In Denmark Schools, Students 6 to 16 Are Taught Empathy Courses

For the past seven years, according to the United Nation’s World Happiness Report, Denmark is ranked continuously in the top three happiest countries in the world.

Would you like to know their secret?

Back in 1993, the Denmark education system began mandatory classes teaching empathy to their students.

For one hour a week, during “Klassens tid,” students from six to 16 are taught special empathy lessons. Educators believe that learning to have and practice empathy well help them build better relationships, prevent bullying, and be more successful at work.

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During this hour, students take the time to talk out their problems.

These could be personal problems or problems with anything else related to school. The rest of the class, along with the instructor, will then have a discussion on way s to solve the problem. The teacher aides in helping the students by teaching them the important skill of listening to and understanding others.

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“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, along with Jessica Alexander, a cultural researcher, and American author.

In this book, they talk about the real reason and the secret behind the Danes’ happiness as a country.

The answer? It all boils down to upbringing. Danish parents raise happy children who grow up to become happy adults, who then go on to raise happy children as the cycle repeats.

During Klassens tid, a student has the opportunity to be heard, and to receive encouragement from his or her peers through listening. In the process, they also learn the importance of mutual respect.

“The children are not afraid to speak up, because they feel part of a community, they are not alone,” according to journalist, Carlotta Balena.

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According to Sandahl and Alexander’s study, there are two techniques the Danes use to teach empathy.

First, they use teamwork. 60 percent of the tasks done at school already implement this. Instead of focusing on competing with their peers, the Danish curriculum focus students to instead help improve the skills and talents of their fellow students who may be less gifted in certain areas.

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In Danish schools, they don’t hand out trophies or prizes. Instead, they focus on building “the culture of motivation to improve, measured exclusively in relation to themselves.”

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The second method is through collaborative learning.

This is what the authors referred to when they said that upbringing is the key to happiness. When they speak of upbringing, they are talking about a humane and cohesive society, with systems in place to make sure everyone is taken care of.

“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.

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Through the process of collaborative learning, children learn more about the subject they are talking about, plus they learn the skill of communicating with others effectively.

“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.

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Watch the video below to learn more about how the Danes use empathy in their school system to help raise happier children who grow up to become happy adults.

What are your thoughts on their system? Would it work in America? Let us know in the comments section, and please be sure to share this story with your friends and family.