Let’s make our children happy!
To improve the happiness index, school curricula requires to be consciously infused with a daily school programme with special opportunities that will bring about an understanding of the happiness quotient in each child’s life. Let’s see how.
India ranked 122nd out of 155 countries, even behind Pakistan and Nepal, in the global list of the happiest countries, according the World Happiness Report 2017. So, how can we improve our happiness index? Here, Vinita Kher, Director CEM-DPS Society and I/C HRDC, shares her views and ways to improve happiness index in schools.
Q: What role do you think schools can play to improve the happiness index (HI) of future students?
Vinita: School curricula focus a great deal on academic achievement with the role of marks and positions taking centrestage. In the demanding school schedule, with concentration on various disciplines, completion of syllabi and assessments and examinations, most often the area of happiness does not find any conscious place in the school curriculum. The idea of happiness may be part of many activities at school but it is rarely spoken about consciously as an important part of life. Life skills, attitude and value development do find a special place.
Happiness is often linked to how children feel and think about the world they interact in, their perception of their experiences – whether they are happy or otherwise. Happiness is also linked to daily habits such as connecting with people around themselves and making friends, outdoor play, exercising, working in groups, practicing different forms of art, dance, music and theatre, consuming healthy food.
To improve the happiness index, one believes the school curricula requires to be consciously infused with a daily school programme with special opportunities that will bring about an understanding of the happiness quotient in each child’s life. Educators have to consciously talk about the need for everyone on the school campus to be happy—to develop a purpose for life with a vision for satisfaction through work and contribution, to understand what life means and how should one conduct it, define clearly one’s goals, prioritise needs, develop the right value systems and attitudes to conduct life, take complete responsibility for any action, introspect to see if one is on the right track, and respect one’s ability to change.
It is also felt that the school curricula should be infused with good leadership programmes, effective understanding of citizenship, socially interactive programmes, meditation, character building, observing and valuing with care the possessions and opportunities bestowed on them. When students understand of relevance of their duties in life over their demand of rights, their approach to living their lives with responsibility will change.
Once the conscious effort is made, the whole school develops a spirit of well- being and happiness and this continues with students when they enter the world of higher studies.
Q: What curricular and other steps should be taken to empower the young child with a sense of psychological well-being?
Vinita: It is desirable, in fact, should be binding to all who develop the school curricula that they study it in depth and upgrade it to match contemporary needs of children in a very rapidly moving society which can often be aggressive, very diverse and uncertain. The curriculum should be consciously restructured to enable the empowerment of children from the time they enter infant school until the time they’re ready to leave as young adults. Continuous thought building sessions are required amongst teachers and administrators, to especially reflect on whether we’re all set towards the right direction.
A curriculum should help cultivate in children the joy and fun in learning and in everyday small tasks along with a sense of optimism. It should be able to develop constructive habits to manage the mind and thoughts and to create a sense of well- being and happiness.
Building relationships should be an important goal as one has to work and live in the company of many different kinds of people. It should also work towards counteracting the message received from television advertisements and films that happiness can be bought. The curriculum can also emphasize on the joy and satisfaction of contribution towards social causes and the role of gratitude.
Our children should leave school more confident in their overall abilities to tackle new events and experiences that might come their way. They should leave the school portals with resilience, robust value systems, and being humane.
My understanding of the world of school education underlines the utmost need for children to feel wanted, of being loved, recognised and acknowledged by their teachers and the peer group, even in the smallest way. It is important to have teachers who are always student friendly, inclusive and easily approachable. It is also necessary for children to always feel secure, comfortable and at ease in any part of the school. A friendly, tension-free environment should be able to draw the best of every child’s potential.
The report Learning: The Treasure Within is a very special report that assists in the understanding of how a school curriculum ought to stand on the “Four ‘Pillars of Learning.” It highlights the requirements for an education for the twenty-first century capable of tapping and nurturing the rich potential for learning inherent in every individual.
The focus on the pillars of education— Learning to Know, Learning to Do, Learning to Live Together and Learning to Be could be consulted to regenerate and reorganize the school curriculum. This document also provides immense reflections towards the infusion required in the school curriculum for a broadened vision of the school set-ups.
Q: Assessing the use and Management of Time is a key concern in assessment of HI. How could schools help in developing these attitudes so that the concept of productivity becomes a second nature among the children?
Vinita: The word productivity here describes the “effectiveness of productive effort.” It means productiveness, the efficiency with which students and teachers reach an output to their tasks. The school environment is always eventful with a sense of eagerness, enthusiasm and optimism. There is an air of anticipation in the environment whether it is on academics, assessments and evaluations, sports, cultural activities such as music, dance, the arts and craft, adventure activities, personal and professional interactions.
When the ultimate aim is to seek happiness out of endeavours, both management of time and the happiness index become inter-connected. Seeking happiness and satisfaction becomes the hallmark of all endeavours, whether at school or outside of it.
There is a strong suggestion for an all school programme that highlights the school environment as one that is seeking happiness through work, engagement, building relationships and developing a sense of achievement and progress for every individual, student or teacher. If the keyword is achievement with happiness, the element of disappointment, failure, fear and uncertainty should also be a matter to be shared. Once the school curriculum calibrates itself to the time management and happiness seeking index, there is a constant surge towards it and will certainly prepare students in making it as a second nature!
Q: Cultural diversity and resilience is a positive index of a happy community of people. Given that India has a strong cultural diversity and a history of meaningful and positive cohabitation, how could these ideas is promoted in a school environment?
Vinita: Schools are often crowded places with well-intentioned schedules. Here, the children come from a variety of backgrounds, from virtually all social permutations giving a vast canvas of cultural diversity. From this public space of the school, the children derive their personal experiences. The school experience is largely spent not only in the company of other people but in collective activities. This is also the time when children learn to adapt and make sense of their connections with people and situations. Children are also profoundly affected by places and atmospheres of the school.
In this milieu where a school is like a village, where everyone collects together looking for a sense of purpose, the strength of diversity should be utilised to bring together children to understand and learn about people across the world, their history and cultures, their geography and agriculture, religion and worship. Contemporary times speak of extreme politico-socio disturbance accompanied by violence, terroristic activities and mass displacement of people, famine and an unbalanced socio fabric across the globe. There is often news of acute hunger and water shortage, social disturbances such as gender inequities of many kinds. Issues of concern should be made a point of conversation within age appropriate classrooms and children apprised of existing realities.
The inner world of the child looks forward to engage and contribute. With a diverse school milieu, the educators and administrators could find immense places within the school curriculum for a wide range of healthy discussions, debates, films with a message, good reading habits and social activities to help elders, orphanages, child care etc. This could help promote in students a better understanding of the world with a reassuring approach towards amity, peace, harmony and progress for all. Well engaged students will be further facilitated to understand and shape the way they see the world.
Q:Do you think the National Curriculum Framework and the pedagogical strategies adopted by the schools should integrate the concept of happiness in a more focussed way with well-defied inputs?
Vinita: A real or perceived threat to someone or something important to you creates a sense of fear. This is a natural part of the human experience, and sometimes it can even signal that a person has a great deal of good things going on in their life, such as a new job, a great relationship, or an exciting opportunity. When we have more to care about in our lives, we also have more opportunities for feeling fear. But this emotion can drive unhealthy behaviours when it comes to time management, particularly procrastination.
The good news is that fear doesn’t have to mess with our productivity. We can reduce fear to nothing more than a passing, momentary impact on our lives — it all comes down to how we handle it.