Auroville Education

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In any case there is another aspect of this question which has to noticed as she said: each language gives you a certain vibration and a certain development of faculty, which is like Sanskrit for example, the faculty of pronunciation is best achieved in Sanskrit – shudha ucharana, the purity of pronunciation is greatly emphasised in Sanskrit as never, like even Le in French, now in Sanskrit like La is written full, it is la but when you want to make half lile, there is a word called lile, it ends with le but pronunciation in English is lile. But in Sanskrit if you write lile then la has to be halant, has to be half. So there is a great precision in Sanskrit pronunciation and there are many other emphasises in Sanskrit language which are peculiar to Sanskrit language. Thirdly there is also another aspect, any student who can speak four languages will already be a forerunner in the world. Therefore we have look at it from all these points of view, what capacities we want to give our children, what will be his standing, his confidence. A child who knows so many languages, his confidence itself is very great. The contribution that language learning can give to the child is something not sufficiently understood as Sri Aurobindo says: we have to realise that clear thinking is possible without a clear mastery over language. So even for clear thinking, mastery over language is important. So our normal practise in languages is thought very perfunctory, there is no attainment of a mastery of a language. In fact, pedagogically today you go anywhere in Delhi, or in America, mastery over language is not emphasised. What happens is while teaching language, we switch over to literature and our assumption is that by reading lot of literature, you master the language. But if you ask certain questions like reporting, what I said, now if somebody says now you report the speech. You may be a good literary artist, reporting my speech accurately, is a different capacity. Unless you have a good mastery over the language, not on literature but language, you cannot report my speech very correctly.

Now, therefore there is difference between learning literature through literature and learning language through language skills. And this pedagogically very much neglected. In fact Mother once wrote a letter on this subject and she offended many people who were teaching literature through that letter. For a year whole controversy raged over that letter of the Mother, when Mother said: Literature is only concentrated upon throat centre. It is throat centre according to Sri Aurobindo is for externalising intelligence, intelligence which is concentrated upon externalising consciousness. And in order to be literary, you have to learn how to find novel and original ideas. And for the sake of novelties you enter into a field, which is not necessarily sublime. Now this had created a lot of controversy in our Ashram School because many professors of literature wrote to the Mother saying what Sri Aurobindo has written on literature. Because it is true Sri Aurobindo has written so much on literature and has spoken of the importance of literature, that many professors of literature and one professor of Shantiniketan had come (he was a devotee of the Mother) and for one year he was so sad that Mother had written this, that it is degradation of literature, where Sri Aurobindo has spoken so much and everyone said that poetry, music and art are the perfect education of the soul. You know Mother’s statements as she has said there is no dogma about it, she is a force in action, it is counteract many people’s exaggerated notion about literature and she wanted to put everything in balance. But for people to write to Mother saying Sri Aurobindo has written this, it was an irony actually, to tell Mother what Sri Aurobindo has written on literature.

Anyway, I feel that these four languages, how to emphasise them, not to make them compulsory, but how to emphasise these four languages is a matter of curricular research. I feel that there should be, I don’t know Mita and Tapas are not here, but I think Mita is working on this subject also quite seriously, she has shown me. I think this research requires, Mother told me once that you should teach four languages simultaneously. You take a word and say this in English, this in French, this in Tamil, this in Sanskrit simultaneously, in Italian so and so, in Spanish this is this way etc. I think this also makes languages much easier. 50% of English words are French or vice versa or even more, it’s a fact. It’s a tyranny of subjects that prevents us from cultivating languages at a higher level, it’s a fact, I know it. Why is it that we do not give importance to languages because we feel he must learn Mathematics, science, history, geography, all this. Now there is school of thought which says that first eight years children should learn only languages, it’s a school of thought, not that I agree with it entirely, but there is a great force in it. According to this school of thought, first eight years should be devoted only to languages because they say if your languages are good, other things you can learn easily afterwards.   

Now I am giving this concreteness first of all that these four languages kindly emphasise in our curriculum and kindly emphasise mental calculi, Mother had spoken of mental calculation, not mathematics, mathematics is different subject, it’s not calculi. Mother made a distinction she said calculi is not mathematics. And so Mother said at the lower stages, you emphasise language and calculi. She has not said further on the subject but I would say that in the curriculum of the first eight years, you should give a great emphasis on learning four languages and calculi, four operations of arithmetic. Because these four operations are actually a real training of the mind, the mind actually works best when mathematical problems are given, all the faculties of the mind of analyses, the left hand faculties they develop best. So this calculi is very important as a basis for mathematics, then higher mathematics can be learnt later on. So my suggestion is four languages and calculi, plus anything else that the child wants. These two things to be emphasised at this level in addition to this spinal cord and on the right hand wing, lots of stories. You give literature but mainly through stories, through drama, through recitation of poetry and through creative expressions, drawing and through music and through dance. These I would say you emphasise strongly in the first eight years, plus whatever the child wants to learn let him learn, you can allow him anything else. He wants to do a lot of mathematics even at the lower level, fine. If he wants to do lot of physiology let him do that, he wants to do a lot of physics, how and why for example, many questions of the how and why can be introduced at the lower level. They include geography, physics, chemistry, lots of questions only through how and why. And then as a result he wants to read on physics, he can read, he can be helped, it is optional. But what you emphasise is basically what I told you just now. The spinal cord of this ‘To Know Oneself and To Control Oneself’, then four languages and calculi plus stories, dramas, recitations, dance and any creative drawing and so on, these are to be emphasised in the first eight years, up to fourteen years plus anything he wants to do in addition to this but these are to be emphasised. Anything else the child wants to do should be encouraged, it’s for encouragement. And even at the level of fourteen if some gifted children want to do some optional subjects, real study, we should allow him and the facility should be given.

So the curriculum should be of such a nature that this emphasises, this encouragement and this kind of optionality is available, this is my reading at present but I would like to invite people who want to make a curriculum. In addition to this I would emphasise two subjects which are not normally emphasised at this stage and that is Astronomy and Geography. This is apart from mathematics, which I said is a great mental gymnastics, as far as the empirical science is concerned nothing is more concrete to the child as Astronomy and Geography, from the point of concreteness and these two subjects are normally not taught except in a very general way. You speak about stars and galaxies and so on, but nothing more than that but astronomy would be a very good subject for study. In fact in Indian system of education Jyotisha that is astronomy was given the highest importance. It was right from childhood Jyotish was taught to everybody – astronomy. So this is my suggestion and when I come back again if there is a group of people who are preparing syllabus or curriculum, or if all of us join together like this, I’ll be very happy. If we all can frame, people can bring some of their ideas. In fact I have requested Serge is here, I told him to prepare his own. You know he is a physicist himself, I had a good talk with him and I have told him that you just give me your autobiographical development of study of physics.

You know one of the best ways of learning or preparing curriculum is to take biographies of some individuals – how they learnt the given subject. What was the curve of their development? And if you compare three, four, five such biographies, you get a good idea as to how to develop, instead of discussing in theoretical manner, you take a biography. How you learnt music for example, I don’t know if you know music or not, or how you learnt art, for example, if I ask her, if you give a biographical account, it will be a very interesting study, seriously. If you can bring next time, I would like to only reading of the papers of individuals – how I learnt certain things. So when I come next time, let us continue, if you all agree. I’ll be happy if all are present because I want this to be participant of everybody. It is a learning process for all of us.

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