Empathy? In Denmark they’re learning it in school

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It wouldn’t be wrong to say that Danish is actually a happy bunch of people. The proof of this statement could be found in the fact that Denmark consistently ranks among the top three countries of the world in the World Happiness Report of the United Nations since the last seven years. The secret behind such a happy society mat lies in the education curriculum of Denmark which inducted mandatory empathy classes in 1993.

Most people fail to realize that empathy is a learned skill. Teaching students empathy from a very young age not only make children more socially and emotionally competent. In addition, it also reduces stress and ultimately helps them become more successful citizens of tomorrow.

Empathy classes in Denmark start at the age of six when a child is in the first year of school and continues until the age of 16. One hour every week is called the ‘Klassens tid’ or ‘The Class’s Hour’ is dedicated to this purpose. During this hour, students come together in a more relaxed setting and discuss the problems which they are facing while the whole class tries to come up with a solution to the problem.

The problem in the discussion could be anything ranging from personal problems to problems between individuals to problems within class groups to even problems with parents and teachers or maybe even unrelated to school. The class and teacher discuss the problem and try to come up with a potential solution. This way the teacher makes the students understand that it is very important to listen to others. On days, when no problems are there to discuss, the whole class comes together and just chill.

Internationally-renowned public speaker and best-selling author Iben Sandahl explain this class: “Together, the class tries to respect all aspects and angles and together find a solution. Kids’ issues are acknowledged and heard as a part of a bigger community. [And] when you are recognised, you become someone.”

It is embedded in their upbringing. Danish parents want to raise their children in such a way that they grow up as a happy individual. And this cycle goes on.

Klassens tid, in a way, is the student’s opportunity to speak and to be heard. They receive appreciation, encouragement and inspiration from others while listening and at the same time they learn the importance of mutual respect.

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