A large socioeconomic underclass continues to propagate in America with a high school graduation rate of only 69 percent and projections for 12 million students to drop out during the next decade.
Aside from the social costs of stunted educations in the developed world, high dropout rates will cost the U.S. economy $3 trillion during that time period, with lower earnings and greater dependence on social welfare programs, in addition to higher crime and attendant rates of incarceration.
However, a new study shows the practice of transcendental meditation — a specific mantra-based form of medication developed in the 1950s — as effective in reducing dropout rates among high school students, compared to other interventions.
In research funded by the David Lynch Foundation, investigators from the University of Connecticut found a 15 percent higher graduation rate among students practicing the meditation technique versus other students, even after eliminating differences in grade-point average. And when examining only the lower-performing students in both groups, the benefits of meditation rose to a 25 percent higher graduation rate.
The analysis included all 235 seniors enrolled in one year at an east coast urban high school.
“While there are bright spots in public education today, urban schools on the whole tend to suffer from a range of factors which contribute to poor student academic performance and low graduation rates,” according to lead author, Robert D. Colbert, an associate professor at the University of Connecticut, told reporters. “Students need to be provided with value-added educational programs that can provide opportunities for school success. Our study investigated one such program, Transcendental Meditation, which appears to hold tremendous promise for enriching the lives of our nation’s students.”
Developed in India by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, the meditation technique involves the use of a mantra and is practiced for 15 to 20 minutes twice daily while sitting with eyes closed, and is perhaps the most widely practiced and most researched meditation techniques in the world. More than 340 scientific papers have been published on the subject, including a 2006 study finding improved cardiac risk factors for people with coronary heart disease.
Sanford Nidich, who holds a doctorate in education, works as a professor at Maharishi University of Management, an institution in Iowa dedicated to the study and promotion of the trademarked meditation technique, which is taught around the world by instructors ordained by the organization. “These results are the first to show that the Transcendental Meditation program can have a positive impact on student graduation rates,” he said. “The largest effect was found in the most academically challenged students. Recently published research on increased academic achievement and reduced psychological stress in urban school students may provide possible mechanisms for the higher graduation rates found in this study.”
The research findings point not only to lower secondary school dropout rates but also more college acceptances and a lower rate of incarceration.
The nonprofit Maharishi Foundation USA, which licenses the technique, says it has partnered with other nonprofits to provide full scholarships to more than a quarter-million at-risk schoolchildren, veterans, sufferers of Posttraumatic Stress Syndrome, homeless people, and others.
The organization says more academic studies are planned.
Source: Colbert RD, Nidich S. Effect of the Transcendental Meditation Program on Graduation, College Acceptance and Dropout Rates for Students Attending an Urban Public High School. Education. 2013.