The latest class on the Indian curriculum: Happiness

Students and teachers take part in a mock classroom at the Happiness training session in New Delhi, 12 July.

Story highlights

  • A curriculum aims to impart emotional intelligence through meditation, focus on emotional needs
  • "If I do everything with mindfulness, my knowledge will increase," a student says

(CNN)"Happiness," spell the large letters on the chalkboard in a classroom in the Government Boys' Senior Secondary School in the southwest of India's capital, Delhi.

Fifty-five seventh-grade students attend the new class, which is meant to enhance their mental and emotional well-being.
    Breaking away from more traditional math, science and language classes, the new happiness curriculum aims to impart emotional intelligence through meditation, storytelling and activities in which the focus is on students' emotional and mental needs. These skills are intended to reduce stress and anxiety and manage any depression.
      Their teacher guides them as they close their eyes and listen carefully to sounds around them. They are asked to note the sounds they can hear and then to isolate one. Eventually, they pay attention to the sound of their own breathing.
      Suraj Sharma, 12, is in seventh grade of the boys' school in Ghittorni, one of the over 1,000 schools in Delhi that began teaching this daily 30- to 45-minute lesson on Monday.
      Suraj's first impression is promising. "If I do everything with mindfulness, my knowledge will increase," he learned on day one, he said. Mindfulness includes meditation and breathing exercises that help relax the mind. Being mindful -- or conscious and aware -- he feels, will allow him to pay closer attention to things he's learning at school.
        The program groups children into three age categories: kindergarten to grade two, grades three to five, and six to eight, according to Rajesh Kumar, head of the state committee formed to design the curriculum.
        To avoid further burdening students, the class carries no grade and will have no textbooks, tests or homework.
        Sunil Kumar Joon, a teacher at a New Delhi government school speaks with his students Monday.

        A course in happiness

        The class has long appealed to state education officials, Kumar said. Delhi's education minister, Manish Sisodia, had envisioned this project and announced the launch of the program in February.
        Sisodia highlighted the concerns facing schoolchildren in the city this month. "It will address the ever-growing concern - levels of happiness & wellbeing are decreasing, while stress, anxiety & depression are increasing," he tweeted.
        According to the World Health Organization, one in four Indian children age 13 to 15 struggles with depression.
        Happy kids are more able to learn, as they tend to sleep better and may have healthier immune systems, Sisodia said in a tweet July 1. Happy kids learn faster, think more creatively and tend to be more resilient in the face of failures, with stronger relationships.

        Training others to be happy

        Training sessions were held with an estimated 21,000 teachers, school principals and administrators at a large stadium in Delhi last week, with course leaders and instructors taking turns explaining what "happiness" is and is not, and how it can be imparted to students.
        Children learn from their teacher's behavior and outlook, especially in a course like this, Kumar said.
        "You must enter with a smile. How can a teacher who knows no Hindi teach Hindi?" he asked, illustrating that it takes happiness to spread happiness.