Gross National Happiness and challenges for education in Bhutan: Perspectives of policy experts



education, governance, politics, economy, happiness, wellbeing, Sustainability


Nations, institutions and researchers around the world are increasingly demanding their governments set out a systemic change to humanize the present order of the world. In Bhutan, the introduction of a Gross National Happiness (GNH) philosophy in the 1970s and the application of GNH indicators in the early 2000 are a deliberate attempt to embed Bhutanese values into national governance structures. For Bhutan, GNH provides a focus and sharpness to policy to ensure development is on a path that is humane. The nation-wide happiness index, constructed every five years, measures the happiness level of people through nine domains consisting of 33 indicators by GNH survey of all Bhutanese citizens. The latest survey indicates that education is perceived as the domain that makes the lowest contribution to GNH index. This study is an attempt to understand this perception by drawing on interviews with key policy actors to examine the significantly understudied context as to the nature of GNH in education, and outlines findings of three key challenges for policy architects as they seek to implement happiness-focused governance policies with implications for education. Observations on educational implications for Bhutan and countries seeking to replicate a national focus on happiness and good governance through education conclude the paper.