Denmark has consistently stayed in the top three of the happiest countries on Earth for the past seven years, according to the United Nation’s World Happiness Report.
Curious to find out why?
Since 1993, Denmark’s educational system has included mandatory empathy classes for their students.
Every week, students aged six to 16 are following empathy classes during “Klassens tid”. The idea behind these classes is to teach kids to practice empathy, how to build relationships, how to succeed at work and how to prevent bullying.
Students can talk about their struggles and issues during this hour
The problems the kids talk about can vary between personal problems or anything regarding to school. Along with the teacher, the other kids will discuss the problem and figure out a way to possibly solve it. They are taught how to really listen and understand one another.
“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 together with Jessica Alexander who is an American author, and cultural researcher.
The book they wrote together discusses the real reason behind the happiness of the Danish people.
According to the book, the answer lies in the Danish upbringing. Happy children are raised by Danish parents who, in their turn, raise happy children and the cycle repeats itself and so on.
Klassens tid is the ultimate opportunity for the students to be heard and for them to receive support and encouragement from their peers. Mutual respect is one of the bonuses to these classes.
“The children are not afraid to speak up, because they feel part of a community, they are not alone,” according to journalist, Carlotta Balena.
There are two ways the Danes teach empathy, according to Sandahl’s and Alexander’s study.
60% of the classes revolve around teamwork, which is an important part of the program. They try to teach children to not merely focus on being the best among their peers but to focus instead on improving the skills and talents of other students who are not gifted equally.
You won’t find any prizes of trophies at a Danish school as they try instead to focus on “the culture of motivation to improve, measured exclusively in relation to themselves.”
The second way of teaching empathy is through collaborative learning.
This is where the upbringing comes in, which is key to happiness according to the authors. With upbringing they mean a cohesive society that supports 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.
The students learn more about the subject they’re talking about as well as learning new ways to communicate, at the collaborative learning course.
“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.
If you want to learn more about the Danish school system and their beliefs to raise happy children while using empathy, watch the video above.