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Health

Dalai Lama Launches New 'Happiness Curriculum' for Delhi Schools


Why Global Citizens Should Care
The UN Global Goal for health addresses the importance of promoting mental well-being, as extreme poverty is both a cause and an effect of mental health problems. By addressing the issue in childhood, India is helping children make the most of their potential. You can join us by taking action on health here

The Dalai Lama has launched a new “happiness curriculum” for over 800,000 children in Delhi, India’s capital city. 

As part of the new programme, students will have a weekly “happiness period” of 45 minutes, with each class beginning with a five-minute meditation session. 

The aim of the whole scheme is to put the emphasis on children’s mental wellbeing, in the hope it can spark a change that will “one day spread across the country and the world as well," according to education minister Manish Sisodia.

Take action: Stand With Demi Lovato and Ask World Leaders to Prioritise Mental Health in Emergency Settings

“India is the only country that can bring together modern education and ancient Indian knowledge,” said the Dalai Lama, the Tibetan Buddhist leader and a Nobel Peace Prize winner.

“This is needed to deal with destructive emotions in the world,” he said. “So what is being started in Delhi schools can have an impact on the whole world.” 

The curriculum, which also includes moral value education and mental exercises, will be rolled out at over a thousand state-run schools in Delhi. 

Over 40 teachers, educators, and volunteers designed and prepared the curriculum over a six-month period, and it will be taught to all students from nursery up to class eight, according to reports. 

Read more: 80% of People Who Died Sleeping Rough in London Had Mental Health Needs

“While many people consider sensory experience as the main source of happiness, really it is peace of mind,” said the Dalai Lama on Twitter. 

“What destroys peace of mind is anger, hatred, anxiety, and fear,” he continued. “Kindness counters this — and through appropriate education we can learn to tackle such emotions.” 

For chief minister Arvind Kejriwal, the curriculum is a “solid step towards creating good human beings.” 

“Children’s mental wellbeing is so vitally important,” wrote deputy chief minister and education minister, Manish Sisodia on Twitter. “Happier children learn more, cope better, and are much more likely to make the most of their potential.” 

Read more: Mumbai Just Became the Largest City in India to Ban Single-Use Plastics

“It is our belief that the modern day problems like terrorism, corruption, and pollution can be solved through schools and a human-centric education,” he added.

The UN’s Global Goal for health includes action to promote mental health and wellbeing, and it’s an important issue bearing in mind the complex relationship between mental illness and poverty. While mental illness can affect anyone, anywhere, poverty increases the risk of mental health problems — and mental health problems can also drive people into poverty. 

According to the World Health Organisation, common mental disorders are about twice as frequent among the poor as they are among the rich.

Another report, published by the Association for Psychological Science, exploring the connection between mental health and poverty in the United States, found that participants who spent more time in poverty in early childhood showed signs of worse mental health in adulthood.

Read more: India Is the Most Dangerous Country for Women, Poll Says

With India being home to over 30% of the almost 385 million children living in extreme poverty globally, according to a 2016 report by World Bank Group and Unicef, tackling the mental health challenges that come as a result of poverty is a vital step. 

But there is a growing call for wellbeing to be introduced into classrooms around the world, too. 

In the UK, for example, statistics reportedly show that one in 10 children — about three children in every classroom — have a diagnosable mental health problem. Meanwhile, some 75% of mental health problems in adults have their roots in childhood. 

Researchers at the London School of Economics, exploring the causes of unhappiness, found that the strongest factor in predicting a happy adult life isn’t the qualifications they get as a child, but their emotional health. 

Read more: 10 Best Countries for Education Around the World

The researchers criticised “exam-mania” — the growing pressure on children to gain more and higher qualifications — and went on to suggest that politicians invest in a four-year curriculum called Healthy Minds, which would include one lesson a week on wellbeing. 

Sound familiar? 

And, as always if you’re looking for education system inspiration, you can’t go far wrong with Finland — widely held as being a world leader. One of the many factors that reportedly make Finland’s education system so superior is the emphasis that’s put on the child’s wellbeing — through providing ample time to play, minimal hours in the classroom, and no homework.