How do we raise our happiness and well-being? Experts moot education reform, rejecting racism

Emmanuel Santa Maria Chin
Founder of Global Institute for Tomorrow, Chandran Nair (right), speaks during the 2019 International Social Well-being Conference in Kuala Lumpur November 21, 2019. ― Pictures by Yusof Mat Isa

KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 21 — An expert has suggested that the removal of religious and racial divides within schools here would aid and steer the current education system in the right direction and improve the social and societal understanding of happiness and well-being.

Chandran Nair, founder of the Global Institute for Tomorrow think tank, stressed that institutionalised racism is the proverbial elephant in the room that must first be removed to encourage and promote a higher level of empathy among the public, which would raise levels of personal well-being and happiness.

“If we want to do something with this country and not see it go down the toilet, every one of you needs to talk against racism.

“Second, we need to talk about the institutionalised rent-seeking in the economy which is based on race, then talk about meritocracy; that’s how we start,” he said.

Nair, a Hong Kong-based expert, was responding to a question on what would be the more approachable solution to bridge the gap between the older and younger generations and promote a holistic understanding of the concept of social well-being in society.

Nair, speaking during an invite-only dialogue with media representatives at the Social Well-Being Conference 2019 here, also said values of empathy must first be instilled in the young.

“What do young Malay kids learn, they go to learn in religious schools, so many of them; aren't you supposed to learn empathy in these schools, what happened?

“So we have institutionalised racism and religion, and a great religion like Islam has been hijacked, I can say this,” he claimed.

Nair pointed out how Malaysian leaders today constantly dodge around the topic without outright rejecting racism, stressing that such attitudes shown by them need to change.

“So all of these things can happen but you want to change education, take race and religion out of it and then we can change everything,” he added. 

Another expert on the matter, Erica Orange of US-based futurist consulting firm Future Hunters meanwhile highlighted how automation and the embracing of technology within education is something unavoidable and inevitable.

Erica Orange of Future Hunters speaks during the 2019 International Social Well-being Conference in Kuala Lumpur November 21, 2019.

Orange pointed out how technology is becoming cheaper, more commoditised and democratised and will eventually be engrained into global education systems, replacing traditional methods and how we think about achieving happiness and well-being.

“Whether its virtual reality, augmented reality, 3D-printing, even drones, a lot of it is reinventing education, and moving more towards learning, and taking the teachers’ role which was always rope memorisation, linear thinking and making them a guide.

“Its unleashing imagination in new ways, the power of technology being leveraged is actually leapfrogging traditional education,” she said.

Author of ‘Happy as a Dane’ Malane Rydahl (right) speaks during the 2019 International Social Well-being Conference in Kuala Lumpur November 21, 2019. ― Picture by Yusof Mat Isa

Besides education, Danish expert Malene Rydhal, author of the book Happy as A Dane, stressed that personal well-being and happiness was subject to one’s attitude towards what is traditionally perceived as happiness.

Rydhal claimed that scientific findings showed that 50 per cent of one’s potential happiness is down to their genetics and social settings one is born into, with the rest dependent on one’s attitude towards their societal situation and circumstantial incidents.

She explained that for such happiness to develop into acceptable levels of perceived well-being, it is down to one’s own capacity to cope and perceive with their situation.

“It's the attitude, it's not what you have but how you relate to what you have.

“For example if you got a bonus of €10,000 (RM46,193), one person will say, ‘wow that’s wonderful, that’s great, I'm going to go on a trip and share it with my friends and family’, while another would say that’s not enough.

“This 40 per cent capacity is how it is relating to what happens and then the 10 per cent missing depends on exterior circumstances that happen,” she added.

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