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Proactive schools: Developing resilience in the face of societal pressure

Children and teenagers are faced with enormous pressures every day – pressures that define their views on body image, relationships and success, amongst others. Whether it’s through exposure to images in magazines, living a life through social media, or 24 hour a day news, the influence of pop culture is evident  in their daily lives. In fact, studies show that children as young as five years old have expressed dissatisfaction with their bodies as a result of exposure to unrealistic media portrayals of the ideal body image [1].

At the Australian International School (AIS) they are aware of these societal pressures that students face and deliver a strong Personal Growth and Development (PGD)  program to enable students to flourish through thriving relationships and resilience so that they achieve goals with confidence and competence.

School girls

Student Empowerment Sessions

AIS teachers and staff have introduced various research-based programs to the community under its PGD program which include weekly motivational talks, discussions with internationally renowned thought leaders and experts and presentations on health-related topics for Secondary Students.

According to Real Girls, Real Pressure: A National Report on the State of Self-Esteem, 75 percent of girls with low self-esteem reported engaging in negative and potentially harmful activities, such as eating disorders, cutting, bullying, smoking or drinking, when feeling badly about themselves-compared with 25 percent of girls with high self-esteem [2].

AIS teen
For the sixth year in a row, AIS has hosted an empowerment session for its Secondary School Girls, presented by Dannielle Miller, CEO of Enlighten Education. The discussion session, dubbed “The Butterfly Effect”, explored issues pertinent to teenage girls today, such as self-esteem, consumerism, body image and the importance of finding positive role models.

The two-day workshop was designed to support AIS students in overcoming these challenges as a peer group to grow into healthy, mature, independent and confident individuals. Danielle also realises that positive role models in parents are extremely important as 91 percent of girls ages 8-12 will turn to their mother and 54 percent will turn to their father when feeling badly about themselves [3]. As such, she hosted a supplementary seminar for AIS parents in which she focused on strategic ways for parents to help their daughters overcome such problems.

Similarly, AIS recognises that boys are not immune to societal and media pressures. One in four eating disorders occur in males, and they are as likely to feel pressure to gain weight as to lose it [4]. The boys at AIS had the opportunity to be involved in a boys’ empowerment session with Mark Grentell from Goodfellas entitled “Conversations with Young Men that Matter” to discuss coping strategies for common issues facing boys such as gender stereotypes, body image and limits of emotions.

AIS girls pointing
Helping yourself by helping others

Its partnerships with experts such as Dannielle, Mark as well as Australia’s Geelong Grammar School’s Institute for Positive Education that teach the methodologies but importantly, AIS translates these expert teachings into relevant daily practices at AIS,  through a whole school approach.

In order to instil these values, students engage in the recognition of random acts of kindness across the school. Students also participate in a variety of co-curricular activities (CCA) that are solely focused on helping others.

80% of Girl Guides over the age of 10 commit two or more hours each week to volunteering; almost double the amount of time contributed by adults [5]. Studies show that after engagement in service activities, students showed a higher sense of personal and social responsibility and self-esteem, viewed themselves at more social competent and self-efficacious, showed gains in moral reasoning and were more likely to be kind and helpful to others [6].  Consequently by helping others these students are also helping themselves. Through their work with AIS’ various service-oriented CCAs such as Nepal Schools to Schools Community and Service program, Cambodia House Building Team in partnership with the Tabitha Foundation, Riding for the Disabled and Sail Vega, students learn the fundamental life skills of positive relationships, engagement, accomplishment and purpose to help them grow into happy and confident individuals.

Through these initiatives, AIS leads students to achieving their goals with confidence and teaches them to develop into leaders that make our world a better place as reflective, caring, knowledgeable and principled people.

We welcome you to see the benefits of positive education for yourself by visiting the AIS community – one which is globally focused, distinctly Australian.

Australian International School
1 Lorong Chuan, Singapore, 556818
6653 2958 (admissions) | 6664 8127 (general enquiries)

Australian International School Pte Ltd is registered by the Council for Private Education. CPE Registration Number 199204405H. Period of Registration 6 July 2015 to 5 July 2019

[1] Children, Teens, Media, and Body Image. Common Sense Media. https://www.commonsensemedia.org/children-teens-body-image-media-infographic

[2] Real Girls, Real Pressure: A National Report on the State of Self-Esteem (commissioned June 2008)

[3] Reflections of Girls in the Media conducted by Nancy Signorielli, Ph.D., University of Delaware for Children now and the Kaiser Family Foundation

[4] Cruz, Jamie. Body-Image Pressure Increasingly Affects Boys. The Atlantic, https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2014/03/body-image-pressure-increasingly-affects-boys/283897/

[5] Guides Say Survey reveals alarming concerns for young Australian girls, https://www.girlguides.org.au/news-events/media-releases/guides-say-survey-reveals-alarming-concerns-for-young-australian-girls.html

[6] Adolescents’ Participation in Service Activities and Its Impact on Academic, Behavioral, and Civic Outcomes Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 2007, Volume 36, Number 2, Page 127 Jennifer A. Schmidt, Lee Shumow, Hayal Kackar