On July 2, 2018, the Dalai Lama inaugurated the Happiness Curriculum, a form of value-based learning in Delhi. The curriculum has now been implemented across all schools run by the Delhi government. Express Parenting got in touch with Madhuri Mehta, CEO, Blue Orb Foundation, one of the organisations working on the project, to know more about what it entails.
How did the Happiness Curriculum start? What are students taught in this curriculum?
The Happiness Curriculum is an initiative launched by the Delhi government. They put up an advertisement in March for NGOs or individuals to apply and help conduct it. After a few rounds of evaluation, five organisations were chosen to take the initiative forward, in coordination with the school authorities. The idea was to focus on students’ EQ (emotional quotient) and SQ (social intelligence quotient), which isn’t generally paid as much attention to as developing his or her IQ. The Happiness Curriculum is focused on helping children manage their life better.
The class for Happiness Curriculum takes place during the first period of the day, from Monday to Saturday. It is being held at all government schools in Delhi. The class is a combination of inculcating mindfulness, values, and activities which prompt a student to think. For example, every Monday, we conduct a class on mindfulness where the child is taught deep breathing. Tuesdays and Wednesdays are dedicated to teaching through storytelling. For instance, when the teacher uses a chalk or pen in the classroom, students are told about their origin, how they are manufactured, what kind of people are involved in making them, among other information. Students also take part in several activities, which are generally linked to the topic we are addressing.
How are students responding to the Happiness Curriculum?
So far, students have responded quite well. Children are enjoying storytelling activities a lot. This is a good start, I believe, although the volume of schools is huge. We started the classes in July; it has only been a month and we need to see how far the venture progresses.
Have you also managed to speak to parents regarding the importance of value-based learning?
As an NGO, we haven’t interacted with parents yet. We have only interacted with children, teachers and principals. The Happiness Curriculum entails a teacher-training programme to enable the teachers to take such classes regularly.
Why do you think it is important to expose students to things beyond their regular academic course?
If you look at the recent mishaps in schools or the present scenario of the world, providing the right education to children is a matter of great concern to all parents. Think of what happened at Ryan International school or those frequent reports on student suicides. I believe the Happiness Curriculum could benefit students across the world. As of now, no other nation in the world has such a concept launched at this scale. We have to make children work towards bringing peace.
Do you think the Happiness Curriculum can help students in regular academics?
Yes, it will teach children that learning is constant and that it doesn’t matter if you fail today or excel in one field and not in the other. Each child has his or her own set of skills and ability. Teachers need to identify the natural ability of the student and harness it. We need not push each student towards the same goal or we would create nothing but robots. Recognising the uniqueness of each student is really important.
Often, students are made to focus more on studying, leaving them hardly any time to play. Does the “all work, no play” rule really help?
Learning, in itself, should be a combination of studying and playing. In fact, our entire curriculum revolves around fun-learning. When you are teaching a child about peace, happiness or integrity, the traditional form of learning can’t be used. The child needs to build an understanding of such values through stories, case studies and activities. That’s why the Happiness Curriculum is not a theory-based form of learning. There are no books for the course, no examination. There are only handbooks for teachers. The onus is upon the teachers to make the class educative and interactive at the same time.
What, according to you, are some of the things that the Indian education system lacks today?
While schools in India are focusing a lot of nurturing a student’s IQ, the basic thing that our education system lacks is value-based education, where children can comprehend what our culture and traditions are all about. And that is what these kinds of curriculum are now going to focus on.
The other thing that children should be taught is to accept failure. They need to be told that it’s okay to fail. I have seen children crying because they couldn’t secure that one extra mark in their examination. The ability to fall down and stand up again isn’t something that students in India are being taught.