It’s so encouraging to see the impact and importance of empathy being taken seriously. We talk about research, programmes and initiatives across all our themes at IM but it’s rare that direct links are solidified in national public policy. Progressive, future-oriented measures such as these are how we create real change.
Denmark is one of the happiest countries in the world. This is according to the UN’s World Happiness Report, an important survey that since 2012 classifies the happiness of 155 countries in the world, and that for seven years has placed Denmark among the top three happiest countries on a global level.
The fact that teaching empathy has been mandatory since 1993 in schools in Denmark is a factor that contributes to the happiness of the country.
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.
A Class Act
In Danish schools an hour a week is dedicated to the ‘Klassens tid‘, an empathy lesson for students aged 6 to 16 years. It is a fundamental part of the Danish curriculum.
The hour of empathy is as important as the time spent, for example, on English or mathematics. During the Klassens tid students discuss their problems, either related to school or not, and the whole class, together with the teacher, tries to find a solution based on real listening and understanding.
Time Well Spent
If there are no problems to discuss, children are simply spent the time together relaxing and enjoying hygge, a word (and also a verb and an adjective), which cannot be translated literally, since it is a phenomenon closely related to Danish culture.
Hygge could be defined as ‘intentionally created intimacy’. In a country where it gets dark very early in the year, it rains, it’s grey, hygge means bringing light, warmth and friendship, creating a shared, welcoming and intimate atmosphere.