Empathy in Education

Lessons for free speech

free speechTHAT free speech has been upheld by the Supreme Court of India is indeed a wonderful outcome. But, yes, there is a but…

That what we say or put out in the public domain should be done responsibly – without hurting either ourselves, our families, our communities or hurting others, others’ families or others’ communities.

A case in point is the recent suicide of a young, much-loved civil servant in Bangalore, which triggered an unprecedented outcry from his family, friends, community, the government, politicians, et al. What seemed to have escaped everyone’s priority is empathy for his young widow, especially by the media who reported every sensational detail they could on the case. If any one had bothered to put themselves in her shoes and try to feel what she must have been feeling, it would have certainly prompted self-censorship.

It is this general lack of empathy that has become the focus of many educationists today, not only in India, but worldwide. That to build a less judgmental, more connected and cohesive society what we need to teach our children is EMPATHY.

Psychologists, neuroscientists, education experts and economists all agree that too much emphasis has been put on cognitive, grade-centric education, and too little on acquiring emotional and social skills.

India’s Central Board of Secondary Education too has recognised this shortfall and has taken the first steps to implement a value education programme in its curriculum. It’s a start, and many schools – from rich, ‘elitist’ institutions to free ones run by NGOs – are adopting and adapting ways of teaching young minds to respect and understand differences in another.

Mary Gordon

Mary Gordon, founder of Roots of Empathy

Ashoka foundation have been advocating precisely this as the only way to equip the next generation for the challenges of a changing world.

Canadian social entrepreneur Mary Gordon, founder of Roots of Empathy, has devised a classroom programme to do just that. Here is a short video clip that gives an insight into her method.

Do YOU have any thoughts on or ideas for inculcating empathy-building skills into the school syllabus? If you do please email: empathizenow@gmail.com – we are building a database of ideas and working with others in the field to take action on it.