What Makes Us Happy: From Bhutan to Your School

BhutanA few years ago I first learned about the small country of Bhutan’s unique contribution to the process of measuring progress—Gross National Happiness (GNH). Gross National Happiness suggests that there are things that make a country great, beyond the amount of money it generates.

Gross National Happiness, as defined by Bhutan’s survey, includes nine dimensions, ranging from psychological well being to health, education, and ecological diversity.

Though the concept has been around for decades, it continues to be discussed—what is it that makes people in a country happy? And should countries be striving for it?

What powerful questions for students to tackle! If students were to design their own Gross National Happiness Index for countries, what would it include? It might be interesting to generate dimensions for measuring GNH before studying Bhutan’s version. There is a Gross National Happiness U.S.A website, though it doesn’t seem to have been updated lately. What would your students add there?

happykidsOr think about applying the concept closer to home. What would make a school a happy place? Imagine you wanted to measure the happiness level of a school, what dimensions would you include in your School Happiness Index? What kind of school would score well on that measure? (It might be important to clarify that the school’s main function needs to continue to be education, but it could be education very different from that in traditional schools.)

Perhaps most importantly, are there dimensions on your scale that could be improved in your school to make it a happier place? As, for many of us, the school year winds down, there may be few questions more important. We’d love to hear what YOUR students have to say!

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