Auroville Education

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Only for this, I believe that our education here has to develop a curriculum and curriculum naturally refers to subjects but our curriculum would also take into account the need to develop faculties and states of consciousness. Our curriculum need not be merely subject–oriented. It has to combine all the three, ’ subjects, faculties and states of consciousness. There is of course a view of which I spoke to you earlier that education should be so free that there should be no curriculum because it binds. It becomes a rigid framework and a student is cast into a curriculum and his freedom of to swim freely is lost. And I would like immediately to accept this fact, the truth behind this argument is to be accepted immediately, it is true that a curriculum has this deadening effect. Therefore, a curriculum should be such that it is not a curriculum that is to say a curriculum of such a nature is so flexible that it does not prevent a teacher or a pupil to develop curriculum according to the need of the moment.

I give you an example: I was teaching history at a given time in the Ashram school and a student came to me and said I want to learn the history of weapons. It was his great wish to study history of weapons. Now I was absolutely incompetent to deal with the subject but nobody in the school either knew how to answer this question. So I began to study myself the history of weapons ’ catapults up to aeroplanes and up to atom bomb. I studied the whole subject afterwards and I prepared a number of work–sheets for one child, which at least for my education was very good. Now if there was only one curriculum, having no freedom then this child would have never come to this question and I would have never answered him and I would have been poorer specimen than what I am now, and as a result I was benefitted by this kind of a development.

I believe even if you have a curriculum, please do not suppress this possibility of freedom to develop evolutionary syllabi. Syllabi which evolve according to the need; for example similarly one student came and said: I want to learn the history of costumes. Now this is another challenge, you know when you give freedom to the children to study; they come up with questions which are very interesting. One child came up for example and said: I want to learn what is below the ocean not in the ocean, below the ocean, how deep do you go.

Now similarly, when you allow children to ask questions, many philosophical questions are raised and very often these philosophical questions are brushed aside or we say your home will teach you, or your father will teach you, or your mother will teach you, it’s not in the school, not in the curriculum here. Questions of dharmashastra are raised, not in the form of dharmashastra, this is right or wrong, many questions of dilemmas of human life are, even in child’s life they come up, very often. Child has beaten me, what shall I do? Shall I plot to beat him again at a given time and some children advice, yes, now you should take revenge, for this child has beaten you. Even in childhood this question arises, shall I reply, he has insulted me then I’ll also insult him, I’ll teach a lesson to him; should a child teach a lesson to his friend even though he has become enemy now. Now these are very important questions which children do have and we don’t normally deal with these questions importantly, like modern politicians about whom Sri Aurobindo says: ‘ Important matters come before him but great matters come before him but he does not deal with them greatly’. So similarly many important questions come up before the teachers but we do not deal with them importantly. We put them aside and say well, sometimes we give little advice this way, little advice that way and we say pell–mell and everything is melted away in course of time. So considering all this, I was thinking that we should have three wings or three aspects of curriculum as an experimental basis.

Now I have derived these three aspects from what Mother and Sri Aurobindo have written, not for a curriculum but in many other context and I have tried to digest as it were, when you open the book of the Mother called Education, the first chapter is called Science of Living and the subtitle is To Know Oneself and To Control Oneself. Now I have studied this chapter again and again, to understand what is the message contained in this chapter. Why Mother while starting a book on education, focuses on this very important subject Science of Living. I derived three conclusions from it, one is according to the Mother all education is to teach human beings as to what is life because that is the most important subject because we are all human beings in process of living, what is life, is the most important subject.  A subject which at present is not recognised at all and besides Mother’s second conclusion is, she speaks of the Science of Living and that is also very important. That is say what is life and how life has to be studied scientifically. At present even those people who speak of life they do not have science of living, people speak of art of living. But I have noticed that Mother does not speak of the art of life, she speaks of science of life, Science of life but of living.

To know Oneself and Control Oneself and over certain years in Auroville itself, we have tried to study this problem among so many of us here and we have made a tentative curriculum. I don’t know if all the members have got a copy of it or not. I had one copy sent to Mary; you have received a copy, no? We have some copies here and perhaps at the end if you want, it has been produced under the title of our own Institute of Educational Research. Now this is a research work, you might say. I do not say that this is what Mother has said, or Sri Aurobindo has said. This is a development, an attempt, therefore one can criticise it fully and thoroughly because this is only an attempt, to visualise a kind of a curriculum over first twelve years from class I to class XII, how certain aspects or certain subjects, not taught as subjects but as elements in self knowledge and in the power to control oneself. 

I would suggest that this curriculum to be studied by all of us, critically, so that it can be enriched, modified, torn away and replaced by something else. But we need to study this subject thoroughly well. You might say that when Mother says this is a subject which cannot be for examination or certificate. So if our education is for passing examination then this subject will be out. Our curriculum will not accept this subject at all, it can’t be examined. But this I consider to be the most important subject to be studied. How to study, what methods to be developed is a different question to which I‘ll come to later on,  but not now. I am only proposing that in this curriculum the central part of curriculum should be given to this ’ ‘To Know Oneself and To Control Oneself’.

Now this curriculum I have so devised that it integrates three important points. It integrates basically the knowledge of psychology as a central piece because to know oneself is a psychology basically. So psychology is the basic point. It is integrated with philosophy on one hand, science on the other hand and aesthetics on the third hand, ethics, aesthetics, philosophy and science. These are all integrated with the basic fulcrum of psychology. So basically you teach psychology, philosophy, ethics, aesthetics and science in their essentials. So the child who learns this curriculum will have a very good (I don’t say mastery) but a very good acquaintance with these subjects. But not merely in terms of the subjects but in terms of the faculties which these subjects normally develop ’ ethical faculty, aesthetic faculty, scientific faculty, philosophic faculty and the tapasya that is needed to understand oneself, not merely in a theoretical manner but by practising. This is a curriculum which emphasises learning by practising. This is the one aspect of education that is not sufficiently emphasised in our present syllabi in the world. At the most we do learning by doing but learning by practising has a different dimension. As Yudhishtara for example was told, it’s a story, a legend you might say ’ his teacher told him in the first class ‘Tell the truth’ and next day all the children were asked tell me what I taught you yesterday? And everybody said you told us to tell the truth and Yudhishtara was the only one who did not answer the question. So he said: why don’t you answer the question, he said: I have not practised it, unless I practise, how can I say I know what you taught me yesterday. It’s a very small example but very interesting, very insightful example. You do not learn anything unless you practise it. Now normally in our school education, practising is hardly given a place, excepting when you practise basket ball or cricket or foot ball, their practise is allowed but in the other subjects practising hardly plays a role and yet practising is a very important part of learning. So this is the explanation that I gave immediately of this curriculum that I have framed. I shouldn’t say that I have framed but it is a result of a number of people who have joined together and we have produced this and then for about ten, twelve years I have reflected on it and continuously modified it to some extent.

Now there is another incite that Sri Aurobindo has given in his book on education, National System of Education, where he speaks of the right hand faculty and left hand faculties. What are the right hand faculties and what are the left hand faculties? Right hand faculties, Sri Aurobindo says consist of judgement, understanding, comprehension and all that becomes creative, this is right hand faculties. Left hand faculties analyse and they allow specialisation, they go into details, left hand faculties concentrate upon the processes, right hand faculties emphasise essence, not the process but the essence.

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