Former Bhutanese prime minister meets with children

Staff writer, with CNA

Sun, Jan 27, 2013 - Page 3

A group of more than 100 Taiwanese children met with former Bhutanese prime minister Kinzang Dorji yesterday to learn about his country’s unique approach to creating a happier nation.

The children, ranging in age from five to 12, were particularly interested in the educational aspects of Bhutan’s efforts to raise its “gross national happiness” (GNH) index, and asked questions such as what Bhutanese children do for fun and how they handle the pressures of school.

Asked if Bhutan has cram schools and if students there usually have a lot of homework, Dorji said the answer is “unfortunately, yes.”

However, the spirit of education is to allow children to interact with their teachers and classmates to pursue knowledge together, he said.

“We try to develop the curriculum to fit different aspects of children’s lives,” Dorji said, adding that students are taught to share with others instead of looking for individual happiness.

He said the four main pillars of the initiative to raise his country’s GNH index are sustainable development, good governance, preserving and promoting cultural values, and maintaining the natural environment.

The GNH index covers three major indicators — economic and social conditions, physical and mental health, and family and social connections — all of which can be measured in concrete terms by a person’s satisfaction at work, sense of poverty or riches, average lifespan, paid holidays and other factors, Dorji said.

A 12-year-old student surnamed Chuang (莊), said he was inspired by Dorji because they share the same beliefs in life.

“I will try to spend more time with my parents and sister so we can enjoy the good moments in life more often,” he said.