Transformative Education for Gross National Happiness (GNH)

Project Background and Aim

Transformative Education for Gross National Happiness (GNH)  is a teacher action research project in Bhutan to implement initiatives to promote GNH in schools. The project is a partnership between Oulun Lyseon lukio in Finland, the Royal Education Council and 7 GNH schools in Bhutan.

In October 2010, Timothy Bedford and Rosalind Cooper from Oulun Lyseon lukio were invited to visit the Royal Education Council and schools in Paro, Bhutan. Following discussions it was agreed to begin an initial 3 year Transformative Education for GNH project. The aim of the project is to develop the capacity of 7 GNH schools in Paro to construct, implement and disseminate examples of good practice of Education for GNH. To realise this aim teachers would take part in a Leadership Training Course.

Project Rationale

Global Education, and Education for GNH/Sustainable Development have emerged as important priorities in the Bhutanese, Finnish and other education systems. Building the capacity of schools is essential to meeting the local and global challenges of sustainability.

North countries such as Finland consume resources at a rate as if they live on 4 planet earths, whilst in many South countries people live on less than a Euro per day. A South-North dialogue is therefore central to creating a just and sustainable world.


SUSNET (Sustainability Network) is the project’s web-based environment. This provides a workspace for schools to document their GNH work and share resources. SUSNET can also be used as a tool for collaborative work between schools, within and outside Bhutan.

SUSNET has a wealth of resources to complement the Leadership Training Course, including teaching material, project and lesson ideas for GNH and sustainable development. There are also resources on action research, transformative pedagogy, distance education, media literacy and documentary filmmaking, including an online space for uploading films produced by teachers and students.

Whilst some of the workspaces are only available for project members, the resources can be accessed by visitors. To view the resources click on the SUSNET link and then enter the user account and password given below.

SUSNET link        User account: gnhvisitor        Password: gnhguest

Project Implementation and Timetable

The Transformative Education for GNH Project has a transformative action research design [1] with a focus on capacity building to develop and implement teacher initiatives to promote GNH in schools.

The project commenced in October 2010 with the planning of a 1st Leadership Training Course based on transformative pedagogy [2]. The course took place in May 2011. There were 25 teachers participating from 7 GNH schools in Paro.. The course was facilitated by Timothy Bedford and Rosalind Cooper.

The main objective of the Leadership Training Course was for teachers to develop action research, transformative pedagogy, media literacy and ICT skills across the curriculum to promote Education for Gross National Happiness.

At the end of the Leadership Training Course each school had developed an action plan for promoting GNH. After the course they began implementing their plan using an action research approach supported by the Royal Education Council.

In April 2012 there was a 2nd Leadership Training Course with the same schools. During the course transformative pedagogy, media literacy and ICT skills were explored in more depth. In addition participants engaged in GNH documentary film making to introduce to students in their schools. Also the participants developed a new one year action research plan.

As part of the project evaluation and dissemination of the outcomes, we spent two weeks in Paro in May/June 2013, visiting participating schools and interviewing the teachers about their action research. The evaluation highlighted the dedication of the participating teachers, and demonstrated the power of teacher action research and transformative pedagogy to provide a solid foundation for transforming Bhutan’s education system to achieve the country’s GNH goals.


[1] Transformative Action Research has been the methodology used for implementing GNH initiatives in schools:

Transformative Education for Gross National Happiness: A Teacher Action Research Project in Bhutan

Promoting GNH Schools Through Teacher Empowerment: Transformative Action Research as a GNH Praxis

Here are 2 examples of materials used in the workshops to develop action research skills.

Action Research for GNH Implementation

Transformative Action Research for GNH

Following the project in 2013 there were proposals to expand teacher action research in more schools, by utilising existing project teachers as mentors and facilitators of Transformative Education for GNH action research workshops. The presentation of the evaluation can be found by clicking here.

[2] The Leadership Training Courses are based on Transformative Pedagogy. GNH values form  the ethical framework for the pedagogy.

The goal of Transformative Pedagogy is learning that fosters empowerment for personal, institutional and societal change. The main principles of Transformative Pedagogy include:

Ethical; Conscientising; Activist; Situated; Diversity-affirming; Researching; Participatory.

Teachers participating in the course are also trained to use Transformative Pedagogy in their schools to promote GNH.

See the Transformative Pedagogy presentation.