“Every child is a spark of the divine meant to progress, evolve and develop through experiences. This development on the line of the child’s own choice needs to be nourished and not forced to be molded in accordance with the parent’s ambitions or pre ordained expectations of society. This is quite different from the present educational industrial mindset, which churns the raw material into uniform mass production.” Dr (Mrs.) Chhalamayi Reddy, Principal of the Sri Aurobindo International School (SAIS), Hyderabad, student for 15 years at Sri Aurobindo International Centre of Education, Ashram, Pondicherry and an ardent admirer of Sri Aurobindo writes about the legend and his philosophy of education.
Education as enunciated by Sri Aurobindo and the Mother is very different from what is normally understood and practiced. It requires us to unlearn our habitual ways of viewing education and other associated responses. The key is a change in the mindset with which we view education; such a paradigm shift of the right perception of what truly constitutes a child, is expected of educators, teachers and parents.
In Mother’s and Aurobindo’s view the aim of true education should be to give the students a chance to distinguish between the ordinary life and the life of truth – to see things in a different unconventional way. Unlike what is commonly expected, to crave for money and worldly recognition or to be engrossed in the pursuit of career building cannot be the sole aim of education.
“To learn for the sake of knowledge, to educate oneself in order to grow in consciousness, to discipline oneself in order to become master of oneself, to overcome one’s weaknesses, incapacities and ignorance, to prepare oneself to advance in life towards a goal that is nobler, more generous and more true.”
This is what is expected of students of Integral Education; an all round progress and a constant striving for self exceeding; one of the most significant contributions by Sri Aurobindo to education and understanding the student holistically.
“Do not aim at success, our aim is perfection…”
What did Aurobindo connote by all round development?
The student is made of five distinct parts (body, emotions, mind, soul and spiritual being) all of which must be developed through education.
The aim of the body is to express beauty and harmony and needs to be trained to be strong, healthy and supple. Next, the need to consciously help our students deal effectively with their emotions. We also want our children to develop a sense of esthetic refinement. The mind being the main focus of modern education needs to develop both its parts – the left and the right brain through the training of its various respective faculties of observation and analysis and the other of comprehension and creativity. The most important and central part consists of the fourth dimension which is that of the truth of our being namely our psychic being (the evolving soul) within which grows across lives through every kind of experience. Its essential nature is to aspire for truth, goodness and beauty. The last dimension is that of the spiritual self (beyond the mind) which we will not concern ourselves with for now.
Such is the broad framework of what needs to be addressed in the development of the child, the teacher and even in ourselves through a life-long education.
In several ways Aurobindo’s educational vision is meant to open the way of the future to children who belong to the future. (What he stated about education was a century ago.)
Does this mean that Integral education is not probable to be implemented in schools today?
For that matter it has absolute relevance because the need has been intensely felt by many that the evoking of the real self within is the most rewarding object of education and for the student. Therefore, schools today must necessarily reinforce the spiritual dimension (not religious) of education long neglected.
Sri Aurobindo’s three principles of teaching:
The first principle states “…nothing can be taught.” The teacher is not an instructor or taskmaster; he/she is a helper and a guide. His/her role is to suggest and not to impose. The teacher does not actually train the pupil’s mind; he/she only shows the student how to perfect his/her instruments of knowledge for himself. He/she does not call forth the knowledge that is within; the teacher only shows where it lies and how it can be habituated to rise to the surface. The truth that this principle conveys has been advocated in India by all the great educational thinkers as it in alignment to the ancient Indian belief that all knowledge lies within and needs only to be unfolded.
The need is to create interest in the child to learn, which leads us to the second principle “…the mind has to be consulted in its own growth. The idea of hammering the child into the shape desired by the parent or teacher is a barbarous and ignorant superstition. There can be no greater error than for the parent to arrange beforehand that his son/daughter shall develop particular qualities, capacities, ideas, virtues or be prepared for a prearranged career.” This is a principle of great value and relevance to all teachers, parents and educators to liberate the child from their personal and selfish expectations.
The third principle takes into consideration the nativity involved in the child’s learning –therefore the need “to work from the near to the far from that which is to what shall be.”
These three principles serve as the foundation of Integral Education and show us how to work towards its right implementation. They can be practiced in any school.
Curriculum must be designed keeping in view the interest of the students as per their age, learning styles and varied interests. The child needs to be encouraged to pursue his own line of interest in the future course of his life.
Although still at the infant stage, we at Sri Aurobindo International School (1965) entered the domain of practicability and made it possible to bring about some changes in the educational curriculum and re-orient it towards integral education. We have started in earnest to implement the same in phases from 1993.
The inspiration for SAIS and that for other schools is to draw from a system of Integral Education linked with Sri Aurobindo’s concept of Integral yoga. Its fundamental educational concept is ‘that every child is an evolving soul’, and that the responsibility of the teacher and the parent is to enable it to grow to its true and fullest potential.
As heads of schools our goal is high and the scope is endless. The only possible thing to do is to take the first step in this challenging and meaningful journey of realizing true education, that of Integral Education.