On 26 May this year, the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) declared Class XII board examination result. The next day, a number of regional and national dailies reported suicides by Class XII students in various states, including Bihar, Rajasthan, West Bengal and Uttarakhand. The reason for this was said to be securing poor marks or failure in the exams.
On 30 May, the media again reported students' suicides from different states. In Delhi alone, three students, upset over poor results, committed suicide.
In fact, the incidence of suicide among Indian students is reaching alarming proportions. Between 2014 and 2016, more than 26,000 students took their own lives, of which around 30 percent were due to exam failure. According to a reply in Lok Sabha, 9,474 students in India committed suicide in 2016, of which 2,413 were attributed to "failure in examinations".
This phenomenon is not specific to India. Worldwide, students face a lot of issues on a daily basis, be it exam pressure, peer pressure, depression, or other psychological and economic factors. In the race for marks and grades, children's education has reduced to mere numbers. The students are subjected to undue pressure to succeed, and when they are unable to do so, suicide becomes a way out.
The question is how happy are the children within the school or the education system? In an effort to measure students' happiness in school and the outcomes of their learning, the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) included indicators of students' happiness in its 2012 assessment.
The result shows that while four out of five students in OECD countries agree that they feel happy at school, there are countries like Republic of Korea, which despite being one of the highest performing countries in PISA, reported being the unhappiest among all participating nations. The 2012 National Livelihood Survey in Japan reported that the main cause of stress among students aged 12-19 was related to academic performance and examinations.
To create a happy environment for education, in recent years, many countries have made happiness either a specific goal of their education and development policies or have included elements relating to happiness in their policy framework. Bhutan is renowned for its Gross National Happiness Index (GNHI) launched in 2010. The index includes indicators that measure various aspects of education and psychological well-being. United Nations General Assembly's 2011 resolution recognised the "pursuit of happiness as a fundamental human goal". The Sustainable Development Goal Four (SDG-4) dedicated to quality education captures aspects of "happy school", which would ensure the creation of a learning environment which is safe, non-violent and promotes a culture of peace.
India, though committed to achieving the SDG agenda, lacks the happiness quotient in its development process. As per the World Happiness Report, 2017, India ranked 122 out of 155 countries evaluated. The report calls for attention as one of the fastest growing economies in the world is slowly turning out to be a sad place to live in. Therefore, at this juncture, what India needs is an environment which keeps people happy. It is also recognised that the school is the place which inculcates an environment where students not only learn academically, but also indulge in their all-round development, and this has a greater impact in learners' lives in the long run. Thus it is non-negotiable to create a happy environment from early childhood in all schools of India.
In this gloomy backdrop, probably one of the most positive developments is the announcement of a 'Happiness Curriculum' in Delhi government schools. On 2 July, the government launched this initiative for all students studying up to Class VIII in Delhi government schools. The motive behind the launch of the 'Happiness Curriculum' is to spread the message that education is not just to push students to getting good marks, but also to create an environment where they are happy, confident and self-aware.
A 'Happiness Committee' of 41 members has designed the curriculum, following the guidelines of the National Curriculum Framework (NCERT, 2005). The curriculum includes various interventions like meditation, joyful exercises, indoor games, storytelling, group discussions, skits, individual and group presentations, activities for rapport building and team-work. The government has set aside a 45-minute "happiness period" every day for children between classes I and VIII, while nursery and kindergarten school children will have this twice a week. This implies that every day, 10 lakh students and 50,000 teachers will "be happy" because of this process.
It's definitely a much-needed reform to bring in a holistic approach to school education with a friendly touch. Hopefully, this initiative towards "learning happiness" will make learning "a source of happiness", and eventually teach our children how to negotiate with apparent failure in life.
The author is with the Centre for Budget and Governance Accountability (CBGA), New Delhi
Updated Date: Jul 17, 2018 09:03 AM