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India’s Happiness Index: We owe Gen Z


Raaji Naveen

Dec 21, 2020

According to this year's World Happiness Report, Finland and Denmark fared the highest in happiness levels. India, on the other hand, has slipped into the bottom 15.

This week, the Global Human Development Index rankings of countries was published. It's a timely reminder that the most accurate picture of our social and economic development requires more than the pursuit of ever higher GDP numbers. But what should be measuring, then? One consistent answer today, from many countries, is that the overall state of happiness of people is a worthy alternative.

According to this year's World Happiness Report, Finland and Denmark fared the highest in happiness levels. India, on the other hand, has slipped into the bottom 15. Not surprisingly, in tandem with this, we also dropped two notches on the HDI rankings.

happiness quotient

Why are so many adults unhappy in India? The short answer is that our education is not preparing young people to lead fulfilling lives. Many do not receive even a full school education. And even those who do are neither satisfied about the present nor in control over their futures. Unhappiness is inevitable as a result.

From one generation to the next, workplaces and professions are different. That should push learning pathways to be different too, logically. But that's not happening. Instead, today's school and college graduates are products of the same conventional education system that mass-produced their parents and grandparents. That old system, which endures, is purely pedagogical. Children learn what others have decided to teach them, and in ways that are deeply set.

Why can't children learn more freely? And would they not be much happier if they did? I believe so - I have seen many children display high levels of motivation when given the freedom to think, but retaliate when forced to mindlessly memorize concepts. On the other hand, the few who are provided an opportunity to learn differently, driven by their own interests and passion in what we call 'alternate' learning environments, feel purposeful about their lives, and grow up with high levels of self-worth and motivation. That should be the norm for all children.

Heutagogy - listening to the voice of the learner - is designed for such happiness. Generation Z is characterised by a strong sense of autonomy, independence, and affinity towards self-determined approaches to many things, including learning. They are a fully global generation, shaped in the 21st century, connected through digital devices, and engaged through social media. Naturally, they want to have a say in what they learn too, and how.

Paying attention to what the customer wants is common in every profession. But somehow in education, we've not quite grasped this. We substitute the choices of teachers and parents and others for what the children actually want. That has to stop - we have to make education relevant to our learners if we want our development indices and happiness quotients to improve.

A first step is to listen to young people's hopes and aspirations, and co-create the learning choices that will help them achieve those. We cannot expect children to become happy, responsible, caring, or compassionate citizens unless we encourage them to determine their own paths for learning. We owe that to our future generations!

Comment and let us know what you think should be changed in the system that exists today to make it better for Gen Z.

This article was originally published in BW Disrupt on December 21st, 2020.

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