Malaysian youth learn professor’s Super Skills to help build their self esteem

  • Friday, March 8, 2019

A ground-breaking programme that has been implemented in ten countries to help young people boost their self-esteem and better understand their feelings is now being launched in Penang, Malaysia.

With support from Penang’s State Ministry of Education, Penang Education Council and the Department of Education, Professor Cecilia Essau from the Department of Psychology has launched a resilience building programme for youth called Super Skills for Life in Penang, Malaysia.

Super Skills for Life (SSL) is a programme that culminates in over thirty years of research by Professor Essau and has been developed with Professor Thomas Ollendick of Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, USA. It is an interactive evidence-based programme which develops resilience and self-esteem in children and adolescents to help them with coping strategies for dealing with stress, conflict, and life changes. 

In Malaysia, according to the most recent National Health and Morbidity Survey, 2 in 5 adolescents suffer from anxiety, and 1 in 5 adolescents had depression.  Penang is the first state in Malaysia to roll out Super Skills in all of its schools, and to put into practice the vision of Malaysia’s Minister of Education that states “Schools are not the only place for the acquisition of academic skills but also where pupils develop social and emotional skills.”

Professor Essau said “Many mental disorders that begin early in children’s life tend to be chronic if they are not treated. This often leads to a wide range of impairments in adulthood.  To support these students, we will be conducting a series of workshops in Penang and in two other states in Malaysia (Sarawak and Sabah), and providing teachers with skills that they need to support young peoples’ mental health.”

At the workshops in Penang, an initial cohort of 600 educators were trained in the implementation of Super Skills for Life programme. It is expected that 19,000 teachers will be trained in the programme by the end of 2019.

Professor Essau’s Super Skills for Life is being implemented in ten countries. Children and adolescents who took part in this programme increased in self-confidence and improved performance in school. Their social and communications skills improved and so did involvement in social activities; at the same time, anxiety levels and behavioural problems also dropped.

The impact of the research submitted by our Department of Psychology is rated ‘world leading’ or ‘internationally excellent’ (Research Excellence Framework 2014).