Holistic Education Matters

In its simplest form, holistic education is defined as “concerned with educating the whole person – body, mind and soul – to develop his or her fullest potential” (Lee, 2015).

I contend that, to be truly holistic, an education must adequately address the needs of the essential being (that is, the soul) of a person. Our English word soul comes from the Hebrew word nefesh, which can be translated to mean “your self … your essence … the very fibre of your being” (Fisher, 2017). Soul has a particular meaning within a Judeo-Christian worldview, very different from the view of secular, humanist thinkers like Martin Seligman.

I believe that it is here that many faith-based or Christian schools run into difficulty. In seeking to address the social-emotional and psychological needs of students, many of them have uncritically embraced Positive Education (often in the form of the PERMA framework) into their way of operating. The problem I see with Positive Education (from a Christian worldview) is that it does not adequately address the needs of the human soul.

The spiritual wellbeing of students ought not be consigned to the periphery of the practice of faith-based schools. Principals must not fall into the trap of allowing a dualistic culture, divided along secular-sacred lines, to develop in their schools.