A project in the Algarve has had particularly striking results and, says Johnson, Italy has also been swift to embrace the approach. It helps where there is some autonomy in schools such as in Portugal, where headteachers can direct what is taught in 25% of the school day. In the UK, where the curriculum is fairly rigid, it has actually proved easier in many ways to adopt TM in the alternative provision schools, as they have more flexibility and larger budgets.
The benefits of the initial programme were cited as:
- A more peaceful school environment.
- Greater tolerance among students.
- Increased students focus.
- Increased creativity.
- Greater happiness and satisfaction in the school.
- Better health.
- Increased academic attainment.
“The results have been very encouraging indeed,” says Johnson. For anxiety, depression, behavioural problems, sickness and so on, the benefits have been clear from the statistics, he says. And the effects have been almost as beneficial for staff as for pupils. He also points out that the gains are broad, which is unusual in education, where interventions tend to have single outcomes.
The policy recommendations report for the first project states: “The practice of QT [Quiet Time]/TM is recommended for more widespread implementation as a self-balancing prevention strategy to violence and violent radicalisation and at the same time as a strength-based approach to inclusive education addressing psychosocial, social and physical challenges to well-being. It is estimated that the implementation of QT/TM yields a Return on Investment of more than 100% (i.e. the benefit is estimated to be at least 2-3 times higher than the cost), taking into account all benefits such as reduced drop-out, health benefits etc.” https://europe-project.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/04/EUROPE_Policy-recommendations_EN.pdf
What happens now? Johnson hopes for further grants: “The fire has certainly been stoked up” and he is optimistic that under the Erasmus+ scheme, the UK will continue to be able to participate, post-Brexit. The initial projects are likely to continue within the participating educational institutions and, as is clear from the Portuguese example, the ripple effects are moving TM into the wider educational sector.
Johnson says: “We’ve started, the results are encouraging and it is beginning to take root.” TM is easy to introduce and highly practical, he feels. Awareness and uptake of meditation as a whole, in society and in other areas of public services and the commercial world, is increasing, so this also helps. There is also a large and growing body of academic work that points to the health benefits. And there is also greater awareness of a mental health crisis, particularly among young people, which is crying out for new (or even ancient) better preventative approaches.