So first of all let us define what is the objective of education. Some chase God and others chase wealth and lot many chase things which even they do not know. Let me define what I think everybody tries to chase or at least should try to chase. I define that as happiness. All of us chase it in various ways but then the problem is that once we reach a goal which makes us happy, we get greedy and want to have more of it and new goals appear on the horizon. But then lot of psychologists define happiness or sadness as aberrations from the situation you get used to and human beings have been a mostly adaptive species which cuts us both ways. We have the capability to be happy or sad in any situation based on our attitudes and thoughts. Another aspect of happiness is it’s sustainability and it’s existence without causing unhappiness to others. So here I arrive at my primary hypothesis, the goal of integrated education has to be to create individuals who are capable of keeping themselves happy most of the time without making others unhappy. I am sure lot of people might have a different opinion but let us proceed with this hypothesis.
And now comes the main question. How can we teach kids to be happy? Aren’t kids already happy?
Mark Twain once famously said - Never let formal education get in the way of your learning.
But what if we could plan our education in a way that learning is also encouraged. Our education system does cover lot of academic information and also teaches a lot of ways to earn a living. BTW it is important to for education to cover how to earn a living. Empty stomachs do not cause much happiness.
So the first thing is to teach how to apply brain in ambiguous scenarios. Life unfortunately or may be fortunately does not unfold in predictable manner. You can not prepare kids for all possible scenarios. You need to provide a thought framework which enables them to handle ambiguity. Unfortunately classrooms are not always the best places to learn. I remember a prof in IITK who used to ask students to observe things in campus and suggest better solution. You need to throw ambiguity to kids at an early stage. The framework develops not by finding a solution but also by thinking through what possible solutions can be.
Citizenship/Social Responsibility/Community Living has to be a taught subject. I was talking to a friend recently who is Income Tax commissioner and he was talking about why paying taxes has to be taught to kids. Let us accept it. Our mind becomes more rigid as we grow old. We need to learn few things early. Kids need to understand rights and responsibilities as early as possible.
Values over habits has been my favorite subject. Let us face it. The influences are many and you as a mentor, parent or teacher have a limited time to influence kids. You are competing with SRK, Sachin and Katrina Kaif here. Don’t waste your time on habits which most of us do. Figure out the values you want the kids to pick up. There is no universal framework on what the right value system is but focus on values over habits. A girl/boy friend will ensure that your kid learns to take bath and brush teeth daily but knowing that telling truth is important is not something you can learn all of a sudden at a later age.
Another important thing is to make kids understand how we can coexist with others. And it is not just about people, it is also about environment and other life forms. There have to be enough tasks which involve team work and dependency on others. Being socially aware is key to understanding the dynamics of relationships and I am sure that all of us will agree that good relationships are one of the biggest source of happiness for most of us.
As they say that Philosophy is the mother of all sciences. I think it has to be taught at a early stage. It enables an individual to raise fundamental questions about our belief systems and think through in a more elaborate manner. This again forms a great foundation for kids to develop an approach which enables them to experience things beyond senses.
Health and Nutrition are also things which often get neglected in our education system. It does not matter much when you are young but it matters a lot at a later stage. It is not possible for us to become health conscious all of a sudden. If these concepts are explained at an early age, kids will find it easier to adopt healthy lifestyles.
BTW do you think did I digress from the main topic of happiness? Actually no. Few popular ways of achieving happiness are
- Achieving something – A good value system ensures you choose the right thing to achieve and ability to handle ambiguity builds you the right skills to achieve it
- Relationship – understanding dependencies from an early age always helps you handle things better here.
- Handle Adversity – I feel a philosophical orientation always helps in analyzing adversities in a better way. It enables you to look at things in a disconnected way and new solutions emerge when you do that.
- Good communities – Responsible citizens create better communities and good communities create happier people.
- Good Health is an essential aspect of happiness. Teaching it early helps.