Sherig Lyonpo’s address to the second principals’ workshop on educating for GNH in Paro
They lost their star. The vision was gone. They saw a thousand apparitions. They ran helter-skelter, and yearned for safety…
This fragment of a story is a re-telling of the fate of nations and of people. Every nation must have its own star. It is the call of the beyond, a point of reference. The vision is the guide as the North Star to mariners on the vast sea. It is a sad nation if it has no star to call its own. Not ours.
In the language of Peter Howard:
Once to every man and nation
Comes the moment to decide
Then it is the brave man chooses …
Our beloved King of Destiny, Druk Gyal Zhipa Jigme Singye Wangchuck, was the brave man who chose a unique path, a star for Bhutan. Today, we call it Gross National Happiness and the world knows it simply as GNH. When the world beyond went after the fleeting shadow of material wealth as the measure of success, the youngest monarch in the world advanced a revolutionary idea of people’s well-being as a more genuine index of national progress. The ideal of Gross National Happiness has today caught the imagination of a restless world thirsty for an alternative.
Gross National Happiness is a reminder that human beings cannot live by bread alone, as important as it is. It is a call to the deeper and more enduring impulses of human beings as a counterforce to the more maverick and recalcitrant impulses that sway and sweep away people and nations.
Gross National Happiness is a call to the basic and the authentic – the wheat bread that we eat, the native beauty that we admire, the freshness of the air that we breathe, the purity of the water that we drink, the wealth of friendship we build, the gift of love that we share, and the loveliness of our earth that we care for.
Education, like Gross National Happiness, is the search for the true and the good and the useful. Genuine education helps scholars sharpen their brains and skills but also build faith and character. It makes the learner discover what is useful but also learn how to be graceful. Love of learning is different from chasing after a diploma or qualification. It makes the scholar not only to know more, but also to see more, hear more, and feel more.
You have been the brave men and women of our education system holding the torch of learning up to the children of our country all your life. Despite the challenges of situations and circumstances, you have dedicated your life and learning to the building of our country. We need to do more.
There is an element of urgency now. At this time of the year, our mighty peaks beyond the Paro skyline showed wear a crown of white. The barking deer has retreated, water levels in low-lying countries is rising, there are more displacements of people now than there have ever been before, and we feel the consequences of actions far away from us. We need to read the writing on the wall and take action to save our own country and its future. If we succeed here, there will be success elsewhere as well.
Educating for Gross National Happiness is, therefore, a call to return to the original and essential purpose of Education, and that of development. What we heard from the participants of the first workshop for principals was most heartening. For some, the workshop was an eye-opener; for others, it was a discovery; yet for others, it was overwhelming. Some said that what they were doing so far looked like fake and unfair.
We are starting with the leaders of our nation’s schools because you are called upon to guide the destiny of the children who come to your charge and help them become what they dream of becoming. You are the first teacher of teachers. As a principal, you are more than a manager or an administrator – you are professional exemplar, a moral force, an enabler and builder.
Educating for Gross National Happiness is looking for our own North Star in Education – discovering what is more genuine and stable, more fulfilling and worthwhile. When you go back to your school, you will be called upon to declare your North Star. What will that be?
What you do as leaders of our nation’s schools will decide what kind of future our country will have. The link is this compelling. You build our bridge to the future. Hold on to your star!