Should it be Maslow or Bloom first?

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Nabila Chauhdry

Research carried out in the fields of positive and educational psychology can help develop an inclusive, diversity-friendly, supportive and empathetic school community

There has been a very interesting debate going on in educational circles about “Maslow before Bloom.” It is quite imperative that we explore this idea in our social and economic context.
Maslow presented a hierarchical model of motivation in the early 1900s. According to his model, the basic needs can be grouped into physiological needs, safety needs, love and belongingness, self-esteem and self-actualization. He discussed that human needs can be presented in a ranked order. Once the basic needs are met, a human can move up towards the satisfaction of needs in the upper tier.
Bloom proposed a taxonomy for explaining the learning goals. This system categorized the learning process from simple to complex applications. According to Bloom’s taxonomy, knowledge is the prerequisite for putting advanced skills into practice. After knowledge, the learning abilities included comprehension, application, analysis, synthesis and evaluation. Recently educationists and psychologists have generated a discussion around the theme “Maslow before Bloom.”
They argue that a student’s basic needs should be met before we focus on their academic achievement or grades.
Children deprived of their basic physiological needs, including food, shelter and sleep, cannot be expected to perform well in academics. Jeffrey S Durmer and his colleagues at Emory University School of Medicine, Georgia, suggested that sleep deprivation can negatively impact the cognitive functioning of people. The same is true for other basic needs, including food and shelter.
According to UNICEF in Pakistan, the burden of wasting – acute malnutrition in children under five years of age remains at an alarmingly high rate of 17.7 per cent. In such an environment, a school cannot impart quality education until and unless it also makes efforts in collaboration with the philanthropists of that community to provide for basic needs, especially nutrition, for the students living destitute.
Another group of significant basic needs is identified as love and belongingness by Maslow. It implies that a child needs to feel loved, accepted and appreciated. This sense of belongingness gives the child satisfaction and motivation. Even we, as adults, long for affiliation with our family, friends and colleagues because, as social animals, our physical, social and psychological survival is conditioned by the bonding that we have with our fellow homo sapiens. If so, how can we expect our children to grow and develop in an environment where they are considered mere machines for memorizing educational facts?
The quality of education cannot be evaluated through a few quantitative indicators. According to Parasuraman, we can measure the quality of educational services in terms of tangible facilities, reliability, responsiveness, assurance and empathy. Mostly, the focus of management and higher authorities of educational institutes and departments is on tangible resources. We often come across statistics regarding the situation of the school building, availability of drinking water, the number of teachers, student enrollment, gender comparison of enrolled students, transportation, and electricity. A few more commonly used measures of school satisfaction or quality are student retention, academic grades or performance in co-curricular activities. To get a real picture of the school environment, we need to include indicators relevant to student satisfaction.
Educationists and psychologists have been arguing that if students are not happy, satisfied or do not feel accepted then how can they perform well in their studies? Personality development is an important responsibility of a school. If the school community fails to develop self-confidence and a sense of self-worth in the students, sheer grades will not make them successful and contributing citizens.
Different studies conducted in higher secondary schools, universities and medical colleges in Pakistan indicated that a significant number of students had a high level of anxiety and stress. This stress can be linked to the pressure of meeting deadlines, completing multiple assignments and the pressing need to secure high grades in a highly competitive environment. This stress can also lead to depression and suicide. A qualitative analysis of suicides committed by students during 2010-17 showed that 43 per cent of reported cases in Pakistan were from schools, which is quite alarming. Serious efforts are needed to make schools more happy and safe places for students.
Pre-service and in-service teachers’ training programs should have a significant portion of training on creating a friendly, cooperative and assuring environment in the school. Research carried out in the field of positive psychology and educational psychology can help in developing an inclusive, diversity-friendly, supportive and empathetic school community.
I would like to share two examples where schools are following Maslow before Bloom’s philosophy and believe me their happy and satisfied students are performing great in their academics as well.
Keynesian Institute of Management & Sciences is located in Gulberg, Lahore. I have had an opportunity of observing their system quite closely. Their small class size allows the teachers to give individual attention to their students. They have created a very well-balanced blend of co-curricular activities, student leadership programs and personality development which transforms children into confident and satisfied individuals. Interestingly a sense of responsibility which is inculcated into students, also enables them to perform extraordinarily in their studies. The most important aspect of their school community is that students grow up enjoying strong ties with their cultural and social values.
Another school community that I want to mention here is the Rising Sun Institute for Special Children. Its two branches are located in Mughalpura and DHA. It provides academic, therapeutic and vocational training facilities to children with special needs including intellectual disability, autism spectrum disorder, cerebral palsy and visual impairment. Their philosophy is to support children with special needs in becoming independent and contributing members of society.
One thing that strikes every person who enters the institute for the first time is the smiling faces of all students. The life skill-based curriculum and empathetic environment help them grow beyond the expectations of parents and teachers.
We need to teach our children that their greatest fear should not be a failure but rather succeeding in things that really don’t matter. They should know that if we are happy if we are peaceful, we can blossom like flowers. Happy school communities can help in creating happy societies.