What makes a happy school? - UNESCO Bangkok launches new report


© Illustration by first prize winner Yejoon Yoo from the Republic of Korea
17 March 2016

UNESCO Bangkok is to launch the first ever report on happy schools and learner well-being in the Asia-Pacific region on 25 March 2016.

The report, Happy Schools: A Framework for Learner Well-being in the Asia-Pacific, which will be launched following International Day of Happiness on 20 March 2016, addresses the challenges faced by students in today’s competitive, stress-fuelled, and test-focused world.

A ceremony will be opened by UNESCO Bangkok Director Mr Gwang-Jo Kim followed by a brief presentation of the key messages of the report by the Happy Schools Project Team. At the same time an art exhibition showcasing the shortlisted entries to the Happy Schools Art Contest will be launched and the top three winners will be invited to present their work at the event.

The importance of happiness was recently recognized in the United Nations General Assembly 2011 Resolution as ‘a fundamental human goal’ and in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as related to the quality of education and well-being.

Global indices such as the Better Life Index and international assessments including PISA aim to measure the linkages between learner happiness and the quality of education.

People, Process and Place

In June 2014, UNESCO Bangkok launched the Happy Schools Project to find out ‘what makes for a happy school’ based on the voices of students, teachers, parents and others at the heart of the school community. Research was conducted from June 2014 to November 2015 to identify the criteria for a happy school, consisting of qualitative variables that could potentially be measured. The research methods included a desk study, a workshop with schools from ASEAN member countries, a survey, and a seminar.

The main outcome of the study is the Happy Schools Framework which consists of 22 criteria for a happy school, grouped into three broad categories of People, Process and Place, as well as strategies for achieving these criteria in schools. The framework calls for education systems to shift away from traditional measures and embrace a diversity of talents and intelligence by recognizing values, strengths and competencies that contribute to enhancing happiness. Suggested criteria for achieving these goals include supporting positive teacher attitudes and attributes, encouraging learner freedom, creativity and engagement, and creating a warm and friendly learning environment.

What does a happy school look like to you?

An art exhibition showcasing artwork from across the region on the theme ‘What does a happy school look like to you?’ will take place from 25 March to 3 April at The Commons, Bangkok. The exhibition will feature the top 30 entries chosen from more than 160 submissions from 17 countries which ranged from hand drawn illustrations to photos. During the launch event on 25 March, there will be a special award ceremony inviting 1st place winner Yejoon (Jennifer) Yoo from the Republic of Korea, 2nd place winner Estiawati Subair from Indonesia, and 3rd place winner Debdatta Chakraborty from India, who will each present their winning images and receive their prizes.