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Apr-June-2019 Classroom

Introducing Happiness Curriculum in Schools: Promoting Mindfulness in Children

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The curriculum has been designed by a team of 40 central government teachers, educators and volunteers over a period of six months.

Children of today are ‘growing up digital’ in the midst of a technological revolution and this applies to every single aspect of their life. However, some forms of technology have proven to be a distraction rather than a boon and it is eating into their study time. It is not uncommon to find students ignoring their lessons in favour of video games, TV series or social networking sites. Even while they are studying, half their attention remains with the characters of their favourite games or shows due to shorter attention spans. Additionally, spending so time on the screen, whether for studies or for entertainment, puts immense stress on them. To this end, the ‘Happiness Curriculum’ launched by the Government of India would definitely prove beneficial by reducing stress and distractions among students.

WHAT IS ‘HAPPINESS CURRICULUM’?

This curriculum includes meditation, value education and mental exercises along with imparting conventional education for pre-primary to grade 8 students. The new subject has been designed and prepared by a team of 40 central government teachers, educators and volunteers over a period of six months. The curriculum is primarily based on the tenets of mindfulness, which is the psychological process of focussing one’s attention on present experiences via meditation and other such therapeutic techniques. It calms the mind and increases awareness of their bodies, thoughts and emotions. Developing these robust strategies for implementing mindfulness in the classrooms is driven by the need to help students relax and keep them engaged in academic activities.

WHY MINDFULNESS IN THE CURRICULUM

As mentioned earlier, students experience high levels of stress due to the pressure of performing well in academics. Moreover, an increasingly competitive environment and the uncertainty of the future aggravates the stress levels and sometimes even leads to suicidal tendencies. The happiness quotient of students affects their productivity at large. Therefore, teaching mindfulness in schools is very important as it helps students cope with stress as well as achieve academic excellence.

Improves attention and cognitive skills

One of the major reasons why students are unable to focus in class is due to low attention span. Even high-achieving students can lose focus every once in a while, making them feel bad about themselves.

Mindfulness meditation can solve this problem because it directly affects the brain, especially the hippocampus region, which is mainly associated with memory. Practising mindfulness can help students concentrate better. Additionally, it stimulates the hippocampus enabling it to be more active, which improves memory and critical learning skills.

Develops better interpersonal skills

The pressure to always be the best in class can affect a student’s social and emotional skills. They then tend to focus solely on themselves and become indifferent to what is happening around them.

Interpersonal skills are very important to survive in the real world. So, the school must make sure that the pressure to perform well in school does not affect their ability to interact socially. Mindfulness training makes the prefrontal cortex, the part of the brain that regulates emotion, more active. As a result, students become more empathetic, sociable and their behaviour also improves.

Helps students cope with stress

It is normal for students to experience stress when faced with a challenging situation. However, the modern education system often forces students to experience extreme levels of stress that can negatively affect their mental health. If unchecked, it can lead to serious issues such as the inability to regulate mood, impaired attention, depression, and even physical problems such as increased blood pressure.

Mindfulness can reduce the intensity of stress, and is very beneficial for health. Consequently, it helps reduce blood pressure and even strengthens the immune system.

School should not only focus on lessons and grades, but also on a student’s all-round development. The education system should pay attention to the student’s well-being too, and the ‘Happiness Curriculum’ is an effective way to achieve this. The techniques help to improve the social and emotional skills of children and enhance academic performance by developing their metacognitive and interactive skills in particular, thus facilitating holistic education.

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Dheeraj Mehrotra

An educational innovator, author and experiential educator, he has authored numerous books on computer science and educational excellence.

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