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Ong Ye Kung, among the millions who’ve taken Yale University’s online course on happiness

The Education Minister said that one of the things he learned from the course is that “because of social media, high expectations are a phenomenon particular to this generation and have influenced their mental make-up”

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Singapore—Yale University offered a free online course on on the ‘science of happiness’ taught by Laurie Santos, a professor of psychology some time back. It was attended by millions of people all over the world, including Singapore’s Education Minister, Ong Ye Kung.

Regarding the course, Mr Ong is quoted in South China Morning Post (SCMP) as saying, “It was an eye-opener, and helped me understand the challenges students are facing today, which youths of previous generations might not have encountered.”

SCMP reports that over half a million people took the course which was available from March 2018 to March 2019, and that it is the most popular course in the university’s history, with people from 160 countries signing up.

And now, during the time of the coronavirus crisis, the course has gotten more popular than ever, with over 1.8 million learners signing up since the crisis began.

“I think this is because people are trying to find ways to take active steps to improve their mental health during this challenging time,” the professor told SCMP.

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The Education Minister said that one of the things he learned from the course is that “because of social media, high expectations are a phenomenon particular to this generation and have influenced their mental make-up”.

Mr Ong is uncertain about other Singaporeans who have attended the course, but he has shared what he learned with his colleagues, whom, he says, “are deeply experienced and have great insight on the issue.”

Moreover, he added that “This helped us shape the review of Character and Citizenship Education [part of the country’s syllabus], and development of the Digital Literacy curriculum that I announced in parliament recently,” and that these would be “profound changes to the content of education in Singapore in the years to come,” SCMP reports.

Mr Ong also talked about what he learned in the course in an interview with What’s Up—a local children’s newspaper.

In What’s Up issue published last October, Mr Ong told the students who interviewed him that learning is a lifelong process, and that “working adults complain when they are not learning anything new at work.”

He mentioned to the children that he was taking the course on the science of happiness at Yale as this helps him understand children better, and therefore do a better job as the Education Minister.

“I am learning that because I feel mental well-being is an important issue for many of our children. I want to understand that a bit more so I thought taking this course would help. It does, and I find it a joy.”

Professor Santos’ class can be found on Yale University’s online platform and is free of charge. However, students who wish to may order a a certificate of completion that costs US$49 (S$70).

And while she did not change the content of her course to address the pandemic, Professor Santos said that she did talk about happiness and Covid-19 at a recent Facebook Live event.

A lecture from the professor about happiness and psychology can be found here, and she also has a podcast called The Happiness Lab with Dr. Laurie Santos, for anyone interested in the topic. -/TISG

Read also: Ong Ye Kung defends not closing schools earlier

Ong Ye Kung defends not closing schools earlier

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