Denmark Schools Teach Children Empathy As Part Of Their Curriculum

Denmark Schools Teach Children Empathy As Part Of Their Curriculum

Empathy is as important as subjects like Mathematics or Science in Denmark schools.

Image Source: Getty Images/Westend61 (Representative)

Empathy is an impulse that helps us survive in a community harmoniously. Unfortunately, schools in our nation aren't focusing on this valuable impulse, rendering it dormant. But in Demark, kids are being taught about empathy from a very tender age. Maybe that's why the North European country was listed as one of the happiest places in the world by the UN’s World Happiness Report. Denmark has been consistently holding a spot in the top 10 of the happiest countries report for years. Introducing lessons about empathy could definitely be a reason for the country's happiness. 


According to The Danish Way, teaching empathy as an important aspect of life has been mandatory in Denmark since 1993. This subject is of immense importance in the Danish curriculum and every school has a special class dedicated to it called "Klassens tid," which occurs every week for an hour. Students aged 6 to 16 are encouraged to share problems they may be facing in school or outside with their friends and teachers. Then the whole class, including the teacher, comes together to find solutions based on understanding and listening and not competing with each other.


"The Danes give a lot of space to children’s free play, which teaches empathy and negotiation skills. Playing in the country has been considered an educational tool since 1871," explained American psychologist and writer Jessica Alexander. If the students don't have any problems to discuss they are allowed to spend time relaxing together and enjoying hygge, a Danish word which is both an adjective and a verb. Although it cannot be translated literally, it could be defined as "intentionally created intimacy." Denmark experiences short days and rainy season during the beginning of the year. Naturally, it gets very dark and gray and hygge means bringing light with the warmth of friendship during this time by creating a shared intimate and welcoming atmosphere.


Young kids are taught that competition is something that should be exclusive to oneself and not something that is practiced with others. One shouldn't focus on excelling in life leaving others behind but with their support. Thus, Danish school systems do not offer any trophies or prizes to students who stand out from others in the field of sports and education just so the feeling of competition does not deter them from their empathetic path. The focus should primarily lie on working together to surpass obstacles in life instead of competing with each other to rise above. 60% of the tasks given to these kids concentrate on inculcating the value of teamwork and how they can responsibly help each other, especially those who are not equally gifted, to reach the goal. 


This collaborative learning process includes bringing students with varied strengths and weaknesses together to help each other in class through different projects. Through this, they teach kids from a very early age that they need to help others to get better results. "A child who is naturally talented in mathematics, without learning to collaborate with their peers, will not go much further. They will need help in other subjects. It is a great lesson to teach children from an early age, since no one can go through life alone," said Jessica Alexander. "Many studies show that when you explain something to someone – like a math problem for example – you not only learn the subject much better than you would do by memorizing it yourself, but you also build our empathy skills which are further strengthened by having to be careful about the way the other person receives the information, and having to put oneself in their shoes to understand how learning works." This teaching method paired with the lessons of empathy definitely grants joy and satisfaction to Danish kids who are well-seasoned to become happy adults.  

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