Soka: an educational model based on happiness breaks into Spain


Are you happy when you go to class? This is the question we usually ask at the beginning of our subject Education for Happiness.

Four years ago we detected an important gap in the initial training of future teachers of Teaching in Early Childhood Education and Primary Education. We had not included an interdisciplinary space for reflection about the meaning of education.

For that, we create a subject we call Happiness Education, and one of our pillars is what we can call Soka Education.

Where does Soka pedagogy come from?

So-Ka means “value creation” in Japanese. The term was used by Tsunesaburo Makiguchi in his work The pedagogy of the value creation system , published in 1930. What was raised in that work was to generate a teaching system that emphasized as a vital goal to create value, with happiness being the main purpose of Education.

This should make it easier for students to have happy lives contributing to their communities, maintaining a harmonious relationship with others in their environment.

Makiguchi found in the Buddhist philosophy of Nichiren Daishonin(1222-1282) a good basis for developing his educational system. Nichiren raised a Buddhism linked to everyday problems, not a monastic life separated from society. He affirmed that each person has the potential to face the challenges that are presented in a creative way every day, generating value and positively influencing their community.

His work was continued by Josei Toda, who developed the Soka Gakkaiassociation , work with which Daisaku Ikeda , current president, continued , who gives the organization a strong international sense, very involved in facilitating dialogues around peace by creating, in addition, what we know today as the Soka education system.

From children to university

This educational system provides training from Early Childhood Education to university education, at Sapporo Children’s School, the Kansai campus in Osaka and Kyoto (Primary and Secondary Education) and two universities in Tokyo and in Aliso Viejo, in California. In addition to these centers, there are currently nursery schools in Singapore, Malaysia, Hong Kong, Brazil and South Korea.

Foster a culture of peace

The defining elements of these training centers consist of facilitating the exchange of experiences through dialogue, fostering a culture of peace and reflection on human rights; raise awareness of the importance of coexisting with nature; encourage language learning and reading; facilitate intellectual development, following the idea that knowledge alone cannot generate value if it is not guided by wisdom, adding a sense of purpose, responsibility and desire to contribute to the welfare of humanity. Finally, it seeks to generate meaningful and lasting friendship.

In Soka Education, the development of teachers becomes very important, with the idea that if they do not grow, students will not. One of the usual teaching practices is to review teachers’ diaries about their own practice in meetings with classmates, focusing on experiences of failure. For this they have created a “network of mutual encouragement” in which teachers can support each other to learn to face adverse situations.

A good example of his work philosophy is his idea that teachers are too busy. In Japanese this is expressed with two ideograms that mean “heart” and “forget.” The timeless teachers are the teachers who have forgotten their heart.

Being busy makes it easy to forget the most important, emphasize the urgent and set aside the important. Younger teachers suffer more because they do not share their experience with other teachers and cannot benefit from the experience of more experienced teachers. Hence the importance of these monthly meetings of mutual encouragement, in which families are also invited, favoring dialogue between teachers and families.

That is why the idea that the teacher works in two scenarios is encouraged: the classroom and the community. This completes his work. It is not enough to work in the classroom.

The Soka Institute in Madrid

In December 2018, the creation of the Daisaku Ikeda Joint Research Institute for Education and Development was approved by the governing council of the University of Alcalá . Its main objective is to investigate this educational methodology, connecting it with the contributions of other current trends such as Positive Education ; the contemplative turn , which is gradually spreading in higher education, and transformational learning .

Students normally resist experimenting and being creative, accustomed as they are to being provided with clear rules and guidelines. As a consequence, many of them are disoriented when they are asked to be autonomous and face the typical contradictions of any creative process.

Foster the whole class dialogue

In our subject of Education for Happiness, possibly the only example of Soka education that can be found in Spain, we try to explore this way of understanding education: encouraging the whole class to dialogue. We try to ensure that our students are able to talk with each other and with us, in a direction that is gradually emerging, reflecting on what inspires us daily and for this, generating spaces of inspiration by inviting professionals to share with us how they make sense of Your daily work.

Also contributing to leave a legacy that links current students with previous and subsequent generations, being responsible for their contribution to the wider context in which they find themselves.

In this event a student reflects on her experience in the subject, mentioning several aspects discussed so far:

How nice to see how minds working for the same goal can create so many things and so great. This has been another of the lessons of the subject: to create value, to change things, you have to start from yourself, but if this beginning from you is done with other people, with the same goal you can achieve wonderful things. The evolution of the group has been beautiful, see how strangers become partners who want to work with each other. When I am a teacher, I would like to see this same evolution with my own eyes, to see how my students have discovered that working together has enormous potential and that, for that reason, they want to work as a team, to do something better, something bigger

It is society that is at the service of education, and not the other way around. Education is not a business, it should not comply with instrumental objectives, but favor as far as possible an experience with meaning, where you can unfold your potential, but beyond an individual sense, foster your connection with your community.

Education, taken seriously, is the only means we have as a society to adapt to change and the challenges we are generating. And for this, we do our mission to investigate how Soka Education can contribute to it, in dialogue with other current educational disciplines.

Author Bio: Alejandro Iborra Cuéllar is a University Professor. Evolutionary and educational psychology. Director of the Instit. Univers. Mixed of Investigac. of Education and Development Daisaku Ikeda (IEDDAI) at Universidad de Alcalá