“Wellbeing provision for the physical, social and emotional health of the pupils lies at the heart of the pastoral programme and is a very significant strength of the College, devised around the principles of positive psychology.” –  COBIS Report 2021

MCM Well-being: What and Why?

At Marlborough College Malaysia we are committed to the development of the whole student, in line with a philosophy based on the principles of Positive Psychology.


Pioneered by Martin Seligman at the University of Pennsylvania, Positive Psychology applied to education emphasises a focus on individual strengths and personal motivation as much as academics to promote learning and development.


Research has shown that character traits and well-being are dynamic and can be improved with good teaching and practice akin to building skills [1]. Additionally, there is now growing evidence that educating for well-being skills contributes to improved academic outcomes [2]. Character traits such as grit have been found to be just as important (if not more so) as IQ in academic performance [3] . Well-being in youth is also positively correlated with social and financial success later on in life [2].


Young people spend on average 30+ hours in school a week [2], and much more than this in a boarding school environment. This provides the ideal platform to help them develop holistically, gain knowledge and skills for life, and be prepared to contribute to society in positive and productive ways.

Our Model

Figure 2. MCM Model for Whole School Wellbeing (2020 – 2021)

With this foundation in Positive Psychology research, MCM embarked on its own journey in 2020 to develop a model for well-being that would be unique to our community. We spent one year exploring the strengths of our school and what we do best in order to design a model that is in line with our international values and unique positioning in Peninsular Malaysia. The result is the model below, which encompasses the health of four interconnected dimensions of body, mind, spirit, and community. 


The model highlights that well-being is not one thing, but a series of interacting factors that lead to complete development and health of the whole person. The infinity loop shape of the model is an indicator that well-being is not a linear destination but rather a lifelong journey. Knowing this, we can have a realistic view and expectation for what is possible and to build the tools that will help our pupils flourish in and beyond school.

Learn more about the different areas of the model below.

What do we mean by BODY well-being?

Maintaining first and foremost an adequate level of physical health is a precursor and the foundation for building mental health. There are many studies that highlight how inadequate sleep, nutrition, or levels of exercise can lead to poor mental health and emotional management [4]. There is a clear psychosomatic link in well-being, and pupils must learn to manage their own health habits. The BODY dimension encompasses all the elements which lead to a state of physical health and safety of the individual. Emotional health is included within this domain because emotions have a very real and physical effect on the body and physical state of a person’s health.


What do we mean by MIND well-being?

The MIND dimension explores components related to cognitive (mental) health that include elements of agency, self-control, attention and awareness, stress management, confidence, habits and goals, and character strengths. There is a clear psychological health component of well-being that leads to success at school. For example, Duckworth identifies “grit” as perhaps the most determinant measure of student success, well above talent or intelligence [5]. Grit is composed of long-term passion and perseverance in pursuit of goals. It is built in the mind through cognitive processes such as self-determination [6], resilience [7], goal setting, and self-regulation.


What do we mean by SPIRIT well-being?

With a strong Christian foundation, and its presence in a spiritually diverse, literate, and active region, MCM recognizes the importance of spiritual pursuits beyond the self. The SPIRIT dimension is about personal fulfilment and contributions to the world. This is where a general sense of meaning & purpose can be cultivated. MCM places a high value on companionship and civic responsibility, so it is a natural fit that social connections, leadership, and responsibility be part of its positive education model. These elements encompassing values, character strengths, creativity, and self-expression allow students to make a difference in the world beyond the classroom when they begin to interact and engage within society. 


What do we mean by COMMUNITY well-being?

In line with the newest research on flourishing systems vs. individuals, MCM recognises that there is a collective element of well-being within a school community and it is important for a school to create systems that enable its various members,  teachers, staff, pupils, parents, and boarders to thrive. Research has shown that elements of collective flourishing in schools include socio-ecological factors such as climate and culture within the classrooms [8], teacher well-being and relationship to students [9, 10], peer to peer relationships, emotional environments of care and respect, and a climate of connectedness [11]. The boarding element of MCM also means a tighter community than day schools offer as pupils from multiple nationalities live and study together. For this reason we place a high emphasis on health and wellness from the lens of our boarding community. Our boarders frequently reflect on particular aspects of the model and present how they can live out these values in their daily routines. 



[1] Heckman, J. J., & Kautz, T. (2013). Fostering and measuring skills: Interventions that improve character and cognition (No. 19656). Cambridge, MA. Retrieved from http://www.nber.org/papers/w19656

[2] Seligman, M. E. P., Ernst, R. M., Gillham, J., Reivich, K., & Linkins, M. (2009). Positive education: Positive psychology and classroom interventions. Oxford Review of Education, 35(3), 293-311. oi:10.1080/3054980902934563

[3] Duckworth, A. L., Peterson, C., Matthews, M. D., & Kelly, D. R. (2007). Grit: perseverance and passion for long-term goals. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 92(6), 1087-101. doi:10.1037/00223514.92.6.1087 

[4] Ratey, J. J., & Hagerman, E. (2008). Spark: The revolutionary new science of exercise and the brain.

[5] Duckworth, A. (2016). Grit: The power of passion and perseverance. Scribner/Simon & Schuster.

[6] Ryan, R. M., Huta, V., & Deci, E. L. (2008). Living well: A self-determination theory perspective on eudaimonia. Journal of Happiness Studies: An Interdisciplinary Forum on Subjective Well-Being, 9(1), 139–170. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10902-006-9023-4 

[7]  Reivich, K., & Shatté, A. (2002). The resilience factor: 7 essential skills for overcoming life’s inevitable obstacles. Broadway Books.

[8] Walker, C. J. (2011). Classroom assessment techniques for promoting more positive experiences in teaching and learning. The Journal of Positive Psychology, 6(6), 440-445.

[9] Gu, Q., & Day, C. (2007). Teachers resilience: A necessary condition for effectiveness. Teaching and Teacher Education, 23(8), 1302–1316.

[10] Cornelius-White, J. (2007). Learner-Centered Teacher-Student Relationships Are Effective: A Meta-Analysis. Review of Educational Research, 77(1), 113–143.

[11] Allen, K., Kern, M. L., Vella-Brodrick, D., Hattie, J., & Waters, L. (2018). What schools need to know about fostering school belonging: A meta-analysis. Educational Psychology Review, 30(1), 1–34.


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Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in the blog articles are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Marlborough College Malaysia. Examples of analysis performed within the articles are for illustrative purposes only as they are based on very limited and dated open source information.