PYE Partner, Dream a Dream, a youth serving organization in Bangalore, India, provides an inspiring example of how big dreams can turn into big change. For over 20 years, Dream a Dream has been devoted to helping marginalized youth live better lives through learning life skills. And it’s no small job! There are an estimated 115 million youth in India living in adverse conditions due to poverty, domestic violence, and socio-cultural discrimination among other causes. In the early years, Dream a Dream taught life skills through afterschool arts and football (soccer) programs and other on the ground offerings.
Over time, the folks at Dream a Dream cultivated a very big dream—to revolutionize India’s entire education system. “We need to reimagine the purpose of education in the current world,” says Dream a Dream’s CEO Suchetha Bhat. “How do we prepare children for the complex future they are entering? Learning by rote, taking exams, and getting a job is not enough. We need to equip students to become confident, mindful, responsible and happy people, who can work together to build a harmonious society.”
Recognizing that children spend the majority of their time in the classroom, Dream a Dream expanded its work to train teachers in ways to create safe, engaging, and joyful learning environments. To date, they have trained over 9800 teachers who in turn have worked with over 245,000 students.
And then a big opportunity came their way. The Education Ministry of Delhi invited Dream a Dream to partner with them to develop a new social/emotional program called the Happiness Curriculum. “The Education minister was keen to do something transformational,” says Suchetha. “The Happiness Curriculum was his idea, and it’s part of a larger reform agenda he has.” The big breakthrough according to Suchetha was the Delhi schools’ willingness to devote 40 minutes of curriculum time each morning to social/emotional learning that develops life skills. “The program, itself, includes stories, mindfulness practices, and creative activities from Dream a Dream all focused on the well-being of children and how they can find true happiness,” says Suchetha.
Once the program was designed, Dream a Dream’s task was to train 18,000 teachers in 1,024 government schools. “We (the Delhi Government) had a happiness coordinator in each school,” explains Suchetha. “We trained 35 designers who then trained the 1024 happiness coordinators. These coordinators provided training and mentoring for as many teachers as possible in their individual schools.”
They launched the program in July 2018 and waited a year before doing a formal evaluation so the teachers could get used to the program without feeling pressured. The evaluation done the second year by the US-based Brookings Institute showed very promising results. Reports Dream a Dream: “Overall, the students showed better relationships with their teachers, increased participation in classes and increased focus and mindfulness. For the teachers, they were able to prioritize values over academic success, a change in their orientation for how they were designing classes and an increased collaboration among the teachers.”
Dream a Dream is not stopping there. They have developed partnerships with four other Indian states to deliver similar Social/Emotional Learning programs. By conservative estimates they are reaching 3 million students. Way to go Dream a Dream! To see a video about the Happiness Curriculum go to: dreamadream.org/state-partnerships/
WISE, the organization that provides the innovation and education awards, is a program of the Qatar Foundation. They run a biannual summit and a range of ongoing programs designed to “promote innovation and build the future of education through collaboration.” The WISE community is self-described as “a network of education stakeholders – from students to decision-makers – from about 200 countries who share ideas and collaborate to seek creative solutions to solve challenges facing education.” For more info see: wise-qatar.org/