January 24, 2024, is International Education Day. This year's event, which was proclaimed by the United Nations Assembly, is dedicated to combating hate speech and reminds us of Aristotle's words that "educating the mind without educating the heart is no education at all" and the words of Kant, who saw education as the art of achieving the best possible development of human nature, raising awareness of the reality of oneself and one's fellow human beings. These are reflections that show how much still needs to be done to fulfill the ultimate goals of quality education for all, promoting the integral development, well-being and happiness of each individual.
At the Center for Philosophical and Humanistic Studies, we explore how education and happiness are related, at the micro (personal) and macro (comparing countries) levels. The conclusion may come as a surprise: while the correlations are low in inter-individual studies, the differences between countries are remarkable. This data underlines the decisive role of education in the happiness and development of countries, reminds us of the more than 250 million children and young people around the world estimated by UNESCO to be out of school and challenges governments and countries to think about why education contributes to the happiness of citizens in different nations, but has little impact on the happiness of each individual.
Contemporary challenges (social and family), the 20% of children who have mental health problems, particularly anxiety and depression, cases of bullying and their consequences, the excessive or inappropriate use of digital tools, the decreasing sense of belonging to school and the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic on learning, require capable and informed responses. This was the motto behind the creation of an informal group of experts to support the European Commission's Directorate-General for Education, Youth, Sport and Culture in developing recommendations for states, schools and teachers to promote well-being. The aim is to put well-being at the heart of educational policies and institutions, through both universal and selective, more personalized measures to support children and adolescents with mental health and learning challenges; through measures aimed at teachers, self-care, motivation and involvement in school; and through measures aimed at school boards, inspectorates and governments.
In addition to being a universal right, education is a privileged context for humanization, for meeting human beings in peace, for well-being and happiness. To this end, it must be a space open to all, inclusive, focused on the development of cognitive skills, but also on the promotion of personal, social and emotional skills. Promoting these skills is essential, not only for combating hate speech, but especially for realizing the potential of each person, in their relationship with themselves, with others, and with the common good.