According to the 2018 UN’s World Happiness Report, Denmark is one of the top three happiest countries in the world for seven years in a row. So, what factors contribute to the happiness of one nation? A lot of things, one of them being teaching empathy – a compulsory subject of study taught in Danish schools.
These days, we seem to lack empathy more than ever before. It’s the ability to recognize and understand people’s feelings. But, Denmark has taken care of that ever since 1993. They introduced the empathy lesson “Klassens Tid” for students at the ages between 6 and 16, which has become a fundamental part of the country’s curriculum.
Each week, students attend an hour-long empathy lesson where they discuss their problems with the teacher and the whole class. Together, they try to find a reasonable solution to the problem, whether related to school or not, based on listening and understanding.
When they have no problems to discuss, they relax and try to create a mutual, welcoming, and intimate atmosphere.
You can find out more about this type of education in “The Danish Way of Parenting: What The Happiest People in the World Know About raising Confident, Capable Kids” – a book by Jessica Alexander.
That’s how Danish children learn to compete only with themselves and not others. That’s why there’s no such thing as giving trophies in schools in Denmark. In that way, when students do well in any area, such as sports, they don’t do it to prove they are better than others. Instead of competing with their peers, they do well because they want to. This may be hard to understand for someone living in the US, but if you think about it, it’s something that can work really well.
We need to help kids learn and practice empathy more than ever before. It’s something that will make them feel more secure and teach them tolerance and accepting others. This is one way to reduce the risk of bullying. If we teach them how to develop empathy in the right way, they can benefit themselves and those around them throughout their entire lives reports Good Start.
According to The Salon, the teacher starts a discussion about whatever problem they have observed, alongside the issues brought up by the students.
A high school student in Strøer, Denmark, says:
I remember when we were 10 or 11, we often talked about girl cliques. That was a common topic, and we would discuss it and try to solve it together. Sometimes that just meant the girls being more aware and trying to interact more with others, but it always helped us to talk about it together.
A teacher in the Danish middle school Tingkærskolen in Odense named Jasper Vang says:
The important thing is that everyone is heard. Our job as the teacher is to make sure that the children understand how the other feels, and see why the other feels as they do. This way, we come up with a solution together based on real listening and real understanding.
Even though we can’t know the topics of discussion each week, it’s more than obvious that the one-hour long ‘Class time’ is helping students understand empathy or other people’s feelings. That’s how Danish schools promote social connectedness instead of division.
Can this concept benefit the children in the US and help them become happy adults? Tell us what you think as we sure believe it’s something the US education system should consider the sooner, the better.