I have worked in higher education since 2005, starting in Vietnam National University, Hanoi, and then in National University of Singapore. Being born into an underprivileged family in Central Vietnam, I am always grateful for the education that I have received to help me get to where I am today. I strongly believe in “Education is the most powerful weapon to change the world” – Nelson Mandela.
After working in higher education for over 10 years, I realized that there was little impact that I could make to my students’ lives at the university level, because their personality and competencies are already set to a great extent. In addition, to my disappointment, after 10 years as an educator, I find that happiness is the missing piece in the education system, especially in Singapore. Through my personal experiences as a student, and as a educator, I am convinced that “Educating the mind without educating the heart is no education at all.” Aristotle
In 2017, together with my brother, I had my first start-up – Le Hoang Pte Ltd – to promote mindfulness and well-being through training, consultancy and investment. As an investor, senior advisor, and programme developer, I co-created the first pre-school in Ha Tinh, Central Vietnam focusing on “Educating the hearts of the learners” in 2017. At the time, “Happy Schools” was a strange concept in Vietnam. However, we believed that if we could practice happiness skills at school where “Every day at school is a happy day” for teachers and learners, it would have some rippling effects on the community. There is no happiness without love and understanding. Therefore, our school activities were organized around two main missions “Awakening the source of love” and “Nurturing the seeds of understanding”. After three or four months since the opening the first preschool, we became known in the local community as “the happy school” because the kids enjoyed going the our school so much that many of them even asked their parents to take them to school on Sundays! We confirmed that happiness is possible at school where teachers and students feel connected to themselves and to each other.
In 2018, I became a trainer in the Eurasia Learning Institute’s Happy Schools Project, Vietnam. The founder of ELI, Dr. Ha Vinh Tho, a former director of Bhutan Gross National Happiness Centre, is a long-time friend and mentor of mine. While his Happy Schools Project, Vietnam started in 2018, mainly for public schools (primary to high-school) in Hue, Central Vietnam, I enjoyed learning from him and also sharing my experiences building happy schools at pre-school level in private education system. After I joined the Training of Trainers of Happy Schools Project, Vietnam, I have focussed more on three modes of care: Self- care, Care for others, and Care for the planet in our second pre-school and the third school in Ha Tinh, Central Vietnam. I have also been inspired by the UNESCO’s Happy Schools Framework , and trying to incorporate a whole-school approach to happiness and well-being in all the three schools that I am a senior advisor to. Please see this video to see how happiness is cultivated in our schools on a daily basis.