Educating for gross national happiness: a new paradigm for education in Bhutan

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University of New Brunswick


Bhutan has focused public policies on the happiness and well-being of its citizens by adopting a new philosophy of development called Gross National Happiness (GNH). The adoption of GNH as a new paradigm for development has led to a major reform in the country. It is mandatory for all government organizations to align themselves with and initiate plans and programmes that correspond to GNH goals. The Ministry of Education in Bhutan, in its endeavour to promote GNH, launched a nationwide project called “Educating for GNH” in December 2009. This study examines the implementation of the Educating for GNH project and effective educational leadership practices in Bhutanese public schools. A qualitative interpretive phenomenological analysis case study approach was used to study educational leaders’ perceptions of leadership and their lived experiences of implementing Educating for GNH in schools and school systems. The central research question is: "How has the implementation of the Educating for Gross National Happiness programme changed educational leadership practices and school systems in Bhutan?” A total of 20 educational leaders participated in this study through one-on-one scheduled semi-formal interviews. Survey questionnaires were also used to collect data from those participants who chose not to participate in the interviews. Three overarching themes emerged from the data: implementing Educating for GNH in schools and school systems; leadership roles and practices; and attributes of a happy educational leader. The study findings provide a new approach for improving schools in Bhutan by infusing GNH principles and values, together with leadership practices that promote the happiness and well-being of the people in the school community. The findings are consistent with the studies conducted at the international level on effective educational leadership practices, particularly those results of successful principal leadership practices. This study also contributes examples and research data from the Bhutanese context to the larger body of literature in the field of educational research.