Exploring Mindfulness-based School Programs Around the World

By Cristine Chen, CEI Intern


Mindfulness-based programs (MPB) involve activities that enhance emotional self-regulation, focused attention, and social awareness (Khng, 2018). They improve students' social-emotional development and help reduce stress (Bauer et al., 2019). Exploring how other countries are implementing mindfulness in schools provides us insight into how to improve our current programs in the United States. We can also refer to these programs to ensure that our plans are inclusive to students from diverse cultures. Read below for five case studies of countries that are implementing mindfulness training into their education programs:


India: Happiness Class


The government of Delhi added a new subject to the school curriculum: happiness class (Gray, 2018). Kids enrolled in government schools from pre-primary age up to 14 years old receive daily 45-minute happiness lessons, including yoga and meditation. The curriculum's goal is to guide students' attention toward experiencing happiness in deeper and more sustainable forms (Yadav, 2019). Mindfulness is practiced under this program by 1.6 million students every day (The New Indian Express, 2020).


Bhutan: Gross National Happiness

Mindfulness is implemented across Bhutan's school system in line with its aim for "Gross National Happiness" (Bhutan Ministry of Education, 2012). Compared to other countries, Bhutan's mindfulness education is less secular in nature and more rooted in the country's prevalent religion. Mindfulness education in Bhutan is founded on the Bhutanese Buddhist understanding and values of ethical Buddhist consciousness (Albrecht et al., 2012). According to Thinley (2012), Bhutan's education department works with Buddhist monks in helping students cultivate deep critical and creative thinking, learning the country's ancient wisdom, and having a holistic understanding of the world.

Mindfulness is also deeply ingrained in how teachers educate and interact with students rather than merely being a subject or an extra-curricular activity.


Singapore: Integrated Mindfulness-based Programs


Mindfulness-based programs in Singapore are more integrated in international schools than local schools due to concerns over the secularity of MBP (Khng, 2018). According to Khng (2018), international schools in Singapore offer non-mandatory yoga and mindful coloring activities through physical education sessions, in-class activities, or extracurriculars.


A school that is actively promoting mindfulness and emotional regulation education is Tanglin Trust School (TTS). TTS offers yoga sessions for students as young as 4-5 years old, and Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction-trained counselors provide introductory mindfulness sessions to students and staff (Edwards, 2015).


United Kingdom: Link Programme


In partnership with University College London, the Anna Freud National Centre for Children and Families launched one of the world's most extensive school studies in exploring what school activities work in supporting young people's mental well-being.


Since 2019, around 370 English schools have started to practice mindfulness as part of this study (Government of the United Kingdom, 2019). Children get to work alongside mental health experts in a series of mindfulness exercises, relaxation techniques, and breathing exercises.


The United Kingdom also invested in programs related to helping educators become more mindful of mental health warning signs in their students. For example, the government invested £9.3 million in implementing the Link Programme—a four-year strategy that provides educators in 22,000 schools the tools to spot and be mindful of students in need of mental health support (The Anna Freud Centre for Children and Families, 2019).


Australia: Smiling Mind


Australia's first evidence-based mindfulness curriculum is developed by Smiling Mind Australia through which a structured but flexible framework is offered for the Australian curriculum (Smiling Mind, 2021). Their curriculum is based around 20 topics that support students from Year 1 to Year 6 in developing mindfulness skills such as self-awareness, emotional regulation, and social awareness. Each kit includes manuals for educators, student journals, the Smiling app, and a parent resource guide.

According to Smiling Mind's website, their program received a $2.5 million funding boost from the Australian government and is set to impact 600 regional and rural schools around the country, including government, independent, and Catholic schools.


The United States is the home of a culturally diverse population. Therefore, it is helpful to be sensitive to a myriad of linguistic, economic, and religious factors when implementing mindfulness-based programs. Learning from other countries' educational programs helps us ensure that our materials are culturally adaptive for students who have a connection to those specific countries. Thoughtfulness in terms of how we design and communicate our curriculum advances our country's goal of promoting diversity and inclusivity in the school system.


References


Albrecht, N., Albrecht, P., & Cohen, M. (2012). Mindfully teaching in the classroom: A literature review. Australian Journal of Teacher Education, 37(12), 1-14.

Bauer, C. C. C., Caballero, C., Scherer, E., West, M. R., Mrazek, M. D., Phillips, D. T., Whitfield-Gabrieli, S., & Gabrieli, J. D. E. (2019). Mindfulness training reduces stress and amygdala reactivity to fearful faces in middle-school children. Behavioral Neuroscience, 133(6), 569–585.

Bhutan Ministry of Education. (2012). 30th education policy guidelines and instructions.

Edwards, C. (2015). Teaching Mindfulness in School.

Gray, A. (2018). These Indian schools are giving lessons in happiness. World Economic Forum.




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