Is Denmark’s Empathy Curriculum The Secret Behind Their Happiness?


It’s no secret that Denmark is the happiest country in the world. In fact, Denmark has been among the top three happiest countries in the world for seven consecutive years. Many people have tried to figure out the country’s secret, from writing books to researching Danish concepts (we’re looking at you, hygge!).

However, many Danes attribute their happiness to things that are taught in their childhood. Namely, empathy.

That’s because Denmark’s empathy program starts in the first year of school (age six) and continues until children reach the age of sixteen. 

These one-hour lessons, called ‘Klassens tid’ or ‘The Class’s Hour,’ happen once a week and are given the same weight as Science, History, or Math. 

The purpose of the classes is for students to come together in a relaxed and non-judgemental setting to discuss any problems they may be having. After a roundtable discussion, the class tries to find a solution to each other’s problems. 

Iben Sandahl, a Danish psychotherapist, educator, and co-author of The Danish Way of Parenting, notes, “Together, the class tries to respect all aspects and angles and together find a solution. Kids’ issues are acknowledged and heard as a part of a bigger community. [And] when you are recognized, you become someone.” 

This way, each student has the chance to be heard, receive encouragement, and solve problems in a democratic way. It also teaches children to listen and learn from others.

Should more classes around the world have empathy classes? Let us know in the comments!

This article was originally published on March 3, 2020.


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