In 2007, the European Commission together with the European Parliament, the Club of Rome, the OECD and the WWF hosted a conference titled "Beyond GDP" (EU 2009. The conference was attended by over 650 policy makers, experts and social activists and aimed to criticize the use of GDP (Gross Domestic Product) as an economic indicator of the wealth of nations, to advocate for a society better able to foster and measure wellbeing and quality of life (QoL), and to promote an inclusive, sustainable and knowledge-based society (Costanza et al. 2014). This movement – which has been called “Quality of Life Movement” – is deeply concerned with the socio-economic dimension of human development. Since then, the “QoL Movement” has developed enormously. An educational counterpart to this movement is still missing. By adopting a critical and systemic approach to wellbeing and quality of life (Nussbaum & Sen 1993; Simovska & McNamara 2015), with this project we aim to investigate the impact that the “QoL Movement” and their theories, policies and underlying values will have on European education and school systems, in particular the impact on schooling experiences of students and schools’ staff.
The “QoL Movement” is a heterogenic and informal movement of scholars and transnational institutions who aim to develop new theories, policies and indicators about quality of life. The most influential ones include: the Quality of Life approach (Nussbaum & Sen 1993), Subjective Wellbeing (Kahneman et al. 2003), the EU’s Quality of Life in Europe (EU), the Stiglitz-Sen-Fitoussi Commission (Stiglitz et al. 2009), the OECD’s Better Life Initiative (OECD 2013), the UN Sustainable Development Goals (UN 2015), and the World Happiness Report (Helliwell et al. 2016). Recently, the OECD students’ wellbeing assessment was also released (OECD 2017). So far, however, little has been done to critically study the educational relevance, impact and potentials of the ongoing "QoL Movement" and their impact on European education systems.
The main research question is: what is the role of QoL policies, theories and practices in education system and how can a School for Quality of Life (SQoL) model be? The hypothesis is that QoL initiatives, which are still fairly new, will soon begin to influence European educational systems. The overall objective of this project is to map and critically analyse the impact of such policies on the educational system, with a particular focus on primary and lower secondary schooling (pupils age 6-16), and to provide a School for Quality of Life (SQoL) model. The specific objectives are:
a) mapping and analysing the relevance and impact of national (Danish and Italian) and transnational (EU, UN, OECD) QoL policies on education systems;
b) mapping and analysing national (Danish and Italian) and transnational best practices that incorporate QoL approach into the school system, including teachers’ professional development.
c) theoretical analysis of the key concepts related to the QoL initiatives – e.g. happiness, wellbeing, flourishing, quality of life – to clarify terminological confusion as well as to operationalize and theoretically ground the most appropriate concepts in order to define and design a School for Quality of Life model (SQoL).
We adopt a mixed-methods approach combining qualitative and quantitative data generation methods within a systemic perspective. The research project is based on: multi-source data acquisition and integration, constant monitoring of the quality and relevance of acquired data, meaning and values attribution to data, theoretical framing of data.
This study will be among the very first ones to provide a solid analysis of the impact of the ‘QoL Initiatives’ on European education systems and to provide a framework for an informed model of SQoL. The knowledge gained will support a data-based approach to QoL in schools and knowledge transfer with stakeholders.