Article: Fostering future leaders: Integrating happiness into education

Leadership Solutions

Fostering future leaders: Integrating happiness into education

Integrating happiness and well-being into education through initiatives like the Happiness Curriculum and UNICEF's Life Skills Framework is essential for fostering holistic development and resilience among students.
Fostering future leaders: Integrating happiness into education

In India, the rate of anxiety and despair among students is especially high with thousands of students dying by suicide every year. What it takes to achieve success in today's rapidly changing AI world is very different from what it used to be. The education system needs to prepare students to deal with the pressures and stress of an unprecedented world. Efforts must be made to ensure their happiness and wellbeing.

Also read: Indian workforce tops global happiness ranking

Policymakers have set the stage

Back in 2016, UNESCO released a Happy Schools Framework that called for education systems across the world to shift away from the traditional measures to recognise values, strengths and competencies that can enhance the happiness of children.

Over the last few years, policymakers in India have acknowledged the importance of the emotional, social, and psychological wellbeing and happiness of students and not only on academic achievement. 

The National Education Policy 2020 states that education aims to build character and well-rounded individuals equipped with the key 21st-century skills. It has identified the skills and values to be incorporated at each stage of learning, from preschool to higher education. It reinforced that the goal of education is to enable personal accomplishment and enlightenment. And that students should be prepared for more meaningful and satisfying lives and work roles. 

Taking this sentiment forward, the AICTE handbook released in early 2024, emphasises social and emotional learning as a crucial component of education and has made it a mandatory portion of the model curriculum. 

Furthermore, the UNICEF India Comprehensive Life Skills Framework highlights the significance of fostering learning, self-awareness, and interpersonal skills during the formative years and adolescence. This framework serves as a valuable resource for policymakers and educators, offering guidance on crafting policies and integrating life skills programs into schools and communities.

Delhi Government has institutionalised the happiness curriculum

In 2018, the Delhi Government introduced the 'Happiness Curriculum' in schools, which aims to provide students with life skills and values necessary for holistic development.

The Happiness Curriculum includes exercises on self-awareness and mindfulness, critical thinking, communication skills, empathy, value-based storytelling, and other activities to enhance social-emotional skills. Developing the skills associated with happiness will not only improve their learning but also their life outcomes. The success of the Happiness Curriculum in Delhi schools is inspiring other states to implement similar programs. 

The science of happiness, life satisfaction and genetics

Happiness is not only behavioural but deeply rooted in psychology and neuroscience. Psychologists term happiness as subjective wellbeing. It is a measure of relative life satisfaction. 

A new car or gadget, salary increment, vacation can all lead to temporary euphoria in life. But whether we can consistently feel happy depends on our level of life satisfaction.

Research suggests wellbeing and life satisfaction — closely connected to happiness — are between 30 and 40% heritable. Scientists have identified the ‘5-HTTLPR’ gene – nicknamed the happiness gene. Various studies have concluded that it does play a big part in how conditions like depression function within the brain. It has been found to directly impact serotonin production, the neurotransmitter that impacts feelings of both happiness and depression.

The future of wellbeing revolves around personalised genetic scores, enabling tailored interventions. For instance, individuals with a high genetic predisposition for happiness can find reassurance in knowing they have the potential to leverage their genes. They can focus on fostering optimism or modifying their environment rather than relying solely on therapy or medication. 

While some people may have a predisposition towards happiness, everyone can increase their wellbeing through various practices and habits. Strategies such as gratitude exercises, mindfulness techniques, and positive self-talk can empower students to cultivate happiness and resilience in their lives.

Parents need to pay more attention to wellbeing than academic performance

According to a 2022 NCERT survey, 81% of students experience anxiety related to studies, exams, and results, with 49% dissatisfied with their personal lives. Parents must prioritise their child's happiness and well-being alongside academic success, fostering a nurturing environment and understanding their genetics where possible. Unfortunately, many parents overlook identifying their children's unique personality and preferences and neglect building essential life skills.

 Recognising and nurturing children's individuality can boost self-esteem and confidence, leading to future happiness and success. While academic pressure is inevitable, parents should seek expert guidance and counselling to help children cope with stress, promoting open communication, self-expression, and personal growth. By creating a supportive environment, parents can cultivate resilience, emotional intelligence, and a positive mindset, preparing their children to become future leaders.

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Topics: Leadership Solutions, Executive Education, #DayInFocus

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