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Educating for Sustainable Happiness: Symposium Reflections

Continuing our educational exchange with Bhutan following Cushing’s experiential learning expedition to the Himalayan nation last March, the Academy hosted a four-day international educational conference, Educating for Happiness: A Symposium on Exploring Values, Crossing Cultures, Using Technology, and Forging Global Partnerships in Support of a 21st Century Education, August 9-12.

With a special focus on the Kingdom of Bhutan (the nation whose King, His Majesty King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck, is a graduate of the Class of 1999) the event drew over 150 attendees from across the country and around the world, including keynote speakers H.E. Thakur S. Powdyel, Minister for Education for the Royal Government of Bhutan; Patrick Bassett, President, National Association of Independent Schools; Ron Canuel, CEO, Canadian Education Association; Jeffrey Sachs, Director, Earth Institute at Columbia University; James Tracy, Headmaster, Cushing Academy; and Tony Wagner, Innovation Education Fellow, Harvard University.

“As educators, we can’t bury our heads in 19th century sands,” said Headmaster Tracy. “Children inhabit a 21st century world for 18 hours a day, yet, we force them into a 19th century classroom. We need to rethink our curriculum and its purpose. The next 20 years will see more change than the last 60 or 80.”

Tony Wagner echoed the need for educational change and reform. “The world no longer cares how much our students know. It cares far more about what they can do with that knowledge.” Wagner also discussed what he sees as the global achievement gap – the new skills students need versus what is tested and taught. He instead focused on the need to educate innovators. “We need a generation of people committed to answering the question of how we preserve life on this planet. If we educate people to become innovators, we’ve given them the skill and will to make a difference and we’ve given them a reason to make a difference.”

Sponsored by Cushing Academy and the Bhutan Canada Foundation, the symposium featured a host of breakout sessions for attendees to explore. Topics ranged from Curriculum Design for Intercultural Learning: A Working Example, to Building Compassionate Resilient Leadership through Theatre and Music, and The Value and Practices of Field-Based, International Education. Enrichment activities included a session on music across cultures, another on reflective conversation from and during the symposium, and a talk and photography exhibit from the Cushing trip to Bhutan.

In an e-interview with Bhutan Today, a daily newspaper in Bhutan, the Minister of Education said, “It has been a most humbling experience for me personally to see the amount of goodwill and support for our country from every soul we met. Cushing Academy, alma mater of His Majesty our beloved King, is an extraordinary seat of learning… I am most delighted that we have an opportunity now to work together with this outstanding centre of learning.”

Cushing’s collaborative educational initiatives with Bhutan will continue this year through our partnership with Ugyen Dorji Higher Secondary School, the oldest secondary school in Bhutan, which is celebrating its 100th anniversary. Collaborating with Ugyen Dorji’s faculty and students, the Academy hopes to assist in the school’s integration of technology, as they maintain and balance their culture and heritage. Cushing also welcomes two Bhutanese students to our new academic year.

Please click here for reflections on the Symposium by Kent Bicknell, Principal, Sant Bani School.

For additional photos of the weekend, please click here.

YouTube videos of keynote speakers:

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Cushing Academy

Cushing Academy exists for students and develops curious, creative, and confident learners and leaders. Founded in 1865, Cushing is a co-ed, college preparatory boarding and day school for students in grades 9-12 and PG. Our students, who come from over 30 states and 30 countries, excel in our outstanding academic, art, and athletic offerings. We welcome you to visit our community and beautiful 162-acre campus in Ashburnham, Mass., just one hour from Boston, to experience all that Cushing has to offer.