Happiness Index for schools


India is presently slated to be in the 122 position in the Happiness Index among countries all over the world. It is also seen that many countries that 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 bigger role in transforming this situation. What role do you think schools can play to improve the happiness index of the future citizens?

While it is disheartening to note that we as a country fare badly in happiness index inspite of our rich heritage and culture, we should look forward to working on it based on our learnings from the reports published. Schools should try to understand the key variables in determining the happiness index and come up with policies and programmes that address them.

UNESCO has brought out a manual on Happy Schools framework – Asia Pacific and it throws light on some happiness policies of different countries in this region. Since our students will become citizens of the future or actually are as of now, school development plans should be aligned with the social and emotional well-being of students. They should focus on skill development curriculum transaction in order to make the students more employable.

The learning in class rooms should develop empathy, counting on support and dealing with negative-worry, stress, and anxiety.
Schools should endeavour to orient parents to the concept of ‘freedom of life choices’ as in India parents tend to dominate the decision making for education, career and life partners.

The framework of looking at people, place and process and understanding the key elements of happiness, for it is often argued that happiness can be subjective and personal, would play a pivotal role in promoting a happy school and a happy nation.

Among various parameters used for measuring the Happiness Index, psychological well being of people is considered a prime factor. Schools play a significant role in developing the 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?
Schools are often perceived to be knowledge centres with just the bare minimum time for addressing the psychological, social and emotional needs of the students. Psychological well-being starts with one’s health. Schools should emphasise a robust and dynamic physical education programme. It should not compromise on time that is made available for sports and games, club activities, other programmes that cheer up the school environment.

Moreover, policies that affect the morale of the students who don’t fare well in academics should be revamped. The curricula should be supporting ability based education cultivating five major abilities of students – social, moral, academics , physical and emotional.

Carl Rogers states, ‘If I can listen to what he can tell me, if I can understand how it seems to him, if I can see its personal meaning for him, if I can see the emotional flavour which it has for him, then I will be releasing the potent forces of change in him’. Young children should be valued and respected. Again, to quote him, ‘We don’t tell a rainbow that its orange colour can be slightly different’.

Assessing the use and management of Time is a key concern in assessment of HI.

How can schools help in developing these attitudes that the concept of productivity becomes a second nature to the children?
This is a tough one to answer as time management is one of the most sought after training programme by adults. Jokes apart, since productivity and GDP are closely dependent, we need to enhance these skills in our children while at school. We often find that work and play are not clearly distinguished and many students engage in one at the cost of the other.

Goal setting, scheduling, force field analysis, cause and effect diagrams, self -awareness activities, time logs, delayed gratification response are some practices that can be adopted by schools in order to help students utilise time effectively. Schools should undertake action research on time use and management of their activities during school hours and use the data available for preventive and corrective actions. Teachers should also learn how to optimise time for what we treasure as educational goals and demonstrate the same to students.

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 can these ideas be promoted in the school environment?
Actually the school is a vibrant society in itself with children from different cultural and linguistic backgrounds. The admission policy of the school should be sensitive to the multi- cultural needs of the society.

Schools should have a strong multi-cultural policy and bring in value, respect, tolerance and celebration of all these cultures. Learning about different religions, languages, morning assembly themes, home stay experiences, special day observances are some small steps in this journey of learning co-habitation.

A multi-cultural curriculum in teaching language arts and social sciences could highlight the unity in diversity. Group discussion on seeing different points of view should be a regular feature in the school. The dual purpose of learning should be reiterated in order to draw attention to cultural perspectives and associated values. Education through art, music, dance, drama and craft will easily achieve these goals.

Do you think National Curricula concepts of Happiness should be defined in a more focused manner?

Yes, certainly as it seems to be the need of the hour. A society’s well-being lies in the social and emotional stability of its citizens and schools are constantly creating societies of young minds. We need to first develop positive teacher attitudes and attributes and improve teacher conditions. Education should move from exam based to learner based approach. The curricular framework should give equal importance to physical, social and emotional development curriculum just as there is a well -defined curriculum for core subjects. Large numbers of people have to be trained in these areas so that it does not exist as an exclusive subject in the hands of a few experts.

We see that many countries are acknowledging the happiness index and are making changes at the policy level in education.

Mrs. Uma Srinivasan is the Principal of The Ashok Leyland School since 2005.A trained Post Graduate in English, she has nearly 28 years of experience having donned the role of a teacher, coordinator, trainer and facilitator. She was CBSE CCE Mentor for a few schools in and around Hosur. She is the chairperson of Hosur Sahodaya Schools Complex. She has attended several workshops on pedagogy, quality tools and leadership.

Under her leadership the school has received the following awards:.Green School Award from the Centre for Science and Environment,NABET Accreditation,International School Award from British Council,Blue Rating Sanitation Certificate-CBSE& HRD Ministry, Best School Human Values- GLF Award, Pramerica Spirit of Community Awards and is Microsoft showcase school.