This study examines the effects of a contemplative education intervention for Asian Indian adolescents living and going to high school in Singapore. The intervention aims to (a) reduce adolescents’ perceived levels of life stress and (b) enhance their ability to regulate their attention. While relaxation techniques have generally been found effective in dealing with adolescent concerns such as anger, anxiety and depression, not much research has been focused on contemplative education practices such as meditation as a way of dealing with these concerns. The study is a wait-list control design, with measures collected from multiple informants (students, teachers and parents). The intervention is based on the practice of Vipassana Meditation as taught by Mr. S. N Goenka (present teacher in the tradition of Sayagi U Ba Khin, Myanmar). The practice involves the observation of the precepts (sila), concentration of the mind (anapana-sati) as well as the purification of the mind. Anapana-sati is the first two parts of Vipassana meditation and forms the essence of the teaching for children. Students are given a one day meditation workshop and then sit and practice meditation on the in-coming and out-going breath for 15 minutes at the beginning and the end of each school day. Participants include 34 high school students age 16-17 years. The design is wait-listed control. Measures used in the study include a self-report questionnaire consisting of items that assess life stress, prior experience with meditation, mindfulness and attentional control, and social demography. Pre-test measures also included two behavioral tasks: the Attentional Network Test (Posner, 1994) and the Attentional Blink task (e.g., Raymond, Shapiro & Arnell, 1992). Several of the students’ high school teachers will rate the students on their academic engagement, behavioral control, and social competence. Parents will complete a questionnaire that provides information on their family, their own history of meditation practice, and why they decided to enroll their child in the study. Participating students will also maintain a daily diary in which they record their experience of their daily meditation practice. At the conclusion of the study, follow-up one-on-one interviews with students and focus groups will be held to obtain “student voices” on their experience of the intervention. Phase I of the study involves the collection of pre-measures for all participants. This phase is now completed. Phase 2 of the project involves randomly assigning students to groups in which they will either receive the intervention first or second. The first experimental group of 13 of the 34 participating students (Experimental Group 1) will then attend a one day meditation course followed by a daily practice of 15 minutes twice a day for 6 weeks. Phase 2 is currently in progress. Phase 3 of the study will begin at the end of this six week period. During Phase 3, post-test measures for Experimental Group 1 will be collected, and Experimental Group 2 will begin the intervention with the one-day retreat followed by daily practice. Phase 4 of the study will begin at the conclusion of the second intervention. At this point, data will be collected on all 34 participating students using the self-report, behavioral, and teacher rated measures. This constitutes the first post-test measurement period. Phase 5 includes a longer-term follow-up early in 2008 in which we will collect a battery of students’ school exam scores and measures of test anxiety.

Radhi Raja

University SIM, Singapore