With three days of presentations and intensive discussions, attended by an excited crowd of 500 educators, the Pursuit of Happiness Project took off in China on Dec 5-8. Thanks to the invitation of Dr. Xie Chunfeng, the Director of the Research Center for Moral Education at the Beijing Academy of Educational Sciences (BAES), as well as Ms. Wu Yinghui, the Director of the Haidian Center for Educational Research in Beijing, we were able to share many ideas with educational leaders and practitioners on how to integrate the new science of happiness with secondary school curricula in Beijing.
As in many industrialized countries, the secondary school system in China is sharply focussed on university entrance, and in this highly populated and rapidly modernizing country, the competition for places at top universities is fierce. As a result the pressure on students is enormous, and rates of depression are soaring. Dr Xie has written a very heartfelt and extensive analysis on this problem.
We hope that educational authorities in China and around the world can follow the pioneering lead of Haidian district and make the Pursuit of Happiness a focus of attention and a guiding principle.
During our visit we discovered that Haidian District School No 19, which hosted the conference, has an entire psychology department with extensive facilities focused on Positive Psychology.
As Dr. Xie mentioned, “this is only the beginning.” The Science of happiness is a new field. We need to analyze the implications of the hundreds of studies that are coming out in this area, and update psychology curricula. This requires significant manpower. Pharmaceutical companies are investing billions of dollars in creating and marketing new drugs for depression. If we could invest a fraction of that amount for depression prevention, our task would be half done.
NOTE: We are soon going to post up the content of the presentations at the Beijing conference, including lesson plans for ethics and psychology curricula, in English and Chinese, on the “teaching materials” section of the website.