In 1971, the tiny Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan introduced a model of measuring prosperity not by GDP but through Gross National Happiness (GNH), a system of governance based on four pillars: equitable social development, cultural preservation, conservation of the environment, and promotion of good governance. In 2009, the GNH model began to be integrated into the education system through the Green Schools for Green Bhutan initiative.
Schools in Bhutan are being encouraged to put the principles of GNH at the heart of education in an effort to make learning more relevant, thoughtful and aligned with sustainable practices. The government has introduced a GNH-based national curriculum, and Unicef Bhutan has funded a training programme for headteachers to help schools implement the scheme at classroom level.
The Jigme Losel primary school in the capital, Thimphu, is considered a model of the green schools mindset. The school has introduced practical programmes, including basic agricultural skills, to teach the more than 800 pupils about conservation. Each class has its own tree to care for, and there is a communal vegetable patch and flower garden for the children to manage. The school runs a sustainable food programme feeding low-income students and their families.
Children are taught about conserving natural resources, climate change and the dangers of deforestation and pollution. ‘Most of our country is mountainous, but here in the city I think the children can feel disconnected,’ headteacher Choki Dukpa says. ‘Environmental protection is enshrined in our constitution, but young children have to learn why it is important to protect the environment and how the country’s future prosperity depends on its conservation’. [photo]
'Let nature be your teacher' | Guardian