Empowering students

Why self-knowledge must be a pillar of anyone’s education

Tiago Mateus returns to a question at the heart of all educational debate: why do we teach? His answers are student rather than subject-centred.  

Education and human development

It goes without saying that education is a vital component of human development, serving to shape individuals into informed and active members of society. If you accept that, one of the fundamental objectives of education must be to help students understand both themselves and the world around them. When students have a clear understanding of who they are, what they stand for and their place in the world, they are empowered to make a positive contribution to their global and local communities.

Self-awareness and identity

The importance of teaching older students to understand themselves cannot be overstated. Adolescence is a time of profound growth and change and it is during this period of their lives that young people really develop their sense of identity. How can we help them do so in a positive way?  Students who are encouraged to explore their interests and passions, who are given opportunities to develop their skills and talents, are more likely to have a strong sense of self, which will prepare them to navigate the challenges and complexities of the world with greater confidence and resilience.

Self-awareness and emotional intelligence

Self-awareness is also crucial to the development of emotional intelligence – the ability to recognize, understand, and manage one’s own emotions, as well as understand the emotions of others. It is a critical life skill that helps individuals develop healthy relationships, manage stress and conflict, and make sound decisions.

Educators can assist in this process by encouraging students to reflect on their strengths and weaknesses, values, and beliefs. Providing opportunities for self-discovery, through journals or self-assessment exercises, can play an important part. Teachers can also model self-awareness by sharing some of their own carefully selected experiences of self-discovery and growth.

Empathy, perspective and cultural awareness

In addition to understanding themselves, students must also be taught to understand the world in which they live, a world which is rapidly changing. Students need to have a solid understanding of the social, economic, and political issues that affect their lives: when they are exposed to a broad range of perspectives and experiences, they are better able to develop critical thinking skills and make informed decisions. As students learn about different cultures, customs, and beliefs, they begin to appreciate the richness and diversity of the world around them while at the same time broadening their perception of empathy and compassion.

Fostering cultural awareness by incorporating multicultural materials into lessons, organising activities that expose students to different cultures and encouraging discussions about cultural differences have a critical role to play. Teachers can also model respect and appreciation for cultural diversity in the way they communicate with their students and those around them.

From active citizens to active leaders

Finally, teaching students to understand themselves and the world is essential for empowering them to make a positive contribution to their communities. Students who are equipped with a strong sense of self and an understanding of the world are more likely to be engaged and active citizens. They are better prepared to identify the issues that affect their communities and to work collaboratively with others to address them.

Students who are empowered to make a positive contribution to their communities are more likely to become leaders and not just as elected officials or CEOs: anyone can be a leader. It is about taking the lead in making a positive difference in the world, no matter how big or small.

When students are empowered to lead, they can transform their communities and create a better future not only for themselves but also for others.

What higher purpose could there be for education?


Tiago Mateus is CEO of Immerse Education.

Immerse Education delivers transformative educational experiences for students aged 13-18 across the world.




All images kindly provided by Immerse Education