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Positive Development in Student Wellbeing

It is a pleasure to write about student wellbeing when there is something positive to report, and now there is! The wellbeing of middle school students has improved in many ways during the last ten years. This was discovered in a longitudinal study (Konu & Lintonen 2019) in which middle school students were asked questions about four areas of their wellbeing: school environment, social relationships in the school community, means for self-fulfillment and health. The answers were collected by the online School Wellbeing Profile Service. More than 90,000 Finnish students completed the survey during a period of ten years.

Improved Conditions at School

Finnish middle school students still report health issues such as flu symptoms and muscle pain to the same extent than ten years ago. However, the three other areas of wellbeing in this study have seen a positive development during the last decade. When asked about school environment, student reports reveal improved conditions such as more comfortable chairs and desks at school. Moreover, students experience that the rules are more sensible and sanctions fairer than before and the relationships with the school social worker and nurse more trusting.

Better Relationships with Teachers

According to our study, Finnish middle school students experience many improvements in their social relationships. There is slightly less bullying than ten years ago, and students experience that their teachers are fairer. Moreover, students feel that they get more support from their parents for schoolwork, teachers are more friendly, and it is easier to get along with them.

Improved Sense of Responsibility

Middle school students in our study also report better means for self-fulfillment than ten years ago. Students take more responsibility, get more tutoring and help from teachers and other school staff, and feel that their opinions are valued. They also feel more encouragement from their teachers than before. Furthermore, students are more involved in making the school rules, even though this area still needs improvement: only about 40% of Finnish middle school students feel that they have a say in creating school rules.

Encouraging Development for Student Wellbeing

All in all, many positive developments can be seen in our findings. The ones reported here were the most apparent. Many areas of wellbeing still need improvement. However, we are headed to the right direction. Changes in wellbeing don't happen overnight. It is recommended to follow the development in student wellbeing regularly and locally to find out how your students are doing, which areas of wellbeing need to be developed in your school and which praised for. Schools are putting in a lot of effort in supporting students and it is starting to show in research findings. 

The full report of this study can be read in Finnish in Yhteiskuntapolitiikka (2019): Konu & Lintonen: Myönteistä kehitystä kouluhyvinvoinnissa http://www.julkari.fi/handle/10024/138877

Anne Konu

Tampere University Lecturer
PhD in Public Health
Docent in Social and Health Policy
Anne Konu is the developer of the School Wellbeing Model and co-developer of the Wellbeing Profile, a global, research-based evaluation tool for schools, which has been in active use since 2004. The first four cagegories of the School Day Wellbeing Model are based on Anne Konu's Wellbeing Profile
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