Jun 13, 2022

Promoting Human Flourishing through Social and Emotional Learning with Dr. Garene Kaloustian (video)

A critical context for understanding social and emotional competencies among Lebanese and Syrian refugee schoolchildren.

By Templeton Staff with Luana DeBorst

This recording is from a series of public seminars given by scholars lecturing at St Antony’s College, University of Oxford as part of the Templeton World Charity Foundation (TWCF) supported project, Education, Purpose and Human Flourishing in Uncertain Times (EPHF). EPHF explores new understandings of education, purpose, and human flourishing through annual convenes and publications.

Living at the intersection of sectarian and social tension, Lebanese and Syrian refugee children are in need of social support systems that are grounded in their lived experiences. In the above video, Dr. Garene Kaloustian of World Learning Beirut discusses how Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) programs might fill this need.

Lebanon has faced many difficult times, historically, and over the past few years. Recent challenges include an unstable political and economic environment, with protests taking place across the country since 2019 and escalating after the August 4, 2020 Beirut explosion. The COVID-19 pandemic further exacerbated these crises. Kaloustian begins her presentation by describing some of these situations and the impact they had on the country's education sector. She also spoke about how the resilience of the Lebanese people has led to ingenuity amidst adversities. "We are great problem solvers, but hardly function as critical thinkers. There's no systematic way to develop and acquire the needed skills to adapt healthily because we are not being given a chance. We are always in survival mode."

SEL programs in schools improve students’ holistic development — academic, cognitive, and character cultivation. But when implemented in other contexts, they yield mixed results. Kaloustian says: "In Lebanon, we have constantly been in crisis mode. There have always been different initiatives to help children and people survive, so there is a lot of talk about psycho-social support in crisis and trauma contexts, but we have never spoken about social and emotional learning as a developmental progression of skill acquisition."

With TWCF funding, Kaloustian leads a project to help develop Lebanon’s national SEL framework and to build contextualized SEL measurement tools. Findings will provide critical context to better understand the value and meaning placed on different SEL across diverse populations in Lebanon. Kaloustian, in close collaboration with Lebanon's Ministry of Education and Higher Education, as well as QITABI 2 (Q2) and its research partner New York University Global TIES for Children, is dynamically addressing the education sector’s changing needs. Watch her presentation above to find out more.

TWCF grantee Dr. Garene Kaloustian has been in the field of early childhood education for over 10 years working as a researcher and consultant in both the public and private sector in Lebanon and the region. Prior to joining World Learning, Garene taught at the Lebanese American University in Beirut, for 8 years in ECE in the department of Education; during this time, she re-designed the Early Childhood Education MA program, revived the EC Lab School under the Department of Education with its original mission to serve as both an early childcare and research center, and established research relations between the School of Arts and Science and Ministry of Education. Her research interests center around policies in early childhood; teacher quality of care, classroom environment, and children’s social and emotional development; exploring the diverse, unique, and fragile conflict-laden context to better understand the cultural nuances that prevail in schools and how those impact children's social environment and development.

Dr. David Johnson, Junior Proctor, University of Oxford, Reader in Comparative and International Education, and Fiona Gatty, DPhil., Research Project Coordinator and TWCF Fellow in Comparative Education, are Principal Investigator and Co-Investigator of the EPHF ProjectLuana DeBorst, Research Assistant, University of Oxford, assists with the project.