The Road to Happiness
Schools teach us many things- from how to spell, to long division to botany; but is it enough to equip the leaders of tomorrow? What about integral social and emotional skills that children require to navigate society as it is today? How can we reimagine modern-day education? These questions often arise when we interrogate the all-round progress of a student. What about a curriculum that balances academics and holistic development? Say hello to the Happiness Curriculum!
The Happiness Curriculum was a joint effort by the Delhi government's Department of Education, with framework guidance from the Directorate of Education, State Council of Educational Research and Training, Delhi, and partner organizations like Abhibhavak Vidyalaya, Circle of Life, Dream a Dream, Blue Orb Foundation and Labhya Foundation
The curriculum is based on the idea that education should focus not just on academic achievement but also on holistic development, including the development of social, emotional, and ethical skills.
The Happiness Curriculum is based on three key components:
1. Mindfulness, where students go through exercises that develop their ability to focus, concentrate and manage stress. By being aware of their own emotions, students can improve their concentration in studies and improve interpersonal relationships in classrooms and at home.
2. Storytelling: Through inspirational stories from students’ contexts, they learn values like empathy, compassion, and gratitude. These stories are followed by discussions which make students think, reflect and decide for themselves what their reaction could be if something similar happened in their lives. The aim is to help develop the emotional quotient of children through these stories.
3. Activity-based learning comprises various activities such as storytelling, art, music, and games, which are designed to promote creativity and social interaction. Topics such as desires, emotions, trust, and gratitude feature in these activities.
But does being “ happy” fix anything, though? It’s just a feeling- can it shape an individual?
Different schools apply the Happiness Curriculum in different ways. Some schools have integrated the curriculum into their daily schedule, while others have dedicated specific time slots for it. The implementation of the curriculum also varies depending on the age group of the students. For example, younger students may focus more on storytelling and art, while older students may have more structured mindfulness exercises. Regardless of how it’s been presented, the benefits are uniform:
Happiness Classes help learners communicate effectively and express themselves freely and creatively
As Nisha, a grade 6 student at the Bachpan Prasad Sarvodaya Kanya Vidyalaya, Deoli says,
“I always associated studies with fear. This fear was either for not asking the “correct” question or not giving the “correct” answer. This led to a lack of interest in studies which was accompanied by the fear of “failing” in the classroom. The methods used in happiness classes, the teacher’s reassurance that there are no wrong answers and questions came to my rescue. It helped me gain that missing confidence and motivated me to participate in learning without any kind of fear.”
Happiness Classes enable learners to apply life skills to deal with stressful and conflicting situations around them
Mindfulness activities have helped me to monitor my anger. Earlier, if anyone from my family asked me to do something, I would get angry and always speak in a very bad tone with them. But after engaging in mindfulness sessions and discussions in happiness classes, I try to keep my cool, listen first and not react with anger. I have started to help my mother with the household work which I earlier ignored. I feel that most of the time, I was not even conscious of the effort my mother was putting in all day to maintain the house. I give credit to the stories shared by the teacher followed by the discussions during happiness classes which have made me realise the importance of being thankful to others and helping them.”
~Harshit, Class 4 (Student)
Students aren’t the only ones that have plenty to say about this curriculum, teachers are in favour as well! As Ms. Ritu, an English teacher and Happiness Coordinator recounts:
"Before my involvement in the Happiness Curriculum, I saw any additional task given to me as a burden which simply added to my stress and in that process, I could never produce my best work. The Happiness Curriculum has allowed me to take what comes my way, not as an additional task but as a step that I accept and own. Happiness classes differ from the age-old value education classes because it is conducted regularly with students and the biggest difference is its bend towards real-life situations. The curriculum is beautifully designed as each activity involves a section where students can share what they think which is accepted without any judgement. These classes provide a space for students to listen, reflect and express.”
Despite the glowing reviews from teachers and students, there were limitations that I found to the Happiness Curriculum, chief among them being that the curriculum is currently only implemented in Delhi, India. This means that students in other parts of the country or the world may not have access to these resources. Another challenge is the resources required to implement this curriculum - trained teachers, infrastructure, and materials, which may be challenging to provide for some schools or education systems. Finally, a challenge that may always remain is the subjectivity of happiness - given that it’s a feeling, what makes one person happy may not necessarily work for another.
Plenty of people miss their fair share of happiness, not because they never found it, but because they didn’t stop to enjoy it. The Happiness Curriculum can aid us in slowing down learning so that children can focus on themselves, without getting trapped in the sticky bog of academic achievements. More schools need to take up such curricula and let kids know that getting a 100% on that algebra test isn’t what really matters, finding joy and gratitude in each moment is.
Written by Nivrrithi Arvindkumar
Nivrrithi is a seventh-grader from Chennai who strongly believes that words are revolutionary, if exploited to their fullest potential. She is a ballet and tap dancer who firmly believes that it transports one into a world of reverie. She greatly enjoys public-speaking and writing powerful pieces that centers around intense emotion. She hopes to publish a short story and a photography blog which is currently in the making and is a part of her school's Newsletter Team. Her main drive is fascination that keeps her ardent about the generalized idea of learning.