Towards a happy school…


Education is the most effectual tool for transforming life of an individual. It widens perceptions and gives individuals better insights into the diverse aspects of their life. It leads to evolution and development of emotional, social and cognitive conceptions and it can also make a person happy. Let’s see how.

Schools are the temples of education, which not only remind younger generations of their unique heritage but also impart knowledge. In addition to their traditional roles of knowledge producer and developing students into productive members of society, they also act as effective workshops where children develop personally meaningful lives and learn to construct sustainable happiness. Here, Rajesh Awasthi of Choithram School shares his views on the same.

Q. India is presently slated to be in 122 position in the Happiness Index among countries all over the world. It is also seen that many countries who are not as rich as India in resources, economic stability and cultural diversity are better placed than India. Education, it is claimed, can play a big role in transforming this situation. What role do you think schools can play to improve the Happiness Index of the future citizens?

Rajesh: Happiness is a psychological concept with several definitions and dimensions. In the field of psychology, the happiness is a positive emotion that is deeper than a good temporary mood. There are at least three fundamental elements of happiness, including emotional, social and cognitive outsets. Emotional component causes a positive emotional state while social component leads to extensive positive social relationships with others. The cognitive component causes the individual to interpret everyday events with optimism. A happy society is one which is capable and effective in transmitting its accumulated knowledge, skills, customs and values from one generation to other generation.

Education is the most effectual tool for transforming life of an individual. It widens perceptions and gives individuals better insights into the diverse aspects of their life. Education leads to evolution and development of emotional, social and cognitive conceptions. Nevertheless, family system in India plays a vital role in transforming a child into a useful citizen of the society but the role of school can never be disregarded.

Schools are considered as temples of education. They continuously remind younger generations of their unique heritage in the form of the Indian value systems which, combined with the knowledge imparted through formal education gives them the precious gift of wisdom. In addition to their traditional roles of knowledge producer and developing students into productive members of society, they also act as effective workshops where children develop personally meaningful lives and learn to construct sustainable happiness.

Q. Among various parameters used for measuring the Happiness Index, psychological well-being of people is considered a prime factor. The schools play a significant role in developing right attitudes, perspectives and emotional stability among the growing children. What curricular and other steps should be taken to empower the young children with a sense of psychological well-being?

Rajesh Awasthi
Rajesh Awasthi

Rajesh: It would be agreed that as we begin the 21st century, the change is happening at an ever-increasing pace. We know that the purpose of education is to provide children with knowledge and skills, which act as a power to live healthy, happy and successful life. Since the years of school education are a large part of an individual’s life, therefore they are the evident choice to take on this responsibility of cultivating knowledge, attitudes and behaviors that lead to greater happiness and well-being. Schools must follow a structured approach that leads its students to a deep sense of well-being and contentment. The approach may include:

  • A well-adjusted curriculum that is based on the best knowledge of how children develop and learn promotes brain growth and development through an enriched environment, provides a concept that is relevant and promotes relationships. A curriculum that creates active participants rather than passive observers.
  • A curriculum which is well-integrated with skill development, ICT and value education; empowers students to take ownership of their learning.
  • A curriculum that is distinguished to utilize learners’ strengths, learning styles and background knowledge; provides opportunities for individual acceleration and remediation and nurtures self-esteem and respect.
  • Providing active learning opportunities wherein the students are engaged in hands-on activities rather than passively receiving knowledge. They interact with others to construct meaning from new ideas and concepts based on their background knowledge. Assignments are designed to draw upon the skills and knowledge that students must acquire. Cooperative and collaborative learning, problem solving and project- based learning are active learning strategies.
  • Integration of life skills and other co-scholastic activities with the regular teaching learning process.
  • Celebration of festivals, important days, cultural and literary activities, exhibitions and club activities.
  • Facilitating sports, yoga, and meditation to encourage healthy competition, character building, concentration and physical stamina in students.
  • Integrating activities from visual and performing arts, literary and cultural activities.
  • Utilization of morning assemblies on themes based on values, social, political, economic and other issues.
  • Intercultural learning practices, educational excursions and exchange programmes.
  • Objective and learning oriented assessment practices including self and peer assessment.
  • Training of the Vocational subjects.

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?

Rajesh: Time management is a key to success which maintains well-being and happiness of the people. People around the world must learn this sooner or later to remain peaceful. The best students are not necessarily those who are perfectionists, but those who use their time effectively. Although time management seems like a pain at times, once we have mastered this skill, it will enable us to get the most out of life. It can free us to live more effectively, calmly and enjoyably. It can help us get more done with less anxiety, incompetence and obstruction.

During school days, students are continuously involved in the planning and organization of various cultural, literary and sports events which are time bound. Students are given ample opportunities to practice leadership and in the role of a leader they are often involved in shaping various activities on their own. Deadlines for assignment and project submission, equal concentration on the studies of all subjects, preparation for tests in various subjects etc. are regular practices that train children how to prioritize their activities. Apart from these, children can be motivated on the use and management of time by sharing relevant information about the incidents the occurrence of which involved importance of time. Children can be asked to prepare self-assessment tool on use of time so that they develop habit of using a calendar, prioritizing activities, breaking down the tasks into small pieces, making schedules and strategies for productive and effective use of time. Rewards system for justified use of time also makes children realize about the importance of time and develop a prolific attitude in them.

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 be promoted in the school environment?
Rajesh: Gaining of intercultural awareness and developing intercultural sensitivity is needed to understand and accept cultural diversities and take a right step towards growing as a useful global citizen. A multicultural society is best served by a culturally responsive curriculum. Schools that acknowledge the diversity of their students understand the importance of promoting cultural awareness. Schools interested in development of intercultural awareness in their students should actively demonstrate that the school genuinely cares about cultural, emotional, and intellectual needs of its students.

Schools could encourage students to research and share information about their cultural background as a means of nurturing a favorable relationship with their friends. Analyze and celebrate differences in traditions, beliefs, and social behaviors.
For creating a nurturing environment students sometimes must be allowed to bring in their own reading material and present it to the class, share stories, thoughts, and ideas that are important to their cultural and social perspective.

In a culturally responsive classroom, diversity of language is celebrated and the instructional materials are personalized to the level of language fluency. A support system to master language could be created. Students could be provided opportunity to learn a regional language, gain proficiency in its oral communication as well as learn the culture of the state of that particular language.

An inclusive classroom respecting differences ensures the benefits of all students within all aspects of the school and acknowledges the unique differences students may possess. A culturally receptive curriculum helps students develop a sense of identity as individuals, as well as proudly identify with their particular culture group.

Celebrating various festivals, important days of different parts of the country as well as well as some festivals of countries round the globe, enables students to appreciate and respect their culture as well as the cultures of the other communities at the local, regional, national and global level eventually realizing that they are all part of one family, one 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 focused manner with well-defined inputs?

Rajesh: Of course the curriculum framework and pedagogical strategies need to integrate the concept of happiness in more intensive way because happiness is something we all want but it is impracticable to teach it as a subject separately, rather it should be incorporated in the very aspects of acquisition of knowledge and skills so as to learn to live a healthier, happier and successful life. While the role of education is to give students a comprehensive knowledge over a wide range of subjects, it is equally important for young people to be aware of their unique strengths, weaknesses, interests, sources of happiness and sorrows, likes and dislikes, essentials and non-essentials and the ways to stay positive in all circumstances.

Rajesh Awasthi is Principal at Choithram School & Choithram Institute of Educational Research & Training –Choithram School & Choithram Institute of Educational Research & Training.