The International Positive Education Network, a new nonprofit program, rallies the support of teachers, parents, students and institutions worldwide to shift education policy and practice toward “positive education,” defined as a double helix of academic growth and the development of character and well-being.
James O’Shaughnessy, chairman of the IPEN steering committee and a London-based education entrepreneur, further describes positive education as “cultivating the mind through learning the best that’s been thought and said while developing the character virtues and other skills you need to live a happy, successful and meaningful life in the service of others.” And according to IPEN’s stated principles, “students can be taught good character, resilience, positive emotion, engagement and meaning,” and they need “honesty, kindness, gratitude, grit, self-control and curiosity—to name just a few of the priorities of a positive education… to achieve success and satisfaction.”
The idea for IPEN came a few years ago when O’Shaughnessy, then director of policy to U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron, discussed the need for broad education reform with professor Martin Seligman, director of the Penn Positive Psychology Center at the University of Pennsylvania and founder of the positive psychology movement. Their conversation led to the Positive Education Summit in London in October 2013, which brought together about 30 education, business and policy leaders from many countries.
“It was decided that despite important differences in approach, there was an agenda common to all of us,” O’Shaughnessy says. “The result was the creation of IPEN.”
The first step toward reaching those goals is recruiting like-minded individuals to sign the Manifesto for Positive Education on iPositive-Education.net. By signing the document, people “show their commitment to a different, broader way of educating young people,” O’Shaughnessy says.
“Over time, we intend to grow thousands of signatories from every corner of the earth, which will enable us to show policymakers the strength of feeling that exists. This is important in making them change their approach to education.”
IPEN’s website also will feature blogs, research, best-practice information and case studies to enable people to introduce positive education into their own lives. “We’re publishing a monthly newsletter and planning on creating a journal, and our aim is to host a Festival of Positive Education in summer 2016 [in the United States] to bring thousands of people together to debate, learn and collaborate with one another,” O’Shaughnessy says.
SUCCESS magazine CEO Stuart P. Johnson helped organize IPEN. “My hope is that future generations can develop positive values as well as reach for and achieve goals that benefit them and society as a whole,” says Johnson, who is a member of the IPEN steering committee and who, at the request of Seligman and O’Shaughnessy, assisted with the U.K. summit. (In 2008, Johnson established the SUCCESS Foundation, which strives for similar goals through its SUCCESS for Teens program.) “We want educators to teach positive psychology, character and values.”