption and waste called 7 Days of Garbage,” Segal said. “I asked family, friends, neighbors and anyone else I could convince to save their garbage for one week and then lie down and be photographed in it. It’s impossible to ignore the problem of consumption and waste when you’re lying in it! To me, the most disturbing thing about the garbage I photographed was the packaging that comes with our food. We’ve grown totally dependent on the industries of eating and cooking and the result has been a massive increase in waste. I began to ask, “How have our diets been impacted by this revolution in the way food is produced and consumed?” It struck me that we don’t give enough thought to what’s in our food because we’re not the ones making it! We’ve outsourced the most vital ingredient of life, the connective tissue of families and culture. I thought, “What if we keep a journal of everything we eat and drink for one week to bring our focus onto diet & take ownership of the foods we eat?”

Anchal Sahani, 10, Chembur, Mumbai, India

Anchal Sahani, 10, Chembur, Mumbai, India

Anchal Sahani, Chembur, Mumbai, India (10 yrs old) photographed March 11, 2017 Anchal lives in a tiny tin shack on a construction site in a suburb of Mumbai with her parents and two siblings. Her father makes less than $5 a day, just enough for her mother to prepare okra & cauliflower curry, lentils and roti from scratch. Anchal would like to return to the farm where she was born in Bihar, go to school like other kids and eventually become a teacher, but she’s kept busy with household chores and looking after her baby brother. When she has time, she dresses up and leaves the construction site to enjoy the fragrance of jasmine and lotus and to watch the neighborhood kids playing cricket and running free. While on her walks, Anchal collects brightly colored chocolate wrappers she finds along the road by the grocery store. Anchal wishes her mother would love her the way she loves her baby brother.

In total, Segal worked with about 60 kids, 52 of whom he included in the book. “I began photographing my son and friends of his from school in my backyard in Altadena, CA. I broadened the piece to include kids from other neighborhoods in Los Angeles and then decided the project would resonate more deeply with a global scope. I needed a producer in each country to find the kids. The goal was to represent a diversity of diets in each location. If the rate of obesity in a given country was 25%, I aimed to reflect this percentage in my small sample of kids.”


Davi Ribeiro De Jesus, 12, Brasilia, Brazil

Davi Ribeiro De Jesus, 12, Brasilia, Brazil

Davi Ribeiro de Jesus, 12, Brasilia, Brazil, photographed August 18, 2018. Davi lives with his dad, step-mom and three siblings in a tidy one-room house in the Santa Luzia favela, a slum at the edge of the largest garbage dump in Latin America. The space is filled by three beds, a sofa, TV, refrigerator, two wardrobes, a cooker and a small table where they share their meals. A mosaic of mats and scraps of plywood cover the dirt floor. Davi has his own shelf where he arranges his clothes, his toy car collection, and his mobile. There’s no garbage collection and the power goes down frequently. When it rains, scattered garbage turns to sludge and oozes into homes, but Jesus keeps Davi and his family safe and happy. They go to a church nearby every Saturday night and Sunday morning. Davi’s dad is looking for work as a digger. He has his own pick, shovel and grubber. Davi’s step-mom handles the cooking. Davi will eat almost anything except bitter legumes though most days he has beans and rice, maybe with a little pork. He can cook fried eggs, porridge and pasta for himself. Sometimes there are treats, like sweet popcorn. He never goes to bed hungry. Davi laughs easily and is crazy about kites. He and his friends, Maxwell, Junior and Romário have kite fights in the favela’s empty lots where bored stray dogs scratch at fleas or sniff around for food. Davi adopted five strays and gave them names: Lassie, Beethoven, Tchutchuquinha, Belinha and Piloto. He also has a chicken and wants a horse. He wants to learn all about cars, motorcycles, helicopters and guns, too. His dad taught him to drive and now he dreams of having a Chevy. He’d like to be a cop when he grows up because it’s better to be a cop than a thief.

The photographer said that one of the biggest challenges working with many of the kids was the language barrier. “In many cases, I had to rely on crew members to translate and interpret for me – and hope they were accurately conveying what I wanted them to.” But there were more obstacles Gregg had to overcome, for example, finding the right mix of kids, an experienced crew, equipment and locations that met my needs. ” I needed a studio space with access to a kitchen to prepare the food and a ceiling height of at least 13 feet (the camera height needed to be a consistent 12+ feet above the subject). Organization was critical but sometimes lacking. Making sure that all of the kids kept thorough journals of everything they ate so that those meals could be accurately reproduced, for instance. Fortunately, I had competent producers in most countries. Sometimes, the equipment I had access to wasn’t reliable, which was challenging because the lighting for the pictures needs to be consistent, of course. Another major hurdle was money; this was a very expensive project to produce and generating the funds wasn’t easy. Much of the funding came out of my pocket. I could have really used a benefactor or sponsor!”

Ademilson Francisco Dos Santos (11) Vão De Almas, Goiás, Brazil

Ademilson Francisco Dos Santos (11) Vão De Almas, Goiás, Brazil

Ademilson Francisco dos Santos (11) Vão de Almas, Goiás, Brazil, photographed August 19, 2018 in Brasilia. Ademilson is from Vão de Almas, a community of 300 families in the Cerrado region of Goiás. Ademilson’s home is 200 kilometers from the nearest town, a journey on mountainous, unpaved roads through valleys and across rivers – an almost impossible trip during the rainy season. There is no TV, electricity or running water. Villagers bathe, wash their clothes and clean their pots and pans in the Capivara River. Ademilson, the youngest of 7 children, goes to school in the morning (an hours walk from home) and in the afternoon, returns to help his father with farming and collecting native plants. The family cultivates a cornucopia of crops: rice, manihot (cassava), sweet potatoes, squash, beans, gherkin, okra, jiló, orange, lemon, watermelon, corn, coffee and sugar cane. They collect a bounty of native fruits, too: buriti, mangaba, mango, jatobá, pequi, caju, and coco indaiá. They produce coconut oil, mamona oil (castor oil) and sesame and peanut paçoca. They farm without the use of machinery, irrigation or pesticides and fertilize with ash from the burning of the bush. Manihot, the brown root in the upper right hand corner of the photograph, is a staple of Ademilson’s diet. His favorite treats are mangoes and paçoca (similar to peanut brittle). There are many kinds of food Ademilson doesn’t eat because they’re not part of his diet and are completely foreign. He tried a hot dog when he went to the city and hated it. He’d never eaten pizza before coming to Braslila to be photographed. In his portrait, Ademilson is holding buriti, a wild palm from the Cerrado rich in carotenoids and antioxidants which indigenous people refer to as the “tree of life” because of its many uses: its wood goes into the construction of homes and handcrafts; leaves are used to cover houses; fibers are used to make textiles and the orange pulp of the fruit is used for food. Even the seeds of the buriti fruit aren’t wasted; they’re cold pressed by natives who use the oil to protect themselves from the sun and soothe sore muscles.

“Recreating all of the kid’s meals was a challenge of course, too! Kids kept a journal of everything they ate for one week. At the end of the week, producers collected the journals, checked to make sure they were complete and then handed them off to the cooks who’d shop for all the ingredients and reproduce all of the meals. I photographed as many as 5 kids a day, so the cooks were responsible for preparing over 100 meals. These were often 14-hour days for the food-preppers. It was demanding and exhausting! Once all the food was prepped and plated, I’d arrange the dishes and other elements in the frame. Sometimes I’d have the luxury of a food stylist to collaborate with, though often it was just me doing the styling.”

Meissa Ndiaye, 11, Dakar, Senegal

Meissa Ndiaye, 11, Dakar, Senegal

Meissa Ndiaye, 11, Dakar, Senegal, photographed August 30, 2017. Meissa shares a single room with his dad, mum and brother in the heart of Parcelles Assainies, which means “sanitized plots.” A treeless, sandy suburb of Dakar, Parcelles Assainies was developed in the 1970’s to house the poor overflowing from the city. Meissa lives opposite the futbol stadium and open-air market, hundreds of stalls selling everything from fresh fish to wedding dresses. In late August, tethered goats line the streets before Eid al-Adha, the Feast of the Sacrifice. Meissa, a devout Muslim and student at Quran School, loves goat meat and sweet foods like porridge, though in the week he kept a diary of his meals, he ate very little meat. More often, he filled up on French bread stuffed with spaghetti, peas or fried potatoes. Meissa’s mum and anties prepare his meals though once or twice a week they get take out. Meissa loves futbol most of all and hopes to be a star player like Messi or Ronaldo. If he had enough money, he’d buy a nice little sports car. He wishes his mum and dad, a refrigerator technician, could immigrate to France so that they can earn enough money.

“One of the surprising lessons of Daily Bread is that the best quality diets are often eaten not by the richest but the poorest. In the US, the poor are the biggest consumers of junk food because it’s convenient and cheap. But in Mumbai, it costs $13 for a medium Dominoes pizza, which is way beyond the means of most people. Anchal lives with her family in an 8 X 8 foot aluminum hut. Her father earns less than $5 a day, yet she eats a wholesome diet of okra & cauliflower curries, lentils and roti which Anchal’s mother makes from scratch each day on a single kerosene burner. Shraman, on the  other hand, lives in a middle-class Mumbai hi-rise and eats very differently. His family’s extra income means he can afford Dominoes pizza, fried chicken and treats like Snickers bars and Cadbury chocolate.”

“In 2015, Cambridge University conducted an exhaustive study ranking diets around the world from most to least nutritional. Remarkably, 9 of the 10 healthiest countries are in Africa. It seems counterintuitive that some of the poorest countries have among the healthiest diets. But when you look closely at what they’re eating, it makes sense: fresh vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, grains, fish, and legumes and very littled meat (which functions more as seasoning) and few empty calories (processed foods).”

Hank Segal, 8, Altadena, Ca

Hank Segal, 8, Altadena, Ca

Hank Segal, 8, Altadena, CA, photographed January 30, 2016. Hank lives with his mom, a voice teacher, his father, a photographer and their dog, Django near the foothills of the San Gabriel Mountains northeast of Los Angeles. Hank and his parents have grown sun gold cherry tomatoes, artichokes, zucchini, spinach, pomegranates, yams, snap peas, watercress, rosemary, thyme, basil, Serrano chili peppers, boysenberries, kyoho grapes, raspberries, rhubarb, and watermelon. Hank has an adventurous palette. While eating a fried Branzino at a Lebanese restaurant, he announced, “I’m gonna’ get all Anthony Bourdain on it!” and popped the fish’s crispy eyeball in his mouth. Usually, Hank and his parents talk politics over dinner or succumb to TV. Hank likes his back scratched and figures he must be part dog because his sense of smell is so keen. He especially likes the aroma of melted butter and garlic. He also likes 80’s music because “they really knew how to use the synth.” Hank’s heroes are Albert Einstein, Teddy Roosevelt and Abe Lincoln because he fixed slavery and has a sweet beard. Hank wants to be a mechanical engineer at NASA when he grows up.

“The revolution in diet and sameness of what kids around the world are eating,” the Gregg added. “Ultrprocessed packaged foods, empty calories. The children I met have distinct personalities and diverse hobbies, yet they’re often eating in eerily similar ways. Compare the diets of Paulo from Sicily and Isaiah from Los Angeles. In the past, a Sicilian boy would have grown up eating very different foods from his counterpart in the US, but now their diets are converging. Both Paulo and Isaiah eat French fries, burgers, pizza, pasta and white bread. They live continents apart, but it’s as if the boys’ parents have been shopping at the same global superstore!”

Beryl Oh Jynn, 8, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Beryl Oh Jynn, 8, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Beryl Oh Jynn, 8, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, photographed March 25, 2017. Beryl lives in a quiet condominium with her parents and two brothers. She goes to S. J. K. Han Ming Puchong, a national Chinese school walking distance from home. Beryl’s dad is an engineer and her mother runs a day care. Beryl’s earliest memory of food is porridge and cake. Her favorite dish is spaghetti with carbonara sauce. Beryl grows bok choy and spinach in her balcony garden, is not permitted to drink sodas and refuses to eat ginger. She would like to be a cheerleader.

Sira Cissokho (11 Yrs Old) Dakar

Sira Cissokho (11 Yrs Old) Dakar

Sira Cissokho (11 yrs old) Dakar, photographed August 30, 2017. Sira, one of nine children, is from Tambacounda, about 7 hours north of Dakar. Sira’s father is a musician and her mother is a housewife. Sira doesn’t always get enough to eat. On special occasions, Sira’s mom makes her favorite dish, chicken. Many of the foods Sira and her family eat are grown in their garden, including millet and peanuts. Sira has learned to cook Ngalakh, a Senegalese millet porridge. If she had enough money, Sira would buy her parents a trip to Mecca. Of all her possessions, the thing Sira cherishes most is a bracelet her grandfather passed down to her before he died.

Rosalie Durand, 10, Nice, France

Rosalie Durand, 10, Nice, France

Rosalie Durand, 10, Nice, France, photographed August 18, 2017. Since her parents split up, Rosalie has lived part time with her mom, and part time with her dad, which allows her to see both the Mediterranean Sea and the French Alps from home. She has a healthy diet (which includes lots of fresh fish, like sardines) thanks in part to her father, a restaurateur, who has taught her to make crepes, salads and lentils with sausage, her favorite dish. The only foods she won’t eat are ratatouille, spinach and cucumber. Rosalie gets her sense of style from her mother, a fashion designer, and plans to be an interior designer. Rosalie is into Thai kickboxing, rock climbing, gymnastics and performs magic tricks. She’s a fan of actors Cole Sprouse and Emma Watson and in her free time goes to the cinema. She notices she’s getting older because she has a phone. There’s nothing missing in Rosalie’s life, though she’d like to go to Los Angeles and explore Hollywood Boulevard. If she had enough money, she’d buy a sailboat or maybe even a yacht.

Adveeta Venkatesh, 10 Years Old, Mumbai, India

Adveeta Venkatesh, 10 Years Old, Mumbai, India

Adveeta Venkatesh, 10 years old, Mumbai, India, photographed March 11, 2017. Adveeta, an only child, lives with her maternal granny, who prepares most of her meals, and her parents in a spacious flat with a balcony overlooking Deonar, a suburb of Mumbai. The air is often hazy from fires burning at Deonar dumping ground, India’s oldest and largest landfill, an 18-story, 12 million ton mountain of trash. Adveeta’s mother and father are scientists at a government research center in Mumbai. They make it home in time for dinner. While at the table, no one uses gadgets or watches TV. Before eating, Adveeta says a prayer of gratitude for the food on her plate. A vegetarian, she loves South Indian cuisine, particularly dosas (pancakes made from fermented rice and lentils) served with spicy chutney and yogurt. A few years ago, Adveeta was a picky eater. She didn’t eat 99% of the food she eats now. But as her father discovered during the photo shoot, she’s also eating more snacks and sweets. “I can’t believe Adveeta is eating all that junk!” he commented, as the pictures popped up on my monitor. “I’m going to have to have a talk with her mother!” Adveeta studies drama, performs classical Indian dance and prefers to solve puzzles and riddles than to play with Barbie dolls. She’s only cried once in the last year. While traveling in Jakarta and Bali, she contracted chicken pox and was kept isolated from her cousins. Adveeta plans to be a veterinarian and to contribute extra money to orphanages and animal shelters.

June Grosser, 8, Hamburg, Germany

June Grosser, 8, Hamburg, Germany

June Grosser, 8, Hamburg, Germany, photographed August 11, 2017. June’s mom is a fashion photographer, though she hasn’t yet photographed her daughter. June must have observed her mother at work or she’s just a natural model, completely assured in front of the camera. June can sing almost all the songs she hears on the radio – and dance to them. She has no role model. She intends to be her own role model. She’d like a dog, but her parents won’t allow her. She figures if she can make enough money, she may be able to bribe her mother to get one. June’s favorite food is schnitzel. She doesn’t care for curry and truffles and didn’t like broccoli either until now. She is full after meals but hunger returns quickly. At dinner, June doesn’t talk much, but rather listens to her parents discuss politics, elections, and what’s going on in the world. The things she likes most about herself is her hair, her long eyelashes and her imagination, her fantasies. One of her wishes is to fly to the moon, though she’d rather focus on wishes that will be fulfilled. June is reading The Vampire Diaries and as she’s lying in bed at night trying to fall asleep, she often wonders if vampires really exist.

Leona “Nona” Del Grosso Sands, 6, Glendale, Ca

Leona “Nona” Del Grosso Sands, 6, Glendale, Ca

Leona “Nona” Del Grosso Sands, 6, Glendale, CA, photographed January 30, 2016. Nona lives with her mother and Cleo, her beloved cat, in an apartment in Glendale, CA. She can make oatmeal and pancakes and once when her mother was very sick, she fed her. Nona grew a gigantic tomato plant that began to take over everything and is now as big as a tree. Her mother makes her eat vegetables, especially broccoli. Her diet has as many colors as the rainbow, though Nona also has not just a sweet tooth, but many “sugar teeth.” Nona’s role models are her mother, her teachers and Joan Jett. When she goes to sleep at night, Nona sometimes imagines her Nana is an angel watching over her.

Andrea Testa, 9, Catania, Italy

Andrea Testa, 9, Catania, Italy

Andrea Testa, 9, Catania, Italy, photographed August 23, 2017 Andrea lives in a single house surrounded by a little garden and lava stones with his parents and 6 year old sister Vittoria. Andrea’s father is an officer in the Italian army and his mother is a housewife who does all the cooking. Andrea’s favorite dish is pasta carbonara with plenty of bacon. He loves the scent of orange blossoms and cherries. He won’t touch cauliflower. If he had enough money, Andrea would buy a drone and a little dog, which he would name “Ettore” (Hector). Andrea performs magic tricks for his family and friends. His hero is Robinson Crusoe. Andrea would like to be a doctor because they make a lot of money.

Yusuf Abdullah Al Muhairi, 9, Mirdif, Dubai, Uae

Yusuf Abdullah Al Muhairi, 9, Mirdif, Dubai, Uae

Yusuf Abdullah Al Muhairi, 9, Mirdif, Dubai, UAE, photographed August 12, 2018. Yusuf’s mom came to Dubai from Ireland to work as a pastry chef and chocolatier. She married an Emerati man and they had one son before separating. Yusuf loves his mum’s cooking though he makes scrambled eggs and toast all on his own. Yusuf likes to read, draw, climb, ride horses and create science projects. He thinks he’ll either be a pilot or police officer when he grows up. If he had the money, he’d buy a Ferrari. His role models are Batman and his mother. Yusuf wishes for his mum to get married again and that he’ll have brothers and sisters. Lying in bed at night, he thinks back to building a birdhouse with his granddad, fishing with him in the rivers in Ireland and going to Warner Brothers with his grandmom.

Tharkish Sri Ganesh (10) And Mierra Sri Varrsha (8), Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Tharkish Sri Ganesh (10) And Mierra Sri Varrsha (8), Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Tharkish Sri Ganesh (10) and Mierra Sri Varrsha, (8) Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, photographed March 26, 2017. Tharkish and Mierra’s roots in Malaysia begin with their great-grandfather who migrated from South India to build a better future, but only found work as a rubber tapper before being conscripted by the Japanese to build the “Death Railway” from Siam to Burma in 1943. Tharkish and Mierra live with their mom and dad in a public housing project in Bukit Jalil, a suburb of Kuala Lumpur. Their apartment block is full of friends and noisy in a good way. Their dad works as a gaffer in film production and their mom is a homemaker and does most of the cooking though on weekends they eat KFC, Pizza Hut or Chinese takeout. Mierra dislikes the pungent smell of meat and traces of blood. She prefers candies and chocolates. Her earliest memory of food is rice porridge, her comfort food whenever she falls sick. Tharkish’s favorite food is Puttu, steamed ground rice layered with coconut and topped with bananas and palm sugar. Tharkish doesn’t like onions because they taste weird and leave a funny smell in his mouth. His first taste was Urad Dal Porridge, an Indian baby food made with dal, rice, coconut, cardamon and jaggery (concentrated date palm sap). Mierra says her diet is healthy because her mom avoids foods with preservatives, additives and msg, though after her Daily Bread portrait, she still thinks she could eat less processed food. Mierra loves to read and play badminton and snakes and ladders while her brother is into chess, carom and surfing the internet. Mierra strives to be the top student in her class and wants to be a doctor while Tharkish will be happy with a top 3 finish after examinations and pictures himself an IT engineer.

Siti Khaliesah Nataliea Muhamad Khairizal, 9, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Siti Khaliesah Nataliea Muhamad Khairizal, 9, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Siti Khaliesah Nataliea Muhamad Khairizal, 9, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, photographed March 26, 2017, Siti lives in a suburb of Kuala Lumpur with her father, a car salesman, her mother, a housewife and her 4 siblings. Mum does all the cooking and sets the rules for the table: recite the Du’a, no water before meals and no chatting during meals though it’s very seldom that the whole family sits down to dinner together because everyone’s so busy. Siti’s favorite dish is spaghetti carbonara and she’s crazy about the scent of fried instant noodles. She goes to a Chinese school where she learns Mandarin, plays the Melodian and practices Taekwando. When she falls asleep at night, Siti wishes her dad would put some money under her pillow. She collects coins of all kinds and foreign currencies. Once she saves enough money, Siti’s going to buy an IPad.

Greta Moeller,7, Hamburg, Germany

Greta Moeller,7, Hamburg, Germany

Greta Moeller, Hamburg, Germany, 7, photographed August 11, 2017 Greta lives with her mother and younger sister in Hamburg, but spends quite a bit of time with her grandparents, too. On the path to her grandparents home is a great big chestnut tree and in autumn, Greta searches in the foliage for chestnuts with her little sister. Greta’s favorite food is fish sticks with mashed potatoes and applesauce. She can’t stand rice pudding. One thing Greta is really good at is snapping her fingers, both hands at the same time. At night, while falling asleep, Greta thinks mostly about her mother, who is usually in the next room watching TV.

Frank Fadel Agbomenou, 8, Dakar, Senegal

Frank Fadel Agbomenou, 8, Dakar, Senegal

Frank Fadel Agbomenou, 8, Dakar, Senegal, photographed August 30, 2017. Frank lives with his older brother and father, a Human Resources Manager in an apartment in a posh neighborhood of Dakar. Frank would like to see his dad and mum together again but he doesn’t think that wish will be fulfilled. Frank cried a couple weeks ago; his mum told him she would take him to the beach but then changed her mind. She’s busy, working as a caterer for parties and fancy hotel events. There is almost nothing Frank doesn’t like to eat. He eats lots of peanuts from the peanut tree on his terrace. He’s especially fond of fish and the family cook knows how to prepare it just right. Frank is an excellent dancer and has mastered summersaults though he prefers watching TV and playing games on his Play Station. The thing that makes him laugh the hardest is when his cousin Coco falls down. Frank dreams of buying a flashy sports car and traveling to Paris. When he grows up, he wants to be a gynecologist.

Isaiah Dedrick, Long Beach, Ca

Isaiah Dedrick, Long Beach, Ca

Isaiah Dedrick, Long Beach, CA, (16 at time of photo) photographed March 20, 2016. Isaiah was raised by his mother and grandmother, who does most of the cooking at home. One day, Isaiah would like to have enough space to grow his own garden. Isaiah’s favorite food is orange chicken and fried rice and he loves the smell of apples sautéed with cinnamon. His mom doesn’t permit him to drink soda and after this photo shoot, Isaiah decided to eliminate snacks from his diet. Isaiah’s wish is that no one will go hungry in the world. He plays the drums and the flute and is studying acting. He’d like to be as funny as Eddie Murphy or Tyler Perry and be able to fly like Superman.

Cooper Norman, 12 (10 At Time Of Shoot), Altadena, Ca, USA

Cooper Norman, 12 (10 At Time Of Shoot), Altadena, Ca, USA

Cooper Norman, 12 (10 at time of shoot), Altadena, CA, USA. Photographed January 30, 2016. Cooper lives in the foothills of Altadena, California with his mom, a school administrator and dad, a human resources manager. Other than the cries of wild parrots and peacocks, his neighborhood is quiet, peaceful, and untraveled. At 4, Cooper began taking karate classes and at 5, he took up classical guitar. He got into bow ties, too, which he wears for his guitar recitals. Cooper last wore this suit to a wedding in Palm Springs. The bride’s uncle was so impressed with Cooper’s table manners that he invited him out for dim sum. At Odyssey Charter School, Cooper plants all sorts of fruits and vegetables. He thinks of himself as an adventurous eater, willing to try almost anything, though Thai food (his mother’s home country) is his favorite. His earliest memory of food is eating Cheerios in his stroller. Cooper plans to be a neurosurgeon when he grows up and, if he has enough money, will buy a teleporter, so he can visit his family in Thailand more often.

John Hintze, 7, Hamburg, Germany

John Hintze, 7, Hamburg, Germany

John Hintze, 7, Hamburg, Germany, photographed August 11, 2017. John lives with his parents in a large apartment with a garden in a quiet suburb of Hamburg with more trees than cars. John describes himself as an omnivore. He’s fond of eating breakfast in bed. His parents bring him a tray of Musli and toast every morning before school. John loves his grandma’s roast, Chinese curry with cashew nuts and Orange Fanta, though he’s only allowed to drink Fanta on weekends. During the week there is only water. He used to like mushrooms, but not anymore. Once, with his friend Henry, he made a fruit plate with a sushi knife. “I have not yet harvested something to eat, but I could do that. First we’d have to plant something.” John collects minerals like purple azurite, is learning Thai kickboxing, sailing and is an accomplished swimmer. He would like to be an underwater archeologist. His dad has already found and brought back great things from the sea. Once, when he and his dad were snorkeling, a curious octopus approached them – which was both scary and fantastic. When he falls asleep at night, John paints a mental picture of what will happen tomorrow. He hopes his parents will never die.


Alexandra (9, Left) And Jessica (8, Right) Lewis, Altadena, Ca, USA

Alexandra (9, Left) And Jessica (8, Right) Lewis, Altadena, Ca, USA

Alexandra (9, left) and Jessica (8, right) Lewis, Altadena, CA, USA. Photographed February 21, 2016. Alex and Jessica live in the foothills of Altadena with their daddy and papa who are engineers at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a NASA field center in La Canada, California. Their yard is filled with food: blackberry bushes, grape vines, and fruit trees – fig, peach, pomegranate, guava, mulberry, jujubes, and banana. They have chickens, too, and eat their eggs almost every day. Jessica loves sweets and pizza with ham and is repelled by beans, peppers, sushi, and chocolate. She’s good at drawing and daydreaming and on weekends the whole family roller-skates at Moonlight Rollerway. Jessica is the richest person on her street besides their neighbor Mary Anne. When she grows up, she wants to be an author and university professor. Alex makes Hot Pockets, pizza rolls, and quesadillas herself, but her favorite dish is macaroni and cheese. She refuses to eat Brussels sprouts or soggy leftover broccoli. She collects rocks and shells and is saving up for an xbox 360 and Nintendo Switch. Alex makes people laugh without even trying because she’s a spaz, she says. Her long-range goal is to get a PhD and have an outstanding career. After the photo shoot, Alex and Jessica took much of the leftover food home to feed their chickens.


Paolo Mendolaro, 9, Belpaso, Sicily

Paolo Mendolaro, 9, Belpaso, Sicily, photographed August 23, 2017. Paolo and his family of four live in an apartment in Belpasso, a tiny medieval village on the east coast of Sicily founded in 1305. When he steps outside his apartment, Paolo sees the center square and Mother Church of Belpasso with its lava stone staircase and bell tower. Paolo’s mom works full time for a cosmetics company, but makes time to prepare homemade meals for her family like Sicilian Cannolo and Pasta alla Norma. Once a week, they buy a roast chicken or go out for pizza, which Paolo loves most of all. Paolo has learned to make his own pizza and pasta as well as biscuits and big donuts. His grandfather had an overflowing garden and Paolo helped harvest eggplants, zucchini, bell peppers, olives, strawberries, peaches, tomatoes, peas and fava beans. During the week that Paolo kept his journal for Daily Bread, he’d been going to the beach with his family and didn’t follow as healthy a diet as usual; they often ate fast food. Paolo keeps his parents in his prayers. For his mother, he wishes for a dryer machine and a new truck for his father, a carpenter. If he had enough money, Paolo would buy a Play Station 4, a giant Lego set and, at minimum, a one-week holiday for the whole family.

Henrico Valias Sant`anna De Souza Dantas, 10, Brasilia, Brazil

Henrico Valias Sant`anna De Souza Dantas, 10, Brasilia, Brazil

Henrico Valias Sant`anna de Souza Dantas, 10, Brasilia, Brazil, photographed August 18, 2018. Henrico lives in a posh suburb of Brasilia with his mom, a film producer and advertising executive, and his two siblings. Henrico’s mom, grandma and maid do the day to day cooking, though Henrico likes to invent his own snacks. His favorite dish is Feijoada, a Brazilian stew of black beans and pork, served with a side of white rice, “farofa” (fried cassava flour), and collard greens. Henrico likes dessert, too: chocolate soufflé; Toblerone and Talento bars; anything with Nutella, “brigadeiro,” a ball of baked condensed milk and chocolate; buttered toast sprinkled with Nescau powder, a treat his uncle invented; and one of his own creations – steak covered with sliced banana. Henrico has mastered video games like Little Big Planet, Lego Marvel and Escape 3. He listens to Justin Bieber, Maroon 5 and Gato Galatico, watches Iron Fist and The Flash on Netflix and is a Star Wars fan. From participating in Daily Bread, Henrico discovered that he eats a wide variety of food. He has no idea what he wants to do when he becomes an adult. There is nothing missing in his life. He is perfectly content.

Daria Joy Cullen, 6, Pasadena, California

Daria Joy Cullen, 6, Pasadena, California

Daria Joy Cullen, 6, Pasadena, California, photographed February 21, 2016. Daria loves bacon, pasta, popcorn slathered with butter, milk chocolate and other sweets, particularly mint chocolate chip ice-cream. She won’t eat fruits and vegetables of any kind, even as a toddler, not even mashed bananas or apple sauce. Her pediatrician is concerned about Daria’s low weight and limited diet and her parents are concerned she may have an overactive gag reflex. Daria’s role model is her big sister, who can make friends and play the violin effortlessly. For fun, Daria entertains her friends, impersonating a monkey. When she grows up, Daria would like to be a dog trainer. If she had enough money, she’d buy a horse and a pug.


Ten Tips for Parents of a Smart Child

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All children are entitled to a fair chance to live up to their potential. That includes intellectually bright and gifted kids. After all, they’re the most likely to cure cancer, become wise leaders, create another Google or iPhone. Especially if you feel the schools aren’t adequately helping your child live up to his or her potential, these tips for parents might help, even help a lot.

Do nothing. What, do nothing?! Yes. The good news is that bright and gifted kids left to their own devices usually have the brainpower to come up with activities for themselves that are appropriately difficult and of interest at that time. We as parents, or even educators, are just guessing. So don’t over-schedule your child. Allow him or her time to imagine, create games out of nothing, and yes, use the computer.

Google is your friend. Today, a mere Google search, perhaps with you alongside your child, can unearth remarkable educational and entertaining websites and apps, including those using Virtual Reality. An inexpensive VR headset enables your child to become immersed in everything from outer space to the inside of the human body to a dinosaur-filled prehistoric era. Also, offers a wealth of resources: tips for parents to lesson plans for teachers, advice for counselors, and schools and summer camps specializing in smart kids.

Ask more; tell less. All kids, but especially bright and gifted ones, grow from being asked open-ended questions rather than being lectured to. For example, as you’re driving, look for opportunities to ask moderately challenging questions, for example, “What do you see as the pros and cons of having speed limits?” When your child comes home late to dinner, instead of a lecture, you might ask, “How do you think we should deal with this?”

And what’s good for the goose is good for the gander, so encourage your child to ask you and others “why” questions. Yes, it can be exhausting if your child is constantly asking ‘why’, but take solace that it’s both a sign of intelligence and a sure way to help your child grow.

Get a smart caretaker. Especially if you’re working full-time, consider getting a smart, kind college student to, for example, pick your child up from school, drive to activities, help with homework, and yes, have fun. Often a college student is happy to share a hobby with your child, whether acting, sports, crafts, whatever.

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Encourage good friendships; prohibit bad ones. There’s some evidence that peers may influence a child more than a parent does. Whether or not that’s true, peers certainly matter. So suggest that your child invite smart and nice kids to your home and accompany you on family day trips and vacations. And if there’s a child you’re confident isn’t a good influence, don’t be afraid to prohibit your child from seeing that kid. Yes, s/he may rebel and perhaps sneak but, in general, as long as you give a good reason and try to get your child’s assent, it’s worth taking a stand.

Choose your child’s school carefully. Even if you had the time, volunteering in your child’s class running the bake sale or even being active in the PTA may not be the most potent way to help ensure your child gets a good education. The one-time effort to choose a school is more important. Do choose a school, public or private, in which there are lots of smart kids, although it’s a personal choice whether to choose a school with maximum academic rigor or one oriented to the whole child. How to check out a school? Get the principal’s permission to walk down the halls and peek into classrooms. Can you see your child fitting in? Hang out on the playground. Is the peer interaction generally kind?

Ask for a particular teacher, occasionally. It’s important for your child to have teachers attuned to bright and gifted kids, and if needed, active, spacey, whatever your child is. Remember, that in elementary school, your child will be with that teacher for six hours a day for 180 days.

It’s unrealistic and perhaps unfair to, every year, ask the principal that your child be placed with the most appropriate teacher. But usually, once or twice in elementary school, there’s one teacher at the upcoming grade who would be far better for your child. That, of course, is less important in later years, when a student usually has a given teacher for just one period. But even then, for a course that is your child’s particular interest, strength, or weakness, it may be worth asking other parents, a guidance counselor, and your child to see if a particular teacher is worth asking for.

Skip a grade(s?) If your child is significantly more academically advanced than the students in his or her grade, consider asking the principal or counselor about skipping a grade or even more than one. The evidence is clear that it can be a big plus. Even if the child’s social skills aren’t advanced, the benefit often outweighs the liability, especially if the receiving teacher is pleased to accept the child and pairs the child with a bright, popular, kind child in that class.

You can only refine, not remold your child. Don’t try to turn your bookish kid into a social butterfly, your reticent child into a bold leader, your laid-back kid into a dynamo. Sure, encourage a reasonable work ethic. Sure, expose your child to music lessons, soccer, leadership, whatever, but if early attempts reveal little interest and less talent, honor your child’s individuality—Consider building on strengths rather than remediate weaknesses. As long as your child is behaving ethically and kindly, honor your child’s individuality as you’d want others to honor yours.

Your child is a human being, not just a brain. Unless your child is one of those rare birds who loves been intellectually challenged all the time, leave ample space for the non-intellectual areas of his or her interest: whether sports, the arts, or even, yes, an hour or two a night of TV or video games. They’re more benign than some would have us believe.

In having a smart child, you’ve been given a gift. Your efforts can go a long way toward helping your child live up to his or her potential, and to becoming a happier child and, you in turn, a happier parent.


The 11 best school systems in the world


Every year, the World Economic Forum releases its Global Competitiveness Report on the state of the world’s economies. The WEF looks at data on areas as varied as the soundness of banks to the sophistication of businesses in each country. It then uses the data to compile a picture of the economy of almost every country on earth. Countries were ranked according to the “12 pillars of competitiveness,” which includes macro-economic environment, infrastructure, health and primary education, and labour market efficiency.

We have drilled down into the schooling data to look at which countries have the best education systems. Neither the US or the UK make the grade in the top 11 (3 countries are tied for 9th, making 11 the clearest cut off point.)

Here are the ones that did make the grade:

=9. Japan: 5.6

Japan is one of the top performing countries for literacy, science, and maths in the OECD group. Students go through six years of elementary school, three years of junior high school, and three years of high school before deciding whether they want to go to university. High school is not compulsory but enrolment is close to 98%.

=9. Barbados: 5.9

The Barbados government has invested heavily in education, resulting in a literacy rate of 98%, one of the highest in the world. Primary runs from 4 to 11, with secondary 11 to 18. The majority of schools at both levels are state-owned and run.

=9. New Zealand: 5.6

Primary and secondary education in New Zealand runs from aged 5 to aged 19, with school compulsory between 6 and 16. There are three types of secondary schools in New Zealand: state schools educate approximately 85% of students, state-integrated schools — private schools that have been integrated into the state but keep their special charter — educate 12%, and private schools educate 3%.

=8. Estonia: 5.7

Estonia spends around 4% of its GDP on education, according to 2015 figures. The country’s 1992 Education Act says that the goals of education are “to create favourable conditions for the development of personality, family and the Estonian nation; to promote the development of ethnic minorities, economic, political and cultural life in Estonia and the preservation of nature in the global economic and cultural context; to teach the values of citizenship; and to set up the prerequisites for creating a tradition of lifelong learning nation-wide.”

=6. Ireland: 5.8

The majority of secondary schools in Ireland are privately owned and managed but state-funded, but there are also state comprehensives and vocational schools. However, a recent report shows that Ireland’s spending on education fell 15% behind the developed world during the height of the financial crisis, 2008 to 2013, suggesting its education system could suffer in future.

=6. Qatar: 5.8

The BBC reported in 2012 that oil-rich Qatar was “becoming one of the most significant players in the field of education innovation, supporting a raft of projects from grassroots basic literacy through to high-end university research.” The country is investing heavily in improving educational standards as part of its Vision 2030 programme to make the country self-sufficient. Government-funded schools offer free education but only to Qatari citizens and most foreign nationals tend to send their children to private schools.

=5. Netherlands: 5.9

Dutch children were found to be the happiest in the world in a 2013 Unicef study, leading the way globally educational well-being among others. Schools typically don’t give much homework until secondary level and students report little pressure and stress. Schools are divided between faith schools and “neutral” state schools, with only a small number of private schools.

=4. Singapore: 6.1

Singapore scores incredibly highly in the PISA (Programme for International Student Assessment) tests, which aim to measure and compare the performance of students across different countries. However, the school system also has a reputation as being a pressure cooker, putting students under a lot of stress at a young age.

=2. Belgium: 6.2

Belgium has four different genres of secondary schools, namely general secondary schools, technical secondary schools, vocational secondary education schools, and art secondary education institutions. The Fulbright Commission in the US, which organises student exchanges with Belgium and Luxembourg says: “Education enjoys high priority, and the largest share of the regional governments’ annual budget in Belgium. Complete systems of public and private schools are available to all children between the ages of 4 and 18, at little or no cost.”

=2. Switzerland: 6.2

Just 5% of children attend private schools in Switzerland. Lessons are taught in different languages depending on the region of Switzerland, with German, French or Italian the most common languages of instruction. From secondary onwards students are separated by ability.

=1. Finland: 6.7

Finland routinely tops rankings of global education systems and is famous for having no banding systems — all pupils, regardless of ability, are taught in the same classes. As a result, the gap between the weakest and the strongest pupils is the smallest in the world. Finnish schools also give relatively little homework and have only one mandatory test at age 16.


The Science of Why Pets Are Good for Kids

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If you grew up with a pet, you probably considered that animal a true friend: playmate, confidante, dress-up pal. In a child’s eyes, a pet is a true member of the family—and new research suggests that kids in turmoil rely on their pets even more than they do their siblings. It also sheds light on the unexpected ways that animals boost kids’ social skills and confidence.

The findings come from Matt Cassels, a Ph.D. psychiatry student at the University of Cambridge. He analyzed the data from a 10-year longitudinal study called the Toddlers Up Project, which examined the social and emotional development of kids from age 2 to 12. Cassels’ study focuses on children with low cognitive skills and their relationships with family, peers, and teachers—and with their pets.

Cassels’ research revealed that pets have profound and perhaps unexpected effects on kids’ social skills. Unsurprisingly, children in the study who faced hard times—their parents’ divorce, tough home lives, or illness—tended to perform poorly in school. But these kids were also more likely to rely on their pets more than their peers for support.

Kids with pets, especially girls with dogs, confided in their pets more frequently than in their own siblings.

“It is really surprising,” Cassels says. “They may feel that their pets are not judging them, and since pets don’t appear to have their own problems, they just listen. Even confiding in a journal can be therapeutic, but pets may be even better since they can be empathetic.”

Kids who bonded strongly with their pets were also better in social situations, helping others, cooperating, sharing, and interacting. Connecting with a pet bolstered their ability to connect with people.

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Cassels’ research suggests our bonds with animals can be viewed as just as important and measurable as our relationships with other humans.

Previous studies have shown that pets help children with autism demonstrate stronger social skills, especially if these animals are dogs. Children who regularly interact with dogs are better at introducing themselves to others and responding to social prompts. Pets have also been shown to boost compassion, self-esteem, and reduce stress in kids.

But Cassels believes more research needs to be done to figure out exactly how close bonds with furry friends impact young people. “Pets are relatable and ubiquitous,” he says. “In the U.S. and England pets are more common in families with young children than resident fathers, and yet we don’t quantify how important they are to us.”

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  • Children who grow up in homes with pets have less risk of developing common allergies and asthma.
  • Playing with dogs may help lower blood pressure.
  • Kids with pets get outside more—to go for walks, run and play—and enjoy all the associated health benefits.
  • Pet owners require fewer doctor’s visits.
  • Emerging readers often feel more comfortable reading aloud to a pet.
  • Nurturing a pet is an acceptable way for boys to “parent play”—to practice being caregivers.
  • Feeding and caring for a pet encourages childhood responsibility.
  • Children with pets display improved impulse control, social skills and self-esteem.
  • Sharing the love and care of a family pet forges an additional common bond among siblings.
  • Cuddling a pet reduces stress, loneliness and anxiety.


30 Little Ways to Show Your Kids You Love Them Every Day

toddler laughing

Some days it seems like you’re just holding everything together—rushing to get the kids to school on time, rushing to get to work, rushing home to cook dinner, then rushing through the bath and bedtime routine. That’s just the way life goes sometimes. If you’re lacking in time (like most parents are) but want to show your child how much you love them, here are 30 little ways that can be incorporated into your day with almost zero effort.

1. Give your child kisses when they wake up.

2. Read an extra book before bedtime.

3. If you get home too late to read books at night, read a book at breakfast instead.

4. If your child can read, put a note in their lunch box that says, “Have fun today! Love you!”

5. Give big hugs and kisses before you leave.

6. Ask what their favorite part of the day was.

7. Ask what the hardest part of the day was, too.

8. When your child is desperate for your attention, drop what you’re doing and give it to them.

9. Look them in the eyes.

10. Stay in their room just a few minutes longer than usual at bedtime.

11. Notice something they’ve done right: “Thank you for putting your toys away, I really appreciate it.”

12. Cook together—let your child help you make dinner or bake together.

13. No matter how bad your day was or how annoyed you are at your kid, never go to bed angry or let your child go to bed feeling that you’re angry with them.

14. Compliment your child on something they do: “I really love listening to you sing. You sing so beautifully.”

15. Try to get ready ahead of your schedule so you can cut out the “hurry ups” and let your kid take their own time getting in the car or walking down the street (maybe letting them pick a few flowers along the way).

16. Really listen to what your child is saying without interrupting.

17. Make your child feel like their opinion matters by asking what they think.

18. Proudly display their artwork at home.

19. Don’t talk about them, especially their flaws, in front of them.

20. After you have an argument, give them a big hug and tell them it’s okay.

21. Follow through on any promises you make.

22. Play with your child, even if it’s just for a few minutes.

23. Say “yes” instead of no.

24. Give your child your full attention when you’re together.

25. Think of a fun activity to do together on the weekend, even if it’s something as simple as going to a new playground.

26. Smile at your child.

27. Be the last to let go of hugs.

28. Ask to hold their hand.

29. Try to see their point of view.

30. Tell them you love them. Every single day.



Harvard University believes the world’s next Einstein is among us — and she’s a millennial.

At age 23, Sabrina Gonzalez Pasterski is already one of the most well-known and accomplished physicists in the U.S.

The Cuban-American Chicago native graduated from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in just three years with a 5.0-grade point average, the highest possible, and is currently a Ph.D. candidate at Harvard with full academic freedom — meaning she can pursue her own study on her own terms without staff interference.

Pasterski first attracted the attention of the scientific and academic community after single-handedly building her own single-engine airplane in 2008, at age 14, and documenting the process on YouTube.

MIT professors Allen Haggerty and Earll Murman saw the video and were astonished. “Our mouths were hanging open after we looked at it,” Haggerty recalls. “Her potential is off the charts.”

At age 16, she piloted the aircraft herself over Lake Michigan, becoming the youngest person ever to fly their own plane.

“I couldn’t believe it,” recalls Peggy Udden, an executive secretary at MIT. “Not only because she was so young, but a girl.”

Pasterski had first flown a plane at age 9, an experience she casually relayed to a teacher at her public high school, the Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy in Aurora. The teacher replied: “That’s nice, but what have you done lately?”

“That’s become my mantra ever since,” Pasterski told the Chicago Tribune in a 2016 interview. “That’s nice, but what have you done lately?”

An only child, Pasterski admits she’s not on social media and, unlike the majority of her peers, has never had a boyfriend, smoked a cigarette, or drunk an alcoholic beverage. Instead, she spends her free time exploring the concepts of quantum gravity, black holes, and spacetime, the mathematical model that combines space and time into a single continuum.

Among the papers she’s published, which are listed along with other accomplishments on her website, “Semiclassical Virasoro Symmetry of the Quantum Gravity S-Matrix,” “Gaussian Measures and the QM Oscillator,” and “Low’s Subleading Soft Theorem as a Symmetry of QED.”

Her work in the physics community has led to standing job offers from Amazon entrepreneur Jeff Bezos, aerospace manufacturer Blue Origin, and NASA, among others.

Though Pasterski herself is a standout, her interest is part of a larger trend of millennials — especially women — graduating with degrees in physics.

In 1999, the number of physics graduates was at its lowest point in four decades. However, according to the American Institute of Physics, 8,081 bachelor’s degrees in physics were awarded in 2015—the highest number ever recorded. Some theorize the increase is a direct result of more women enrolling in and staying with physics as a major.

“Be optimistic about what you believe you can do,” Pasterski told Marie Claire earlier this year. “When you’re little, you say a lot of things about what you’ll do or be when you’re older—I think it’s important not to lose sight of those dreams.”

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