Lessons in education: mental health

Find out what today’s education leaders in APAC shared about mental health, including burnout and screen fatigue.

Student waving

Addressing mental health, burnout, and screen fatigue in a new era of education

Though many of us would prefer to forget that the pandemic ever happened, there are many aspects of the world that will never be the same again.


From January to March 2022, IBRS conducted interviews with primary, secondary and tertiary institutions across ANZ and ASEAN to explore the way in which the education sector was affected. The resulting report highlighted that while many of the innovative methods used to survive the lockdowns will shape the future of education, they also present new issues that need to be addressed.

Mental health must be prioritised

The lockdowns increased student and teacher stress levels. They brought awareness to video conferencing fatigue (a reaction to the stress of being ‘always on’ with video communication) and increased visibility of mental health issues through students’ engagement — or lack thereof — during online learning.


This improved awareness of mental health (and neurodiversity) made talking about it more acceptable within families, schools, and society at large. Students’ engagements with counsellors increased, not just due to increased stress, but because it was no longer seen as taboo.


It is unlikely that this cultural change will be reversed. Students and their families are now more open to discussing mental health and, as such, there are new expectations on schools to play their part in mental health programs.

We now have our guidance counsellors ready to be contacted by many mediums: Viber, Facebook, phone. But it’s more than just offering access. Building a school that demonstrates how it values each student is important.

Joseph Ray Garrido, La Salle Green Hills

Screen time has to be purposeful

Many believe that screen time needs to be explicitly managed by educational institutions. However, there is a growing recognition that students’ lives are increasingly digital. So, the issue is not about reducing screen time, but rather, about how to ensure that digital engagements are purposeful and balanced against other forms of engagement.


Creating assessment activities that reflect what students will face in the context of their increasingly digital lives is paramount. Students are preparing essays in Google Docs, producing digital presentations, engaging with interactive online worksheets, producing videos, and more. So while educators are aware that screen time needs to be reduced, finding ways to create authentic assessments that balance digital and traditional media can be challenging.

Like most things in teaching, [screen time] should be a balanced approach. The idea of screen time is now becoming an integral part of lesson planning. You need to build in deliberate time where students are not working on the screen. You need to atomise your curriculum to reduce screen time, which keeps the lessons very powerful and focused.

Carolyn Rhodes, OneSchool Global

Learning should be student-led

Prior to lockdowns, the dominant approach to teaching was lengthy instructions, followed by short periods of tuition and students performing tasks in isolation or small groups.


Lockdowns highlighted the weaknesses of this pedagogical approach. Lengthy video calls proved not only ineffective for transferring knowledge, but also potentially impaired learning. A series of case studies conducted by IBRS in 2021 noted that students were increasingly disengaging from remote video sessions. This was not just a matter of being exasperated with screen time, but a symptom of a larger issue of traditional learning approaches no longer being relevant.


In contrast, during this study IBRS noted several educational institutions achieving high levels of engagement with remote learning by rigorously adopting a pedagogy with an emphasis on student-led learning. While different educational institutions referred to this pedagogy by different terms, the structure generally consisted of:

  1. Instruction Phase: Short periods of instruction, delivering no more than three key concepts.
  2. Self-Directed/Discovery Phase: Students engaging in materials provided by the educator as well as exploring the concepts with fellow students, and conducting their own research via curated and public sources.
  3. Mentoring/Tutorial Phase: A student or small group engaging with the educator in a query-response dialogue. Students asking questions of each other and the educator, challenging thinking, looking for new insights, and garnering new ideas.
  4. Synthesis/Assessment Phase: Students presenting their new understanding, either through activities such as completed projects, worksheets, or formal exams

Traditional education was made to service the [second] industrial revolution – to create identical workers for production lines. But we are in the fourth industrial revolution, and cookie-cutter classes just don’t meet the needs of society or our students. With the internet, information is democratised, and students can go off tangents and start focusing on different areas. Now, learning must be student-centric.

Joseph Ray Garrido, La Salle Green Hills

Timeshifting education demands a shift in expectations

During the first six months of lockdowns, many institutions struggled to balance educators’ availability with student expectations. As instruction phases were becoming shorter and self-directed learning activities became normalised, students began to timeshift their educational activities. However, in doing so, they were applying their digital social conventions — and the immediacy that come with it — to their interactions with educators.


New expectations had to be established, and boundaries needed to be put in place regarding how and when teachers, parents and students would communicate and collaborate. New social norms and communication methods were established such as eLearning portal messaging, instant messaging, group video sessions and breakout rooms.

We don’t want to give mandate to teachers, so we leave it to teachers to work with their students and parents. But they need to communicate the expectations and set routines to manage everyone’s time. This has to be done carefully though, as different teachers may have different expectations — so there is still a role for a whole-of-school policy.

Carolyn Rhodes, OneSchool Global

New rules for a new normal

The pandemic forced the education sector to evolve. And while changes in the way we approach teaching have created many opportunities for better, more modern learning, they also raise many challenges. With new technologies and new approaches comes an obligation to create new boundaries, set new expectations, and create a new focus on mental health. As we navigate a new normal, these crucial factors need to be a priority.


IBRS’ research, while sponsored by Zoom, was conducted independently and does not focus on Zoom’s solutions. The research consisted of 12 detailed case study interviews with primary, secondary and tertiary institutions in both the private and public sectors. To read the full IBRS report, click here.