For the past seven years, in the United Nation’s World Happiness Report, Denmark has consistently stayed in the list of top three happiest countries in the world.
Do you want to know their secret?
The Denmark education system has included mandatory classes teaching empathy to their students since 1993.
One hour each week, during “Klassens tid,” students aged six to 16 years old are taught empathy lessons. They believe learning to have and practice empathy will help them build relationships, prevent bullying and succeed at work.
During this hour, students talk about their problems.
They could be personal problems or problems with anything regarding the school. The rest of the class, along with the teacher, will then discuss ways on how to solve the problem. The teacher helps the students by teaching them real listening and understanding.
“Together, the class tries to respect all aspects and angles and together find a solution,” Iben Sandahl said. “Kids’ issues are acknowledged and heard as a part of a bigger community. [And] when you are recognized, you become someone.”
Iben Sandahl is a Danish psychotherapist, educator, and co-author of The Danish Way of Parenting, along with Jessica Alexander, an American author, and cultural researcher.
In this book, they discuss the real reason and the secret behind the happiness of the Danes.
The answer? It’s all to do with their upbringing. Danish parents raise happy children who grow up to be happy adults who raise happy children and the cycle repeats itself.
During Klassens tid, this is the student’s opportunity to be heard, to receive encouragement from others through listening. In the process, they also learn the importance of mutual respect.
“The children are not afraid to speak up, because they feel part of a community, they are not alone,” according to journalist, Carlotta Balena.
According to Sandahl’s and Alexander’s study, there are two ways the Danes teach empathy.
First, they teach through teamwork. 60% of the tasks done at school already do this. Instead of focusing on being the best among their peers, Danish curriculum focuses instead on building and improving the skills and talents, among others, of other students who are not equally gifted.
In Danish schools, there are no trophies or prizes. Instead, they focus on “the culture of motivation to improve, measured exclusively in relation to themselves.”
The second way is through collaborative learning.
This is what the authors meant when they that upbringing is the secret to happiness. When they talk about upbringing, they refer to a humane and cohesive society, with systems in place to support everyone.
“A child who is naturally talented in mathematics, without learning to collaborate with their peers, will not go much further. They will need help in other subjects. It is a great lesson to teach children from an early age since no one can go through life alone,” Jessica Alexander said.
With collaborative learning, the children learn more about the subject they are talking about, plus they also learn new ways to communicate with others.
“You build empathy skills, which are further strengthened by having to be careful about the way the other person receives the information and having to put oneself in their shoes to understand how learning works,” Jessica Alexander further explained.
Watch the video below to learn more about how the Danish school system uses empathy to raise happy children who will become happy adults.
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