This research suggests that meditation may help to close the “achievement gap” between inner-city students and their suburban counterparts. It is said the gap exists for many reasons, with one being the sheer amount of stress that underserved students face on a daily basis. There are also factors such as poverty, absent or distracted parental input, actual physical dangers, and fear that can play huge parts in a child’s ability to focus in a school environment. These kinds of chronic stressors can actually affect children’s ability to learn, and cause damage to their brains.
Meditation has long been shown to reduce stress and its effects on the body, including anxiety and inability to focus. Meditation has been formally used in schools since 2007, when a principal in San Francisco established the Quiet Time Program in an effort to improve the quality of his students’ education and their overall behavior. The program introduced two 15-minute periods of quiet time into the students’ school days, where they could practice meditation or engage in silent activities such as reading.
After this program was implemented, suspensions dropped by 79 percent, attendance rose to 98 percent, and students’ grades improved. The feedback from both students and teachers was overwhelmingly positive. More schools began to adopt the program, with positive results: 17 studies conducted of similar programs showed beneficial outcomes including reduced stress and suspensions, increased attendance, improved academic performance, and increased emotional intelligence.
Although meditation alone cannot begin to fight the struggles that some students deal with, it may open the door to help them learn more about stress reduction and positive coping skills. And everyone can benefit from less stress, fear, and anxiety.