It has been at the core of the Bhutanese government policy and development plans to place focus on the pursuit of happiness and well-being of its citizens. The collective and individual goal of happiness can be achieved by adopting a new paradigm of development called Gross National Happiness (GNH). Sustainability and environmental protection are central to the policy of Educating for GNH. The concept of “Green Schools for Green Bhutan” refers to the idea of the natural environment as an ‘integrating context for learning’ with the dual purpose of both conserving and learning with the environment. ‘Conserving’ and ‘learning’ with the environment are the two main areas of the green school concept that enable children at school to grow and develop ‘green’ awareness. The green concept is not just the colour that symbolises nature and environment but it also represents the need to nurture and shape a child’s development to demonstrate respect for the earth by conserving natural resource, and learning from the earth by ‘bringing nature into the classroom and the classroom into nature’. The Green Schools programme, developed by Thakur Sight Powdyel, Minister of Education in the first elected government, was designed to support the implementation of the Educating for Gross National Happiness reform. ‘The green school programme is the tool to help us understand the core function of education’, said the former minister. The book titled ‘My Green School’, as Thakur Singh Powdyel emphasizes, is just an outline for teachers and educators, how to implement and build upon the elements of a green school. Thakur Sight Powdyel subsequently came up with the concept of Green Schools for Green Bhutan with the emphasis upon ‘green’ as a metaphor. Green Schools are an attempt to create GNH-based schools incorporating eight dimensions: natural greenery that makes children feel invited, welcome, and happy to come to school; social greenery that permits children from different beliefs and backgrounds to learn, grow and develop in harmony and goodwill; cultural greenery that promotes and preserves culture, traditions and values of fair play and cooperation; intellectual greenery that engages children with new ideas and knowledge, positive thinking and constructive dialogue; academic greenery that demands high academic standards and deeper insights; aesthetic greenery that develops a taste for genuine and beautiful objects; spiritual greenery that provides conscious awareness of other beings, mindfulness of living in mutual respect and harmony, and accepts and honours the divine in us; moral greenery that imparts values of making sound judgements and distinguishing between right and wrong, truth and falsehood, good and bad. This serves as an organisational and philosophical guidance for schools. (Education policy guidelines and instructions 2012).
In addition to those eight dimensions, there are other important elements of a green school. A green school strives to build and promote good relations with the parents and the community, encouraging active involvement in the education of their children. Inclusive education is another area of focus for the green school as it ensures that all the children in the community receive equal educational opportunities and are treated fairly. (The National Education Framework 2012). A green school serves the special educational needs of children with physical disabilities, including visual and hearing impairments. The long-term objective of the Special Educational Needs (SEN) Programme, started in 2002, is to provide access to inclusive education in general schools for all children with disabilities and special educational needs, including those with physical, intellectual and other types of impairments.
– Compiled by Payal Bhattacharjee with inputs from “Educating for Gross National Happiness by nurturing the concept of Green Schools for Green Bhutan”( Elżbieta Jabłońska )