Indeed, for the last 7 years, according to the UN’s World Happiness Report, Denmark has keeping score as one of the top three happiest countries in the world. Since 1993, the country’s education system has included empathy classes for students aged 6 to 16.
Could this be the reason behind their high levels of happiness?
Every week for one hour during the Klassens tid, these students are taught lessons of empathy. They believe that the practicing empathy will make them better in building quality relationships, reducing bullying rates, and being better workers.
What Happens During an Empathy Class?
In this one hour of empathy lessons, the students are encouraged to discuss personal issues or other issues concerning the school.
The remaining of the class and the teacher will then join in on the discussion and brainstorm potential solutions. The teacher also helps the students by improving their listening and understanding skills.
Iben Sandahl, Danish psychotherapist, educator, and co-author of The Danish Way of Parenting points out that by working together, the whole class is trying to show respect and see the situation from all angles and come up with a potential solution.
She further adds that the children’s problems are acknowledged and heard; and, when we’re recognized, we become someone.
In the co-authored book, they talk about the real reason behind the high happiness rates of the Danes. The first major contributor is their upbringing- Danish parents grow happy children who transform into happy adults that can further raise happy children.
During the class of empathy, the student is given the chance to be heard, to be encouraged by others who will listen to them. This also teaches them about mutual respect. The children don’t fear speaking up as they already feel a part of a community- they’re not alone.
How Are Danes so Successful at Teaching Empathy?
According to a study, Danes are good at teaching empathy with the help of teamwork, which is already a staple in 60 percent of their school tasks.
Rather than encouraging the children to be the best in their class, the curriculum there is focused on helping young students build and better their skills and talents, including students who don’t possess the same gifts.
Moreover, Danish schools don’t give students prizes or trophies, but rather steer them into becoming a better version of themselves. The second contributor to their high levels of happiness is believed to be collaborative learning- their system is giving support to everyone.
Namely, they believe that if a child’s talented for mathematics or languages, but doesn’t work together with their peers won’t improve much. This is because, they will probably need help in some other subject that they may not thrive as much as they do in some others.
Collaborative learning is teaching Danish children from early on that we can’t go through life on our own.
It also helps them realize how to learn more about the particular subject, but also how to properly communicate between themselves.
They strengthen their empathy by being cautious about how the other side receives the information and by trying to put themselves in the other peer’s shoes.