When US First Lady Melania Trump visits a Delhi government school in South Delhi on Tuesday, she will observe a one-of-its-kind classroom — where students and teachers meditate, chat, tell stories and share jokes for 45 minutes each day.
Since it was started in 2018, the happiness curriculum has become Delhi’s flagship programme and is among those that stands out in a list of achievements that the government claims is the most unusual.
Everyday, students in classes I to VIII spend 45 minutes in this classroom, where there is no set curriculum. Younger students, in nursery and KG, have the class twice a week. The Delhi government has happiness textbooks with stories and activities. The books, though, are advisory in nature.
When it was developed, the government said, there were three aims of the curriculum — a focus on solving internal conflicts to increase concentration; understanding relationships around you in the family, the class room and the world and to find your way in it; and to understand your utility beyond scoring marks and making money.
“The main aim was to build what is termed as an emotional quotient. I believe that the main job of a government, and a school especially, is to bring up a child who will not indulge in violence, not be corrupt and not harm the environment. The happiness curriculum is a step towards that,” said Delhi Education Minister Manish Sisodia.
One of the main components of the curriculum is meditation and mindfulness. While only students up to Class VIII meditated earlier, the government included the component in its Entrepreneurship Curriculum classes in 2019 after students in senior classes demanded it.
According to Sisodia, the curriculum is evolving and will continue to do so: “No one has experimented with this format previously. I had gone to Harvard University when the curriculum was being formulated. I spoke to the education training department head and asked her about similar successful experiments elsewhere but we found instances where such interventions were happening once a week or month. She encouraged us to start daily classes so that they could measure the impact.”
Every school has an average of 20 teachers involved in the curriculum. There is also a team of 30 teachers, called happiness coordinators, who go to schools regularly. They attend classes and observe the curriculum and teaching methods. The team is expected to send an annual assessment report, based on which curriculum and teacher training needs can be fixed.
The curriculum also continues to change. While there were three sets of books in 2018 — one each for Nursery to Class II, Classes III to V and Classes VI to VIII — one book each was made for each class in 2019.
“The curriculum will continue to evolve. I am personally involved and give my feedback regularly. The team keeps researching effective tools and practices as well as new activities. I am also connected to 1,000 happiness teachers on WhatsApp. The idea is to change with the times,” said Sisodia.