What’s a ‘Happiness Class’? Enter a Delhi Govt School to Find Out
(FIT is republishing this story to mark the International Day of Happiness which is celebrated on 20th March every year.)
Delhi’s Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) government inaugurated its ‘Happiness curriculum’ on 2 July 2018 in the presence of spiritual leader Dalai Lama, Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal and Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia. After a three-day orientation of the teachers, the classes started on 15 July. As part of it, the students of Delhi government schools will have a 45-minute 'happiness period' which will include meditation, storytelling, question and answer sessions, value education and mental exercises.
The activity-based curriculum will not have any formal examinations. However, a periodic assessment of children's progress will be made using a happiness index.
But what really goes on in these classes? I decided to attend one to find out.
The class involved a short mindfulness exercise in which students are made to close their eyes and simply pay attention to the sounds around them. Once the children opened their eyes, they were told a story with a moral message at the end.
Atishi Marlena, former Education Advisor, says that they wanted to introduce a system about well-being without using religion and therefore they decided on happiness as their main focus.
To be honest, the idea of visiting a government school had left me with images of poor infrastructure, rickety furniture and a tumbled-down building. I was pleasantly surprised to find the school not only running effortlessly on its feet, but also the mindfulness classes progressing smoothly.
But Why Happiness Classes?
One in every 4 Indian children aged 13 to 15 struggles with depression according to a 2017 report by the World Health Organization. On the 2018 World Happiness Report, India ranked at a very poor 133 among 156 nations, according to Sustainable Development Solutions Network data. We are bringing up our children in a world ridden with anxiety. India has one of the highest rate of teen suicides in the world (Lancet report, 2012).
In such a scenario, it’s important to provide opportunities for socio-emotional growth of children, says Atishi.
While the ‘Happiness curriculum’ definitely seems to be a well-intentioned proposition, holding great potential, it’s too soon to conclude how impactful and successful its implementation would be.
Editor: Prashant Chauhan
Camera: Athar Rather
Assisted by: Sumit Badola