Adonis Diaries

Archive for November 25th, 2014

Emotional health in childhood ? And what happiness has to do with economists?

Mick Jagger famously couldn’t get it, but now economists think they know what’s required to get some satisfaction.

Are money, success and good grades less important than emotional health? Is this what LSE study says?

After investigating the factors in a person’s life that can best predict whether they will lead satisfied lives, a team headed by one of the UK’s foremost “happiness” experts, Professor Richard Layard, has come up with an answer that may prove controversial.

, The Observer,  November 8, 2014

Emotional health in childhood ‘is the key to future happiness’

Layard and his colleagues at the Wellbeing research programme at the London School of Economics’ Centre for Economic Performance conclude that a child’s emotional health is far more important to their satisfaction levels as an adult than other factors, such as if they achieve academic success when young, or wealth when older.

The authors explain that evaluating the quality of a child’s emotional health is based on analysing a range of internal factors in a person’s early life, including whether they endured unhappiness, sleeplessness, eating disorders, bedwetting, fearfulness or tiredness.

Lord Richard Layard, who is emeritus professor of economics at the LSE.

Lord Richard Layard, who is emeritus professor of economics at the LSE.

Photograph: Linda Nylind/Observer

The academics claim that their study, “What Predicts a Successful Life? A Life-course Model of Well-being“, published in the latest edition of the Economic Journal, offers “a completely new perspective on which factors contribute most to a satisfying life”.

The study claims to challenge “the basic assumption of educational policy in recent years – that academic achievement matters more than anything else”. This claim appears to be an implicit criticism of former education secretary Michael Gove, who instructed schools not to focus on “peripheral” issues such as children’s moral, social and cultural development in favour of academic excellence.

Gove’s successor, Nicky Morgan, has pledged to reverse this approach.

Layard and his team analysed data from about 9,000 people who were born over a three-week period in 1970 and then tracked by the British Cohort Survey, a study that asks them to complete an extensive questionnaire about their lives every five to seven years. They were also asked to rate their satisfaction at key periods through their lives.

The team then examined factors including their income, educational achievement, employment, whether they had been in trouble with the law, whether they were single, as well as their physical and emotional health – to gauge how significant these were in determining satisfaction. In addition, a range of factors that affect a child’s development – for example, intellectual performance, family socio-economic background and emotional health were also examined.

Many people have assumed income is the most important factor in an adult’s life satisfaction. But the academics say their data makes clear this is far less important than emotional health – both in a child and in an adult. “Income only explains about 1% of the variation in life satisfaction among people in the UK – one sixth of the fraction explained by emotional health,” they note. Or, to put it another way, money really cannot buy you happiness.

The findings are controversial. As one of Layard’s colleagues, Andew E Clark, notes in an accompanying paper, the suggestion that “education and income are among the least important determinants of adult success, as measured by life satisfaction … risks provoking outrage among some.”

But the economics of happiness or wellbeing is now a growing and respected discipline within economics that is starting to influence politicians.

David Cameron has stated: “It’s time we admitted that there’s more to life than money and it’s time we focused not just on GDP but on GWB – general well-being.”

The findings raise questions about the extent to which intervening in a child’s life will pay dividends later on.

Child interventions can produce massive savings to public finances but these are often at a much later date,” the authors note.

They conclude: “By far the most important predictor of adult life-satisfaction is emotional health, both in childhood and subsequently. We find that the intellectual performance of a child is the least important childhood predictor of life-satisfaction as an adult.”

Note: It would be interesting to find out what are the criteria for emotional health and the questions the team had in mind to refer to emotional health.

In any case, questionnaires are Not good indicators to anything for many flaws and subjective rating. Only direct observations can generate worthy data for analysis.

One more question: From what class of people this survey sampled? Apparently, the subjects must have come from relatively well-to-do family for them to disregard money to having any effect on their emotional state.

Optimum range: Classroom size and family wealth for raising moral kids

Inverted U curve?  Like a big n graph?

Explaining many social phenomena and behaviors

You are a kid from a lower middle class family. Both parents work to eek a living. Your weekly allowance is a miser compared to your classroom friends. You learn early on to work for a living at every break: Christmas, Spring break and summer time.

You learn to save money and learn the value of objects and hard work.

You managed to graduate from a university because you valued a university degree for your future well-being.

You get married and you are about to raise kids of your own on the moral values of hard work and saving money for what you want and dream for.

You are now rich. How rich you should become if your dream is to raise moral kids?

If your kid sees you flaunting your wealth in purchasing the most expensive cars, houses, furniture…

If his allowance is far better than most of his classroom bodies…

If your kid get the habit of opening the stuffed refrigerator whenever he feels hungry and serves himself…

How do you think that your kid will believe your speech on a moral life-style of hard work and saving money from his own work?

Is it feasible for you and your wife to tone down your wealth and live as middle class people live in the neighborhood?

Enough so that your kids don’t observe behaviors that are counter to regular hard working family?

Obviously, if your family is from the poor class and barely one of the parent can find a job, the kids moral values for hard work and saving will be skewered since the social environment will not be amenable to good role models to emulate.

Consequently, the graph points to the trend that as the class wealth improve, the kids will have better chance to learn the value of hard work and saving. The graph reaches a plateau in level of family wealth and then start to decline fast as wealth is displayed to the detriment of the kid moral value.

There is a range of family wealth that may still produce an environment for teaching and convincing the kids on life values. As the wealth is flaunted and exhibited, the kids will not believe any speech of moral life-style.

The other example of inverted U curve phenomenon is the classroom size for enhancing education and learning performance.

When the size of the classroom is large, kind of 40 students and over, students fail to learn effectively, except for the few who learned to focus during class lessons.

As the class size shrink, learning performance improve to reach a plateau of between 25-20 students per class. As the class size is reduced further, learning performance decline sharply. Why?

Apparently, with a smaller class size, students have no incentive to interact and compete: they behave as a large family and the learning environment deteriorates.

You think that these assumptions must be the results of extensive research and experimentation.

Actually, a series of studies conducted in 18 countries in the 80’s failed to demonstrate any significant effects of class size on student learning performance.

Only in Greece and Island did the data showed significant improvement, but the developed nations, pressured by the families to reduce class size, invested billion into recruiting a great number of teachers to cover the required lag with the ever increased number of classes.

Instead of investing in teachers’ pay raise and quality teachers, the money was wasted on lower quality of teachers with low pay.

And apparently, this huge infusion of fund was not commensurate to much improvement in learning.

A teacher job is Not to:

1. Care for individual student: there are off hours for private teaching to the deficient student

2. Fill the blackboard with the lesson and allow the students to recopy what’s on the blackboard.

The teacher main objective is to train students to focus during the lessons and get the most of it.

Since it is not feasible to concentrate for more than 20 minutes, the teacher has to give the students a break and engage in discussion and interactions before the next focus session.

A good focus session is to allow students to solve problems in class, and give them plenty of time to exercise their willpower into sticking to the problem. No student is to raise his hand to indicate that he already solved the problem before the remaining students.

It is recommended that the teacher refrain from showing the resolution to the problem before the students try to extend their own approach and perspective to resolving the problem. Discovering the many ways of resolving a problem is far more informative than the solution itself.

Note 1: Many private schools reduce the class size to 15, although they should know by now that this a wrong for learning performance. They don’t care: Since the families are ready to pay premium price for smaller class sizes, being under the illusion that it is best for their kids, the private schools will oblige.

Note 2: Every state sets a minimum number of students in order Not to close the public school. In this case, it is far better to increase the number of students per class than closing the institution. Otherwise, the town will start the exodus to the next town with a public school instead of seeing their kids commuting for 2 hours to school.

Note 3: Read “David and Goliath”






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