By Aadil F. | Manager – Communications, Branding & Volunteer Development, AFS Intercultural Programs India

“Modern education was only inculcating materialistic values which was not sufficient,” said His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama during the launch of Delhi government’s Happiness Curriculum. 

Happiness Curriculum consists of various activities such as meditation, joyful exercises, value education, skits, indoor games, storytelling, and much more for students from nursery to grade 8th.  Through the 45-minute happiness period, the aim is make a ‘good human being’ over a period of time ‘who could serve the society with happiness’. The program is more activity-based with no exams, but it comes with a periodic assessment of children’s progress via the ‘Happiness Index’ 

Our education system, structured since ages, solely focuses on teaching in mere black and white, pushing children to get better grades and thus, head towards a future with better jobs. In the 21st century, we face an urgent need of change in curriculum in our education system. We must question the primary purpose of education; whether it is to settle with better paying jobs or in terms of Martin Luther King Jr, helping one to think intensively and critically, with focus on not just intelligence, but also building character. 

Andreas Schleicher, Director for Education and Skills, and Special Advisor on Education Policy to the Secretary-General at the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) said, “In the past, education was about teaching people something. Now, it’s about helping students develop a reliable compass and the navigation skills to find their own way through an increasingly uncertain, volatile and ambiguous world.” 

UNESCO MGIEP, partner for the AFS Global Conference 2018, in Budapest this month, talks about a recent neuroscience research that shows that students need to be aware and emotionally connected before they can learn much of anything. That’s how social and emotional learning enhances all learning. In today’s world, we need to teach children to be a good human being first who is tolerant, compassionate, empathetic and more. We need to prepare them for the unforeseen future. The 21st century reminds us to have a new outlook towards social reconstruction and cultural reproduction. We want to build our society in a way that can help us build a better tomorrow over a period of time, not with someone who just has plenty of knowledge of all the academic world, but also have the values of respect, tolerance, communication etc. We also need to push children to go beyond their comfort zone and explore the world that exists all around us. We also have to remind ourselves that how we owe to the future generation to transmit our cultural values from one generation to another, and whether, these cultural values are also teaching others the philosophy of peaceful co-existence, tolerance, diversity and more, and most importantly, learning how to live together peacefully. 

But how do we do that? – We need to keep improving, building on our past strategies and ideas to build a better curriculum for a better tomorrow, and that requires, regular reflection, research, capacity building for educators, keeping up with the new improved pedagogies, and ready to implement unique ideas to keep up with the change. Children should be involved in other activities, programs, trainings and workshops to go beyond classroom learning. This is where AFS plays a significant role in creating curriculums to reinforce 21st-century educational goals. AFS works closely with educators, volunteers, alumni, and other stakeholders around the world to create improvised strategies to build a better tomorrow. AFS prepares young people to become global citizens. With its curriculum-based program, it empowers students, host families, and volunteers to gain essential knowledge and practical skills needed to live in a diverse and multicultural world. It helps the world learn how to live together by building the global competencies via their own curriculum which is highly valued by educators, employers, humanitarians, and communities. AFS not only helps you gain perspective and knowledge of the world but pushes you to be a better human being. Over the last decade, AFS India has worked closely with over 1000 Indian Students who have gone abroad, more than 500 hosted students from all over the world and 1000 plus volunteers pan-India, and they feel that AFS’s goal-based curriculums have pushed them to become an active responsible global citizen. 

It’s time that we recognize the importance of keeping up with changing times and the need for adapting to the curriculum to reinforce 21st century educational needs. If you’re an educator or a policy-maker, I encourage you to reinforce values in your students that can help them become a good human being by building their social and emotional intelligence. Guide them to be the change-makers the world needs today.