Future-Proofing Bhutan: SIY Emotional Intelligence Training in Schools

August 20, 2018

Technology and cultural globalization are changing societies around the world. The impact is swift, constant and almost unavoidable—regardless of where people live. This is why Bhutan, a country with a predominantly agrarian lifestyle that’s experiencing a rapidly changing society, is working with Search Inside Yourself Leadership Institute. With great foresight, the country’s Ministry of Education is taking steps to future-proof its next generation.

The goal is to teach emotional intelligence skills to Bhutan’s children to equip them with social competencies that will help them adapt and be more resilient in this ever-changing world. And while Bhutan has an ancient and still-vibrant tradition of meditation and mindfulness, Search Inside Yourself (SIY) brings a contemporary, science-based, non-religious, accessible approach to the old traditions and focuses on emotional intelligence skills as the outcome.

The Ministry of Education’s Audacious Plan for Bhutan
When representatives from Bhutan’s Ministry of Education heard a keynote by Chade-Meng Tan in 2017 and later participated in a full SIY program with SIYLI CEO Rich Fernandez and SIY-certified teacher Yizhao Zhang, they, (along with a number of education directors) invited SIYLI to train 125 Bhutanese teachers on the SIY neuroscience-based mindfulness and emotional intelligence curriculum. Once those teachers complete the course, they will then train 10,000 more of the nation’s school teachers. These teachings will eventually be shared with young students in classrooms all over Bhutan.

The first batch of SIY teachers in training were selected from 500 schools across all 20 districts in Bhutan. Some participants traveled for a week from remote mountainous areas to take part in the first five days of in-person training in the capital city of Thimphu. Teachers were selected for training based on their meditation practices, facilitation skills, and passion to share mindfulness and emotional intelligence in their communities.

Current Progress
After the initial in-person training during July, participants returned to their communities where they are continuing SIY coursework remotely. Because internet connectivity is not readily available for webinars, participants were given USB drives preloaded with course materials and videos. The next in-person training is scheduled for December. Until then, the project lead, Zhang, is traveling throughout the country to assist and meet with participants. Meanwhile, the 125 teachers are also connected via WeChat messenger groups to share inspirations and insights.

Participant Reactions
Some SIY teaching terms are new vocabulary for the teachers. They share that they’ve never expressed themselves in this way before. In particular, the term “autopilot,” the antithesis of mindfulness in SIY context, has struck a chord. One participant expressed gratitude to SIYLI for “…this gift of knowledge and, more importantly, this magical formula of inner peace. This is a far greater gift than life itself—for life on autopilot is just existing.”

What Does this Project in Bhutan Mean for SIYLI?
SIYLI’s main focus is to offer science-based mindfulness, compassion and emotional intelligence tools to communities and organizations around the world. We work to create opportunities for the SIY program to be taught as widely as possible. One channels for this is through our Train the Trainer programs within organizations, such as Google, SAP, the San Francisco Department of Public Health and others, which prepare employees to eventually teach SIY to their fellow employees. This allows organization to offer the SIY neuroscience-based mindfulness and emotional intelligence curriculum to their employees.

Regardless of where we train teachers, the goal is to create a ripple effect that broadens the reach of SIY worldwide. And because mindfulness and emotional intelligence skills bolster happiness in general, which is something Bhutanese society measures via a Gross National Happiness Index, we’re honored to help people attain the skills needed to help make the world a happier place.