Between December 2021 and May 2022, Holistic Think Tank conducted research in 19 schools in 10 countries worldwide. We listened to the children, seeking answers to the question “What school ought to teach?” The results gave us great insight into the universal humanistic foundations of education and allowed us to explore them further. What we saw, reinforced our belief in the absolute necessity for significant change in education.

HTT associates visited schools in the Philippines, the United Arab Emirates, South Korea, Lebanon, Zimbabwe, Kenya, South Africa, Brazil, the US, and Poland. They adopted the same research methodology everywhere: a multiple case study without replication. Also, the order and scope of the research procedure in each school studied were identical. The study included three stages:

  1. Analysis of diaries kept by students and teachers;
  2. Observation: of the school environment (understood as both the school building and its equipment, but also the cultural or economic context), the people who make it up (teachers, students, parents), and the relationships between them;
  3. Interviews conducted with members of the school community – principals, teachers, parents, and students. Researchers conducted at least ten individual in-depth interviews (IDI) in each school.

Our researcher examined private and public schools, located in urban and rural areas. Surveys, which is natural, differ from each other. At the same time, there were very similar conclusions from all the schools surveyed:

First, the essence of schooling is building healthy and trusting relationships, both between peers, students and teachers, or teachers and parents. The key role of relationships was emphasized by all members of the school communities in all countries surveyed.

Second, the statements of the students, as well as the observations of the researchers, indicate that the way teachers impart knowledge is more important than the level of school equipment. Even students who disliked schools stressed that they felt comfortable in lessons run by passionate, engaged and supportive teachers who ensure students understand the material. In short: a good teacher can make students curious about the subject, even if the official curriculum is outdated and the school is underfunded. This, in turn, brings us to the conclusion that the best investment in education – is an investment in teachers.

Third, students from all countries answered the question of what a school should teach in a surprisingly similar way. A few responses were rolled out almost in every school: non-standard subjects, practical skills, and outdoor activities. Students worldwide also dream of more support from teachers. Observations from our research indicate that students – while sometimes having trouble elaborating on their needs – intuitively know what and how they would like to be taught. They want the school not only to give them hard knowledge but also social competencies and practical skills. They dream that it teaches empathy, teamwork, awareness of others, the world, and their own bodies, and respect for nature. They do not want memorization and excess knowledge, which they can look up on the Internet at any time. They are tired and frustrated by the overabundance of tests, a grading system, and an atmosphere of perpetual competition and fear. They want to feel that a school is a friendly place where they find what they need.

Deusa Maria Santana

  • Brazil

Maryanne Hasea

  • Kenia

Yeonhee Gwak

  • South Korea

Richard Cilliers

  • RPA

Mercy Mhlaba

  • Zimbabwe

Colette Aoun, Ph.D.

  • Lebanon

Luisa Alejandra Tello Pérez

  • USA

Carmen Stevens

  • UAE

Nyoman Agus Indrawan

  • Philippines

Jan Cieślak

  • Poland

Reflections from the research


Awakening an artist in a child, or why art is so important in school education?

Develops creativity, awakens self-awareness, helps regulate emotions. The impact of the art is more important for children than one might think.

28 March 2024


Burnout. Why do teachers stop loving their job?

The quality of a school is determined by the quality of teachers' work: caring for students, a collaborative approach to their education, openness to modern teaching methods, the need to impart not only curriculum knowledge but also values necessary for living among others. Meanwhile, teachers are such a burnt-out professional group that many of them lack the motivation or strength for this.

29 February 2024


Education of unequal opportunity. African girls still don’t have as much access to schools as their brothers, international organizations alarm, and HTT research confirms

Education in sub-Saharan African countries is still a privilege, not a natural experience. Especially for girls.

09 August 2023


The price of success. Is Korean “education fever” a warning or an inspiration?

As recently as the 1950s, South Korea’s economy was not too different from those of sub-Saharan African countries (calculated by the amount of GDP per capita). Today, South Korea is one of the world’s most thriving economies, primarily due to a collective drive for education and an extremely hard-working nature of its nation. However, Koreans are paying a high price for it.

29 December 2022


Philippines: The world’s awakening. Mankind is beginning to understand that the future starts with education

Currently, various countries all over the globe - following the global educational trend that emphasizes 21st-century competencies - have undertaken reforms to their curricula. These changes are the result of moving away from thinking that "hard knowledge" (such as the ability to do mathematical calculations or knowledge of chemistry) itself is enough for a student to function satisfactorily and respectfully with others in society. According to current reform in the Philippines, learners must acquire wider socio-emotional skills such as the "fours Cs": Critical thinking, Communication, Collaboration, and Creativity.

29 November 2022


HTT RESEARCH SUMMARY: different countries share the same dream of a better school

The conclusions of our research are alarming - it turns out that in almost none of the countries we surveyed, students and teachers are completely satisfied with their schooling model and curricula. On the other hand, there is an encouraging thought from our research that students and teachers around the world are dreaming of the same thing: schools that teach social competencies such as efficient communication, group functioning, and sensitivity to others.

18 November 2022


United Arab Emirates. When more is less

The dominance of private education, overprotective parents helping children with their homework, and numerous tutors – this approach to education does not always work out well for the new generation, as the example of the United Arab Emirates shows.

07 November 2022

Kids always want to know more, but teachers hit systemic obstacles

Most teachers dream of education that will develop students’ talents, show them how to resolve problems, communicate efficiently, analyze sources and cooperate. However, through system requirements and outdated curriculum, they are rarely able to teach this way.

07 November 2022


Brazilian vision of education – socioemotional skills in the forefront

The core of the Brazilian curriculum fosters ten general competences that contribute to the holistic formation and education of children. Not only does the new approach to education aim to ensure that all students develop basic cognitive skills but it also promotes the acquisition of skills needed to solve complex everyday problems. Therefore, its remarkable feature is to promote social and emotional skills.

17 October 2022


“School should not just be a four-walled classroom”

Teachers who took part in the HTT research project in Brazil dream of a student-centered and  reality-based education that inspires students to aim higher.

29 September 2022


South Africa: Schools are not isolated entities

Schools do not exist in a vacuum. Each is a key part of its local community. Relationships between all the various partners in the school system influence the way children bridge the gap between the world of school and that of home and community.

27 September 2022