In Denmark, Empathy Is Taught As A School Subject That Kids Must Learn From A Very Young Age

When a baby is born, their mind is a clean slate. How they are exposed to the world decides what gets written on it, which subsequently decides what type of person they will become. This does mean that at an impressionable age, the child should be taught things that will shape them into a person who will grow up to contribute to society.

They will learn to pick up kindness, empathy, generosity, honesty instead of other detrimental qualities. When a whole generation of children grows up with good attributes, the world will definitely be a better place to live in.

In Denmark, they place a lot of importance on cultivating empathy in their children. Believe it or not, people do not actually care about others’ well-being. It is something we are socialized into and something that is necessary for us to survive. While math and science are important in life, Denmark knows that empathy is much more important a life lesson that will take people further than numbers and formulas ever will.

This is why Danish schools decided to introduce mandatory empathy classes in 1993. In these classes, children aged 6-16 are taught how to be kind, according to My Modern Met.

The children during the empathy classes or “Klassens tid” are asked to share any problems or issues they are going through. The entire class pitches in to help find a solution. Kids grow up to become confident, emotionally intelligent adults, who will know not to judge people for their struggles. This also means that they are more likely to raise happier kids themselves.

Denmark has consistently been at the top of the UN’s World Happiness Report. In the latest report, Denmark stood in second place followed by Finland. Denmark has been at the top in 2012, 2013, and 2016. Perhaps the empathy classes have a lot to contribute in this aspect.

The Danish Way stated, “Empathy helps build relationships, prevent bullying and succeed at work. It promotes the growth of leaders, entrepreneurs, and managers. ‘Empathic teenagers’ tend to be more successful because they are more oriented towards the goals compared to their more narcissistic peers.” Empathy is also taught through teamwork where those excelling and those lacking are made to work together.

This not only helps with understanding the positive qualities of each other but also lift each other up to complete a task without being pulled down by competition with each other. Another popular program is called the CAT-kit. In this program, the aim is to improve emotional awareness and empathy by focusing on how to articulate experiences, thoughts, feelings, and senses, reported The Atlantic.

There are picture cards of faces, measuring sticks to gauge the intensity of emotions, and pictures of the body, included in the CAT-kit so kids can understand the emotions being exhibited while also learning to conceptualize their own and others’ feelings. In the classroom setting, along with the facilitator, the children are taught not to be judgemental but acknowledge and respect these sentiments.

“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,” says Jessica Alexander, author of the book The Danish Way of Parenting: What the Happiest People in the World Know About Raising Confident, Capable Kids. She adds,

“Many studies show that when you explain something to someone – like a math problem for example – you not only learn the subject much better than you would do by memorizing it yourself, but you also build our 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.”

Source: In Denmark, Empathy Is Taught As A School Subject That Kids Must Learn From A Very Young Age

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Anxiety levels are rising among primary and secondary school children across the globe. For parents and educators, this is a worrying trend. What are we doing wrong and what could we be doing to fix it? Could Denmark’s teaching practices hold the key to happiness in the classroom. By Mariana Rudan. #denmark #education #teachingempathy #danisheducation #marianarudan
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