I think that the idea that you have now in your school to have this project secretaries is a new idea in any school organization. This idea is emerged from a number of experiments which have been done in different parts of the world, and yet this idea has not emerged as an articulated idea. I had first suggested this idea in 1984 for Vishwa Bharati, Shanti Niketan. It was an idea to rejuvenate Shanti Niketan.
Although it was established at the beginning of the last century, in 1904, Tagore started Shanti Niketan and continued until 1941, the year in which he passed away. It was a very growing institution and it vibrated with a tremendous atmosphere of innovations, spirit of freedom and spirit of serenity in the atmosphere. There was a constant flow of creativity in all directions of life.
As you know the former prime minister, Indira Gandhi, was the student of this Shanti Niketan for a year during her schooling period and she had a direct contact with Tagore. In due course of time, particularly after 1951, this institution began to deteriorate and when I became education advisor to the government of India in 1976, Indira Gandhi especially issued a letter to the minister, saying that one special task that should be given to me would be to advise on Vishwa Bharati and to see that Vishwa Bharati is brought back to its original glory, particularly of creativity. From 1976 to 1984, therefore, I was connected with Vishwa Bharati, with an attempt to rejuvenate Vishwa Bharati. It is during that period that I told the prime minister that we must make basic changes in the very constitution of the university, our very concept of the university.
Our universities are basically manufacturing factories, not sanctuaries of souls. Children are being brought into the university and they are put into the production line and little by little bricks are being laid or spare parts are being put together and ultimately, a product is produced. Even that is inefficiently done in Indian universities, and it is because of the structure of university that the spirit of university does not flourish. The structure is prefabricated, it doesn't grow from within and therefore that prefabricated structure does not allow teachers to be innovative. Even innovation of the teachers is stunted, structures are laid down and you can't do anything more than that.
Vice chancellor, who is called kulapati, is administratively so much loaded, he doesn't know where is kula. So how does he know what is kulapati? It is because the structure is such that kulapati is given the charge of administration, it’s a kind of a mismatch. Kulapati should be the keeper of the family. If he is loaded with administration, he has hardly any time to look after the family. Kulapati to be a real kulapati should be a free man moving among the members of the family meeting children, teachers talking to them like a great grandfather speaking to the children, that is kulapati. That should be the time available to the kulapati. But the structure of university in India is so conceived that a heavy load of administrative and financial responsibilities are laid upon him.
So I had lots of discussions with education all over the country. In fact, I had the chance of meeting hundreds of teachers and professors in the country to discuss this important problem. Is it possible to create a new structure? And my experience was quite disappointing experience because even the best teachers of the country, they believed that university should be what it is. That there can be another kind of universal structure, even that idea was not floating anywhere. So I had a great difficulty. So, whatever I wanted to do about new structure for the university, it could not be achieved.
So even now, in 85 I created a new act of the parliament for Vishwa Bharati tried to give some new elements in it, but from 85 to the present day, there have been three other committees to examine how to rejuvenate Vishwa Bharati. This is our difficulty with our education system at a very high level.
Similarly, in the school principles, and vice principles are very busy with administration and finance, discipline of the school, timetable making and what is called a real internal intimate work of a vice principle and principle is discharged only by those individuals who are by nature inclined towards personal relationship with teachers and peoples. Therefore, only those principles become really successful, who have both the abilities of administrative and financial discharge of responsibilities, plus relationship with teachers and pupils. They are not many in the country.
Now, since Anjaliji is now looking after your school, I feel the great boon has come to your school, because she is one of those forward-looking educationists who want to create something new, and fortunately you are all very lucky, because your school is one of the best schools of India. I am told one of the first 10 schools of India and you have a large number of students, 3,000 and more perhaps you have a setting which is very propitious for experimentation.
There are many people in the country who believe do not try to change. Everything is all right, make it efficient lubricate with the oil of industry, diligence, application and everything is all right. You will get highest 100 percent results and you will get a great clap. This is all that many teachers in our country, many principals in our country, educationists in our country, believe - and that is why, in the school system, we have very few schools which are innovative.
Is it possible to make this school not only what it is already, it is efficient, but also innovative, also vibrating with new waves of creativity. This is the question that she has been discussing with me, which is a privilege for me, because not many teachers and students or administrators or organizers or financiers in our country care about this.
Now, as a result of lot of thinking on the subject of innovative and creativity, which is necessary in any school, I have come to the conclusion. This is also experimental, so I am not here to tell you what you ought to do, I am only sharing with you, my ideas so that we can mature them. Just now. I was reading what she has done for Indian nationalism, and it was a good lesson for me because what she has done for young children. It was a good lesson that she has prepared for parents, for children and certain ideas which has identified for nationalism for children. Very innovative ideas are presented in three four pages, which I have read just now.
So I know that in our country, teachers have thought a lot, but they do not get the chance of introducing any innovations because they are in a routine of timetable making and fulfilling the responsibilities of the timetable. Besides, our teachers are so heavily loaded with work. The homework correction itself is a very heavy work and which most of the teachers don't take into account. I mean administrators don't take into account and they feel it is of course understood and yet homework correction is one of the most important works of the teachers, and many people don't realize this at all. When they say how many teachers, how many hours you are teaching.
I had asked the Mother once a question: what is the ideal load of a teacher that you should ask from a teacher? So normally eight hours is the workload. So mother said three hours per day should be given to teaching work. Actually, this is the ideal, three hours out of eight hours. No teacher should be given load more than three hours. Why? Because a lot of time is to be given to the children, as though talking to a child still in the class is not a looking after children. When you look at the homework, you are actually coming into a real concrete touch with the children. It’s not only when you are talking to the children, the classroom, but when you are looking into the notebook of the child, you are in contact with the child.
This work is not normally counted, and therefore our administration of the school is normally a kind of a plan on the teachers and teachers also try to do homework correction as fast as possible. There’s not much time because then, particularly in India, for women teachers have a tremendous domestic responsibilities. It’s a fact. I mean we have to reckon this fact that they have to look after so many things at home and even the husbands and their friends are not very kind to the demands they make upon the housewives. This is a psychological, sociological fact and therefore, when they are appointed as teachers, there is a very difficult situation in which our teachers are placed. They are to do the work for students as full-time 24 hours devoted to the work as everyone is supposed to, and yet it is not recognized, not reckoned, and therefore the load of work that is given to teachers is very heavy. Our Indian women are very brave and they have been able to do a lot which normally women would normally place themselves in a revolting state of mind. But our Indian women have been able to bear the brunt of this new civilization, keeping the old civilization on and absorbing the new civilization and the responsibilities of new civilization and keeping some kind of equilibrium. Our homes are not broken down. Teachers, homes particularly, are much better and children are being looked after much better, and I find that if you take a statistical view of the teacher's homes among all the homes in the country, teachers homes are happier which is very remarkable. It’s a fact. And yet teachers are being attacked so much. My heart is always in favour of teachers, because I really feel that they are doing extraordinarily great work in our country.
Yes, you're right because child upbringing is a speciality of a teacher and then many teachers like her are psychologists. So the study of psychology, according to me, is a very important sine qua non for every teacher, not only for psychology teacher but for every teacher. Psychology is a fundamental subject of teaching. To be a teacher is to be a psychologist. So, as I said, keeping in view that real task of the teacher is not merely to give classes to encounter children in the classroom, but also and more fundamentally elsewhere in the homework.
For example, in my own life, there was a revolution when, as I have worked in the Sri Aurobindo Ashram for 20 years - and I am not a trained teacher - I have not undergone a training for teachership, nor was education my special subject, I was trained to be an administrator. I had done my ICS and resigned from there and gone to the Ashram, and then I grew as a teacher ultimately. So I was always asking this question: what is the role of the teacher? Sometimes you do your job better when you are foreigner to your task, because you come with some kind of freshness and Mother once said, the basic task of teacher is not teaching and it was a revolutionary statement. She said the basic task of teacher is to observe the children.
For me, it was a revolutionary statement to be told that teaching is not your basic task. Observing the children is a basic task and she said that a system in which teachers do not have the chance to observe the children, that system can never be a living system. And when you examine this statement, you find it is so profoundly important that our schooling system, educational system is so organized that you hardly have time to observe the children, is exactly the opposite.
Therefore, if you want to innovate system of education, I thought you should find some teachers in the school who voluntarily feel happy to observe the children. There should be a few teachers in a school who can say I love children and see how they are growing. It’s a joy to see a child growing, to see how the muscles of the child are developing, how the agility of the child is developing, agility of the body, agility of the mind, agility of creativity, of spirit, how these faculties are growing. So I’m sure that in every school there must be some teachers who are deeply interested in this psychologically. I mean not that you are taught how to observe, but you like to observe. This is like some people have big gardens around, but they hardly take care to see the flowers, they take them for granted, flowers are flowers, good, very fine, beautiful. But there are people who live in a garden and every day they see how the plant is growing, how the fresh leaves are growing and how the flowers bloom and you spend time because you enjoy it.
I’m sure there are many presidents of India who have Mughal gardens available in their Rastrapati Bhavan, but they don't have the time to move about in the Mughal gardens to see the gardens and the beauty, they are open to the people who come and enjoy, but not the Rastrapati himself or herself. There are exceptions, of course, but the point is that all children are around in the school. Not all may be interested in seeing the children's growth or to look upon children as roses which are in bloom or in the process of blooming, but some teachers at least would love to do it. Why? Because it's the health of the teachers themselves.
So I had told her, I said you should voluntarily see in your school: are there teachers who bloom with the children themselves, who rejoice the smile of the children and feel the vibration of the soul of the children? Every child is a precious treasure, it's a kind of a bud which is growing petal by petal and would like to help. Actually, nobody can help a lot. The help that you can give to a rose to bloom is only perhaps to put some water and allow a lot of sunshine to come. But the growth takes place because the very force of the plant and the very nature of the rose and the bud itself to grow and to force by itself to grow out, so our role is modest. All teacher’s role is modest.
That modest role is very important, so I have felt that a good school should have a few teachers, at least who love to see the blooming of children. Similarly, there are even young students who are enthusiastic. They may be not very scholarly. Normally you find that they are extremely serviceable. They may not learn as scholarly as children might learn, but whatever they learn, they feel so happy about it. They become contagious. This was my experience of my school. There were at least 12 children in my school who were not scholars. There are children, always in a school who are enthusiastic.
Now to underline the word enthusiasm ten times is very important. Not all children are enthusiastic.
Uncle your tea and medicine timing..
Sorry, let me pour out. When I see teachers, I feel very happy and my breakfast everything is contained in my talking to teachers who are very precious in this country, in the world. And so to mark out an enthusiastic child and to encourage that enthusiasm and how to encourage enthusiastic children? These are very important problems to be dealt with and they are not normally part of anybody's work. Nobody says, please tell me, who are enthusiastic children and how you've been able to help them. This is never examined. It’s not an item for your testing, but it's very important to give a push to enthusiastic children in the right direction is one of the fundamental works of those who have possibility of giving that push to the children, but normally in a school nobody has this responsibility.
In a school principal and vice principal. If they are good people, they might do something, but their work is so heavy. They don't have the time. Teachers have no responsibility either, they only go to classes, they do homework. Fine. And some very good teachers are doing their work conscientiously, but the same work can be done also mechanically, and we should be frank about it that many teachers work quite mechanically and satisfy themselves. Work is done and nobody can claim anything more than that. But if there are possibilities in a given school of giving special responsibilities to a few teachers and say look, you have no position to do a work, because you're in a position is a lower motivation. But to give a responsibility without a special position is a privilege.
So I was talking to Anjaliji. I said one of the ideas that I have nurtured as a result of lot of experiments is that in a school you should encourage and recognize a few teachers who have a natural love for children and who want to bloom with the children and who would like to take responsibility to give a push to enthusiasm which is in the school.
Enthusiasm, is a contagious healing process, not a disease, but a contagious healing process. If you encourage one enthusiastic child, it will spread among ten children. So to mark out the enthusiastic child and to give him or her a special attention and to allow that enthusiasm to run among the peers of the children is one of the key factors in developing a good school, happier school, blooming school.
So this is the idea I gave to Vishwa Bharati when I was making this act, and I proposed that there should be four directors apart from the vice chancellor and pro vice chancellor, and pro chancellor, all these are high sounding designations. There should be directors specially charged for certain specific things who will promote those very things which are normally neglected.
So if you pick up those important activities through which the lubrication of the school is not merely for efficiency, but for innovation and for creativity and for nurturing the children's souls, then the school will have a different fragrance. Efficiency wise, it may not look different, but happiness wise, it will be much better, so that is why I thought that when she came, I said we should have something similar to what I proposed for Vishwa Bharati and during the last 25 years, it has still not been implemented, which is also an important factor.
I have put in the act of the parliament, these four posts and these four posts are held without the deciding responsibilities. The posts are held because you get more pay because in the new system there is always this lucrative aspect of a post. But we decided that in our school we shall not create a special post of that kind. That will be purely voluntary and let them work out. Let them feel fulfilled that this is a very important, interesting work and let us work on it. This is the background, and then she said why should I not talk to you all of you. I said all right I’ll be very happy, provided that you bind with me for 10 years, because I do not like to do a work mechanically. In one meeting, not much can be done, it's a constant process and there should be a gradual process and gradual, give and take, and I don't look upon myself as a leader of education but as a contributor to education, and I think everyone is in a process of learning.
We are all learning. I do not know if I can give you any tips as to how one should go about it, I can only share with you what I have learned and I would like to learn from you. For example, I told you that the morning when I read your paper, I learned from it, it's a very educative paper for it's by itself to see how a work is given and how somebody reacts to it and what creativity comes out of it.
She has as you know taken the task of nationalism and internationalism, it's a very important subject and very difficult subject: how to have in your atmosphere a real growth of nationalism among children and also the concept of vasudeva kutumbakam— the whole earth is one family.
Now, similarly, we have identified a few topics and, as you all know that there should be first of all, a very big work of innovations in education, what is called a present academic, although, to my mind everything is academic, and I would not like to make a distinction between academic and non-academic. Education is all that a child is concerned with, play, work, study, thinking reflecting meditating, contemplating and building up relationships, friendships battles of life, all that is part of education, but still there is this big question of what are called at present academic studies: languages, mathematics, science, history, Geography civics many other subjects which are being added more and more to load up the children. So these are all academic studies and there is physical education and yoga, and there is also the question of like nationalism, internationalism, which is not an academic subject as such, and yet it is perhaps one of the most important subjects to be attended by any good school. Similarly, at present there are, of course, art classes, music classes, dance classes, and something of that is always now being recognized, but still in this mindset of speech, teachers and students, what we call academic studies is the central part, others are extra-curricular. So it's a pernicious distinction, but anyway at present it is so.
We start where we are, but even with regard to these academic studies, at present there is not much thinking of innovations. What is innovation? We do not know how to develop. Innovations in the school is a further problem to operationalize. An innovation is another problem to create a climate in which innovation can take root is also a big problem. I do not know who, among you, is looking after innovations in education.
So let me speak first of all about this subject, because innovations in education, we have three thrusts: innovations in objectives of education, in contents of education and methods of education. For example, one of the most important thrusts in the objective education is education for the complete person. This is a subject on which she wrote a book, perhaps you've got a copy, it’s the innovation in objectives of education. This is an objective which has come very much in the limelight during the last 20 years: holistic education, integral development of the child, to look upon the child as a whole, not as tid-bits but as a whole. Can there be this ideal and does our system methods and contents do they correlate very well with this aim, the very fact that you have got classes in languages, history, geography, science, you already make divisions, are these divisions necessary? They are, right from the beginning I plead they are necessary and yet, if you think that education should be for the whole child, there should be some integrating force.
So this is one of the first subjects on which attention has to be paid by all of you. The reason why I said I will talk to all of you together is that there are some overarching ideas which I should share with all. Apart from your specific work which one is supposed to concentrate upon, the overarching ideas and all your works are actually results of satisfying some overarching ideas. Take, for example, the subject of nationalism. Internationalism is something to do with the integralism of the child. You cannot build child's nationalism by cutting the child into so many aspects. Child as a whole should be dedicated to his nation, his integrity, his unity, his ideas, his values and promotion of these values all over. It is not that only through history, you can learn nationalism and through language you cannot and through sports you cannot.
It's a holistic subject. To discover holistic subject itself is an innovation. What are the holistic subjects? For example, this nationalism internationalism is a holistic subject. Another which is very important is evolution, it is a holistic subject. Evolution is evolution of the totality of human being. Therefore, evolution is another subject which is holistic. To develop theory of evolution, study of evolution among children is to allow the child to expand his consciousness in a holistic manner. Very subject itself demands holistic development. A third subject which is holistic is world history. In a sense world history is a sub-subject of evolution itself, but still one can consider world history also as a holistic subject. Psychology is a holistic subject. When you learn psychology, you learn the individuality as a whole, and you learn individual and society and the relationship also as a whole is a holistic subject. Philosophy is a holistic subject.
Now you will see that these subjects are present, do not find place in our curriculum at all, and yet we speak of integralism. Integral subjects are hardly having any place. There is, of course, a very healthy movement today in the world when it is said, philosophy for children. At one time, philosophy was relegated to BA, MA and higher levels. It is a fortunate thing that today many educations are thinking that we should have philosophy of children. Why? Because philosophical thinking is a holistic thinking. The moment, you begin to speak of philosophy, you speak of the whole universe, because what is philosophy, basically, it is to determine what is the totality of the universe, and if there is something beyond the universe, if at all, it is a study of that which is beyond beyond beyond beyond, the search of the Ultimate, the Ultimate, if at all there is a Ultimate and then the place of man in the Ultimate. This is philosophy and if children begin to think about it from childhood, the personality will be holistic, but this subject is eliminated from our system.
One of the reasons why I criticized Macaulay system, or the present system is that in our traditional system of education, the history of which is not very well known even among experts, the colonial system systematically threw out of the system all that was holistic. It is one of the important things that Macaulay system has done in the country. All that was holistic in our system of education is eliminated. Even in the west holistic education was not important because the cultural development was on different lines. It is now recently that people begin to feel that holistic education is very important because of certain crisis through which mankind is passing. We do feel that this is very important that this subject came to be highlighted through UNESCO’s report on learning to be, and this report defined learning to be in a holistic manner.
Experience of being cannot come about unless you are whole. This is the basic truth of psychology: every individual is seeking to be. This is what is known as feeling identity, search for identity, search for selfhood, search for self-possession. Human beings are unhappy because they are not self-possessed. When you can put yourself as if you are apart from yourself and put yourself in your palm, and you can say this is myself and I am a sculptor of my being and I can sculpt my personality according to the need, the capacity to do this Is self-being, then you say I exist, and most of the human beings are torn apart because they do not know, they don't have this experience of holding here on the palm what is one's being. So education should ultimately aim at this experience of being.
Now in our system, there was at one time a great place for education for being, learning to be is not new for India. It was ancient times that it was actually education to learn learning to be. We used a different terminology, but basically it was that and brahmavidya was the central subject of our education, but colonial system took that subject out saying it is religious, and religion is a matter for everybody to do at home. School system should not have any place for it.
Fortunately, today, even in the west, people feel the need for religious education, there's a lot of controversy about it, spiritual education, if not spiritual, religious education. Spiritual education, it's a big subject of study and a pregnant subject actually, because a lot of things are needed to be done to develop the subject, but unless teachers think about the subject, the subject will not grow. This is one difficulty with the colonial system, learning to be is set aside and after when we talk of it, we try to bring in somehow. These are the subjects which you cannot touch. The scheme you cannot touch because it is given by CBSE. Then you try to have something here, something there from somewhere and ultimately our Indian teachers are very good. We are successful in our way because our culture, cultural background is great and we are able to give our children certain things automatically as it were, but it is not called a deliberate system of education and therefore our education system is not so satisfactory.
So this is one subject of innovation: how to create in our system of education, this aim of learning to be is a very difficult subject. As I said, it requires ten years of interaction to develop something that is innovatively relevant and practicable, and that too, to put the subject in the framework of the present limitations of our system of education is very difficult. It is from this point of view that this identification of subject the aim of life is one subject which is not taught anywhere at all. But if in the atmosphere that subject is made operative, it will do something, not fully, but it will do something to contribute to this education of learning to be aim of life, because this is one subject which is also holistic.
The moment you ask: what is the aim of life even to ask a question and let the questions remain in the minds of children in a sense is enough to tell the children that aim of life is something to be decided by you. You look around to explore the subject. There’s no prescription, explore yourselves and to tell the children listen, you are free. This message is very difficult to give to the present children, because children are not free, parents are asking children always to become first, they are not free and to tell them look you are free is something contrary to the present system of education. Children are told there is a tight competition in the world. You should be smart.
Now, there are many nice children, docile children who are not smart and they are being as it were punished for not being smart, as if not being smart is a kind of a defect or personality which it is not. There is something like innocence, something which is very questioning, he's never sure of anything, how nice it is, and we don't appreciate at all. A child who is dashing and he is eloquent and thrashes out his view against everybody else, he’s smart, competitively he's very bright. He’s spotted, here is a bright child because he speaks out in the classroom. But how many good children are innocently listening, asking questioning, very docile. We hardly give any importance to it. It is these children who are really the true leaders, not so-called smart children.
Not the smartness is bad, but we always give an importance of what is called present: develop confidence. Nothing wrong about it, develop confidence, but we never tell children how to develop confidence. It’s not easy to develop confidence. Confidence is not a style, it's not mannerism. It’s not the way in which you behave. Confidence building requires a lot of concentrated work. A child is going to exam, “child, be confident!” How can he be confident if he doesn't know the answer to the question? what is the confidence? He will have confidence if he knows the answer to the question, you don't need to teach him again, now be confident. Instead of saying be confident, you say you learn properly, truly. Confidence will grow automatically. It’s a result. It’s a flower by itself.
Now it is this kind of wrong emphasis that we put in our education and create a wrong kind of population, aggressiveness, violence, competitive success and being first, there is a beautiful sentence with mother. Told me once: do not try to be first, but try to do your best. This is a mantra for the new world. Do not try to come first, try to do your best. Now to give this mantra, how this idea should percolate among your students.
You see in our school Mother herself used to be the referee of competition and she used to be seated at the central place and children used to sprint around her and she would wait until the last child has finished the sprinting. Normally when the first is decided, finish, the competition is over, but she would wait until the last child has done is full. Whatever is to be done, even if it takes half an hour or more, every one of us have to remain in the ground to watch the last child because he's doing his best. What is the value of what he's doing? This is the new attitude that has to be developed among students and teachers, and the schools, do not value only the one who comes the first, wait for the last one.
Competition with oneself?
If at all, even with oneself, also is a question. The idea of competition itself smacks of this egoism, self-improvement you might say, it is to put accelerator on your limitations, to reach your point of limitation and to put accelerator on it. That is the mark of excellence. Every child should be told that he is first if he does more than what his limitations can permit him to do. That is excellence.
In a sense I am rambling with you because there are so many things to be told at the same time, but you will see there is a method in it. It is to build up the idea that innovations in education - the first is wholism as an objective of education and in wholism to discover holistic subjects is an important task and among them I gave nationalism, internationalism, world history, evolution, an aim of life.
Evolution has not been dealt with.
But we shall do it, I mean this is the result of our talk. It also should come on as one of the important subjects was holistic subjects. We need to develop a new curriculum which is centred on learning, it's a subject which we shall discuss later on, but there is a need to develop a new curriculum. This is the subject on which not much can be done in a school which is run under the scheme of CBSE. So that is your system, so there is a system which is given to you and you've got to satisfy it and there you can't have new curriculum.
Till class eight we can as long as the children are being prepared for the board afterwards.
That's it! So there is a limitation on it. Anyway, I think that your school can be a good institution for creating a new curriculum in due course of say 20 years, but ultimately we should be able to create a new curriculum which you can give to the country. I am very interested in your school because she happens to be the vice president of your school and I have great chances of meeting her. So it's an organic relationship with which I have with you all - and this is very precious for me. So if you can sometimes you can organize it, we shall have, if possible, you bring some of your teachers on Saturday or someday if they are free from their homework. We can spend two days only on new curriculum, because at least teachers should think about it. Even if you can't implement it, you should think about it. You do need to have a new curriculum in due course of time for the country’s sake.
Now that is one area of innovations in education, the aim of life and a new curriculum. Another area of innovations in education is regarding methodology. Here again, our methodology of education is very limited in our present system of education. We largely do it in lectures, some good teachers have some projects, some seminars, some exhibitions. These are all good innovations in methodology. So, to increase your work, I would suggest one more innovation in methodology and that is to create a laboratory. While doing many experiments in education at the ashram, where I had the great privilege of 20 years of experimentation in complete freedom. The reason why I feel so happy in my life about is that I had the privilege of working under the freest individual, the Mother herself, the freest individual in the world, the most revolutionary personality on the earth and who did not impose any limitation upon any teacher or any student, and therefore we had a complete freedom to innovate and, as a result of this, the one idea which has sprung in me at least, is to develop the idea of a laboratory. I use the word laboratory only because it's a word, which is not very much opposed, I would use some other word, but anyway, I use the word laboratory, because people do know that there is physics laboratory chemistry laboratory, and biology laboratory and home science laboratory. It is these laboratories are well known, but to speak of laboratory of literature is innovative idea, which I would very much like to advocate to have a laboratory of mathematics, is an innovative idea, a laboratory of history and civics or geography is innovative idea.
In other words, I do believe that there should be an institution of a laboratory in every school, and this is an idea I would like to discuss with all of you, because it's not only one person's work, everyone in every department, you need to have laboratory. The nearest idea to a laboratory is, I see you in a medical college, intensive care units. Everybody accepts that every medical institution should have an ICU. Why? Because patients do pass through that stage, we don't see that in education there is a need of ICU.
The recent film Tare Zameen Par has shown the need of such an ICU when a child was suffering from dyslexia. In that context, you might say that this idea may not now look so strange, because today there is a climate in which many parents and teachers have come to realize that there is a need to identify those children who are suffering because something is missing and nobody is bothered about it and you go on demanding from the child what do you demand from everybody else.
One system in our school, so we have a clinical psychologist.
Good, it's good just to have some psychologist, it's good to have psychologists. But what is ICU? What is truth about ICU is in the extreme cases. Tare Zameen Par showed only one extreme case, but we don't recognize that most of the children require it. This is not recognized. You might say that almost every child at a given stage of his development requires an ICU.
I was one of bright students in my school and yet I never understood what is geometry, up to my pre-metric class I did not understand. I was still bright because I could remember theorems and the answers and all of that, nobody could catch it or did not know. One teacher had a great insight he spotted me and said Kireet, you don't understand Geometry, he was so kind. He sat down with me for one hour and said to me: Geometry is not in the book, Geometry is in your mind. It was a revelation to me that Geometry is not in the book, it is in the mind. So proof is not given there, put a question to your mind and ask questions and proof will come out of it. It was a big revolution in my development.
Now I was a patient of ICU actually. Now this is a problem with a number of children in all schools in the world. In all the schools, there are some subtle points at which children are stuck and they do not know how to cross, and there is nobody to look into it. You go on hammering hammering hammering: this is not right, this is not right, this is not right. But why there must be a place which I call now laboratory for every subject. There should be a laboratory. Some of the common problems where many children are stuck is: why should I study this subject. It's a very important subject and many teachers themselves are not able to answer this question. Why should I be busy learning what I am asked to learn, and it is not that all teachers are such experts that they can answer a question: why you should?
In my school, for example, I had a natural tendency to do sports and physical education, but in the atmosphere in the school we were told: if you do physical education, one day, you will fall, you will break your bone and if you break your bone afterwards in your whole life you'll be limping. This was the atmosphere and I don't think that that is completely changed and this danger is not something artificial. It is there in physical education to expect that you will grow up without falling is not possible. How do you interact and how could you react to this question? Why should I do physical education? I was told very frankly: only Muslims should do physical education. Why? Because they want to fight, we Hindus don't fight. Therefore, we don't need to do physical education. Now imagine this was the atmosphere of our whole town, Hindu, boys and girls should not do physical education at all. It’s a waste of time, study, that is important. Why do you want to do physical education waste your time two hours, three hours a day, it's a very important subject and very important question and our children don't get a correct answer even today I am quite sure. Why should children be doing physical education? Today of course, because of sports they see so much of television of sports and so on, there's a craze for it. But if you ask the question why? What is the real fundamental reason why your body should be trained physically? This question is not answered. There should be a laboratory of physical education where this question is answered properly fully in due course of time, first properly and then fully in due course of time. It’s a very important question.
śarīramādyaṃ khalu dharmasādhanam
शरीरमाद्यं खलु धर्मसाधनम्
This is a adage in Sanskrit. The healthy body is a necessity for the performance of the ideals of life. If you want to really perform ideals in your life, physical health is absolutely indispensable.
Value of beauty, for example, in our many orthodox families, beauty is hardly regarded as a value. You look like whatever, you don't comb the hair, put whatever dress, you just get out of your home, you don't even are wearing chappals, you just wear as if it's a burden to you and when you throw out the chappals, you throw out as if unnecessary, you don't need it. You don't even know that chappal should be put rightly in a good manner, like Japanese method of putting out your shoes and chappals, and so on. It’s a part of physical education.
Your body should be so trained, so beautifully organized that your actions, reactions are absolutely perfect, beautiful, it's a part of physical education to look beautiful, there is nothing wrong about it. Beauty is a part of life. Beauty has his own value and everybody should develop physical body, so that body remains beautiful and as long as possible. Therefore, there should be a laboratory. I don't dilate upon the subject at length, but physical education should have a laboratory where this question is answered: why physical education? Many children do not take to physical education because of this reason: they do not know why. And many people give up physical education as soon as they start working. They do not know physical education is a lifelong marriage. As long as you remain alive, you should do physical education all over life. This is not sufficiently recognized, it's not only for going doing good sports that you require physical education. Even breathing is an important aspect of physical health. It is not sufficiently recognized, we do pranayama and all that, but why? What is oxygen and how oxygen can really infiltrate into all parts of your body and many methods of oxygenating your body, all this is to be understood, and this can be done best by laboratory.
In a laboratory these questions are there, they are answered properly and they should be able to when a child says why should I do physical education, send him to laboratory and there should be somebody who says what is your question and here are answers available. There should be a box of why, what, how. There should be boxes to answer certain questions— why, what, how—specific question and specific answers. Why laboratory, because in a normal classroom, even when such questions are raised by the children or even if you answer, they are not underlined.
One of the most important things in education is underlining. What is the difference between reading a book and attending a lecture? A lecturer underlines. The very fact that a teacher speaks about something, when my teacher, for example, spoke the speech of Antony—I mean Antony, Cleopetra and Julius Caesar—why does he speak of Antony's speech, four lines? Listen to me - and he says, give me, lend your ears, why a good lecturer underlines - and that is the advantage of a lecturer. A good lecturer is one who underlines. You may read a book, but you may not underline because you don't see the importance of it. A good lecturer is one who has mastered the subject and when he speaks in this class he underlines what is important, but this underlining in most of the schools is hardly done, because not many teachers are real good lecturers. They repeat what is in the school, they don't underline. But a laboratory is a place where underlining is specially designed. What is it that you should underline, emphasis. Where should you put an emphasis? So a laboratory has to be made where some underlining of the subject should be at one place.
A laboratory should be able to tell you where normally children fail to cross a barrier. A good psychologist should say that, while learning mathematics, these are the barriers which normally children come across. Like geometry, for example, was a barrier to me. A subject was introduced, and you are only told here is a theorem and the teacher does not take care to see that a subject is to be introduced properly. Now we should do factorization, good child doesn't know what is factorization. Why is true? What is x, what is y? what is common factor? Nothing at all. Factorization, and then there is a method of it. You teach the method, but why factorization at all? What is ratio proportion? Why we don't explain? These are barriers. A good psychologist finds out what are the barriers.
In learning in languages, for example, we know that spelling is a big barrier, how many good children, they speak very well, but when they write their spellings are horrible, not all, but this is a case very often you come across. Why should there not be a place? I see you for spelling, a place where a child should be told: now your spellings are weak. You go to the laboratory where spellings are specially taught. There should be a box of exercise in spellings from simple to complex, a graded system of spellings. If you have got 50 exercises of spellings, you will be mastered. You have to find out what are these spellings which are really difficult spellings. You are bound to make a mistake. Many people make mistake. Even today, even educated people make a mistake in spelling, because those spellings are particularly difficult. So a good laboratory man finds out what are the difficult spellings in which children have to take a special note.
Punctuation, for example, in our schools: normally we don't teach punctuation in the right manner, where coma, hyphen, semi-colon, full stop, where they should be used. We don't know. We haphazardly write, that after a comma, there should be another comma to follow, because between one comma and the other comma, something qualifying statement is made, but most of the people, including the best educated people today, after coma, they put a qualifying statement, but they don't put coma after that. It’s a common mistake everywhere I find. No? It is true because we are not taught. Coma is a very important aspect of learning a language, so a laboratory is required for that purpose.
You require in a laboratory system of analysis. Power of analysis is a very important power of natural development. Regarding every subject, do you teach analysis of any subject, a good teacher, of course, analyses subject quite nicely, but for a child to do analysis, he's hardly taught. To develop an argument, it requires a special training how to develop an argument. What is an argument?
Similarly, what is synthesis? just as analysis is important, synthesis is also important. It was also necessary how to synthesize different ideas: how to collate different ideas; how collation should not be juxtaposition of ideas, but real integration of ideas. There should be exercises available in a laboratory where children are taught that is to say and taught by self-education. A laboratory should be so organized that a teacher simply says to child: you don't know punctuation quite well, you need to go to a laboratory. You access, you go to a laboratory where exercise will be given on punctuation and exercise are available. You just open the box of punctuation and the whole exercise is given so well that you can do by yourselves.
In a laboratory you require one teacher who attends to everybody's needs and can show it is like executive waiting room in airport. A person is required to receive, somebody says you can take your seat. The tea is available, biscuits are available, some snacks are available, newspapers are available. You spend your time nicely. The receptionist only takes down the name and allows you to go into and if sometimes some inquiry is made you can show here it is. You require a laboratory man to do this kind of work, and I would like very much in your school to have experimental laboratory for different subjects. It’s a very difficult task, but in due course of time, 10 years or so you should be able to develop a good laboratory.
Let us say of language, you are a teacher of English, a good language laboratory is not only headphones, it is also necessary, a good language laboratory has also these exercises available of spellings, of construction of sentences, punctuation marks and composition of analysis, composition of synthesis, various exercises of this kind. We spend too much time in teaching the niceties of poetical figures and images, which is good, but language suffers very often because linguistically we are not competent and with regard to literature, also literary figures also, we only enjoy as an embellishment most of the children do require a very strong basis in spellings in grammatical constructions, and these are difficult things. Children don't like so much. Therefore, we should have laboratories.
When you find this child is not doing well, you should say, go to a laboratory and I was required to go to laboratory and pass an examination there, because at the end in a laboratory there should be a test paper, and you should pass that test paper, then you can say it's not for passing from standard to standard. It is a test paper of spelling at a given level, and that test paper is such that if you're done spelling quite well, you can come out of ICU.
You require a laboratory. This system does not exist in our schools, excepting for physics, chemistry, biology and therefore, is not designed on this line. Even their laboratories are not designed for this purpose. Take, for example, geography, geography is an extremely important subject. In my school I was told you do mathematics and languages quite well, history and geography are subordinate subjects. Now this is a pernicious idea. Who says geography is a subordinate subject, not so important? Mathematics yes, that is king subject; language yes.
It's you difficult to find good geography teachers really and yet geography is so important. Why nobody there's no paper in a laboratory of geography: why geography. Even in the school there is no answer to this question. Why should I learn geography? There is no answer available in the school as a whole. Some good teachers may have answer in their minds, but there is no laboratory in which this answer is officially available to anybody who asks this question. Why not? And we are dealing with the climate change today and inconvenient truth of today. Geography is so important because I didn't learn geography myself, so I regard it even more important because in our school geography was regarded as a very, very subordinate subject, not only subordinate but very, very subordinate subject. So hardly you attended to it. We used to feel my lord, this teacher is showing a map in our class. Suddenly a teacher would open a map on the blackboard, a small map, and then everybody's asked to look into it. Now show where is Sholapur yet and you don't know, you've never heard Sholapur in your life and suddenly you find Sholapur in the whole map of India and one bright student will show and the matter is over.
Let us see, what is important is that importance of the subject should be brought to the notice of the children. Why geography is so important? I always give the example of Shivaji’s life. You cannot understand Shivaji unless the geography of Poona, Nasik and some forts, Shivenery and so on. Unless you know these forts, you cannot understand the life of Sivaji. The greatness of Shivaji cannot be understood unless you know the geography. Why Aurangzeb was not able to deal with Shivaji because of geography. Now this is hardly understood: Aurangzeb took a long time before he could conquer after Shivaji was gone. He was able to conquer that part, but not during his lifetime, because Sivaji was a fortress himself and he knew the geography of his area because from his boyhood he went round on his horseback from boyhood and he knew what are the strategic places in geography of Poona and other surrounding areas - and he saw that many forts were built by him at strategic points. How can you explain the story of Shivaji and bring up his greatness if you don't teach geography? Same thing about Rana Pratap, also Haldi Ghati cannot be understood unless the geography of Haldi Ghati, what is Haldi Ghati? Geography is so important. Why Shivaji was one of the first ones to say that naval power of India should be developed. He lived in the coast area, many others also lived, but why should he, even Mughals did not think of naval power to be developed, but he developed it. Why? Because of geographical knowledge and children should be able to underline these things and unless you're a laboratory of geography, you will not be able to do it.
Even if you say good teachers will always do it. I know good teachers are good always, a system is necessary because even good teachers will be able to do their work better if there is a better system and even better teachers will be able to do better. If there's a good system, therefore system is necessary. Very often we were asked question: all this talk of system is irrelevant, make good teachers. Now this statement is 70 percent correct, but don't make it hundred percent correct and there's a difference. Systems are very important. The present system of education is bad because the system prevents you from becoming a good teacher. Your good teacher is giving a good lecture now and the bell rings at a psychological moment, and the class must stop. Psychologically this system is pernicious. When you really want to explain something very well, you are heated now, and children are all anxious to learn, now the bell rings! Right. It’s a timetable system, therefore systemic change is very important, and this laboratory is one of the system change.
A good teacher will find a laboratory very useful. If a child asks a question and the teacher feels that he will require a lot of exercise. You can answer a question, but it should be followed up and giving the homework is no answer. He must go to the laboratory. If the laboratory is available, you can send him to ICU, saying that now you require ICU visit and you do exercises. The system should be available. A good teacher's own teaching methods will improve. So I would like that innovations in education should be able to create laboratories for different subjects, and the minimum that you can do, this is my suggestion to you, is that you should have a computer which has inbuilt laboratories for different subjects. One computer can keep all that what I’m saying, you don't even need a classroom, a child can play on a computer and can have his laboratory on his computer. This is the advantage of the modern times, so at least you can prepare laboratories very easily on a computer, although I would prefer that computer does not remain only in a computer. You should have a room for every subject. The present people who handle the buildings and so on, they will immediately put their hands off: lot of expenditure on creating lot of rooms. I would simply plead, in due course of time, kindly consider the creation of these rooms for every subject. You should have one special room of a laboratory. It will make completely different toning of education in your school. A room where all the maps of the world are available. Where you can display one full map of the world on one full wall. It will make a tremendous difference to the children's perception of the world, the map of the universe. You can put very largely. Why planetariums are necessary? because when you go to planetarium, you see the sky over your head, the stars can sprinkle over your heads. This is so important, but why should our schools not be planetariums? Why should we not on a small scale, but we should have it, every good school should have all this facility, actually in due course of time jst as today, we say that your good school should have physics, laboratory biology, laboratory and so on. A time must come when every good administrator says that you must have a laboratory for geography, history, mathematics, literature. Why not? It’s very necessary, very important. So this is my suggestion for laboratory building.
Now there are many other educational material like preparing worksheets, for example. Now Educomp is doing a lot of worksheets now, and that also requires a lot of study. But it is a very important subject: how to make a worksheet. A good teacher should be able to prepare a good worksheet. There are many kinds of worksheets. Even Educomp is doing only one kind of worksheet, but it is not sufficient. Different children require different kinds of worksheets and again a laboratory. You should have different kinds of worksheets. Take for example, I was teaching at one time world history to children of age seven, eight, nine, ten, eleven twelve. This is the age limit and I was also teaching world history to them. I wrote 30 worksheets for teaching Indian history and 90 worksheets for the world history. Now, how did I, what did I do? It was my great experience in my own life to prepare worksheets.
A worksheet should not be very long one. First of all, because too long is like a textbook, textbooks are available, general books are available, reference books are available, then buy a worksheet at all. Worksheet is a very interesting tool of underlining and of questioning in such a way that the child glides into the questions. It’s not like exercise at the end of the textbook. Every lesson has got a lot of exercises at the end. It’s the most bothersome thing in the world. A good worksheet is one in which questions are glided into, the child glides into the question. I’ll give one example: Hyun Sang came to India in the 7th century from China to India. Did he have a geographical map with him when he came to India, a question mark. Second question: did he have world map with him? Remember: Columbus, discovered America in 1492. That’s all. He'll be able to answer the question. Did he have the world man in 7th century when he came to India? Did he have the world map? And then I put only one answer, one statement: remember Columbus, discovered America in 1492. Child will feel quite happy to answer this question. I mean he'll learn and in one question itself, three four interests will be awakened viewers. Hyun Sang came from China to India, what was his itinerary? It’s a very interesting question: did he have the map at all? What is the need of map? Do all the travellers have maps? Did you have the map at all and you don't know how to come from China to India at that time, and what were the means of vehicles at that time? How many questions arise in the mind of the child by the very fact that you put only three lines of questions.
These are called what are called heuristic worksheets. There are informative worksheets, program worksheets. These are heuristic worksheets. Heuristic worksheets are those which enable student to discover, incite a child to do is to discover. Heuristic is: I discovered. That is the Archimedes when he discovered in his bathroom, heuristic comes from that eureka, I discovered. So when you have these worksheets of this kind, you discover, the child discovers and you should give the joy of the discovery to the child. So to write worksheets of this kind is a very special quality and not everybody can do it, but a good school of yours should appoint somebody who is imaginative to create heuristic worksheets for children for every subject. This is a big innovation, heuristic worksheets for every subject. Even literature, there are so many interesting things in literature which we don't get to underline at all, but heuristic worksheets can do it and literature becomes a tremendous ocean of joy if you go through those worksheets. You should of course have a good reference books, library around you, and then you put questions, and you can say if you don't find here, you read this, you read that. It gives you an insight into how to make discoveries.
Now final point of this particular subject: there are three methods of learning a subject. You learn when something is demonstrated. It is learning by witnessing a demonstration. Now, in a sense, a good lecturer is a demonstrator. When you lecture nicely, you are exhibiting, demonstrating to the audience your mind, how your mind functions and how you correlate ideas and underlining so many things is a kind of a demonstration, but at present our demonstration stops there. There are many other ways by which you can demonstrate now. Our school should be a kind of a laboratory for demonstrations, how to demonstrate different subjects to students. At present, or, for example, we have got a computer, so demonstration becomes much easier. You have films, you've got various kinds of so many documentaries, and so many small booklets also are being available. Lots of demonstrations are possible.
We do not know, for example, that a dramatic rehearsal is very good for learning a language. It is not only for your cultural show at the end of the year, but we don't use make use of dramas for that purpose. We don't take children to a rehearsal room because there's no such room available at all. First of all, that's why I’m pointing out to her. You should have a rehearsal room where you can rehearse a drama. One rehearsal experience of a child in life is a tremendous incentive to pronounce correctly and how many children suffer from this disability of pronunciation, the clarity of pronunciation, the pitch of pronunciation, the tonality of pronunciation. How difficult it is we realize when a child is rehearsing, something, and we don't give this chance to children at all, excepting some very bright children who can speak at home. But many children do not know how to have tonality and even some children don't know how to speak politely, how to make a request, how to make a command, how to make irresistible requests. We may really often make a request which will be resistible, but how to make irresistible requests.
A good teacher of conversations gives demonstrations to children how to take a telephone. Today I find that many people don't know how to talk on the telephone. This is not the way of talking on the telephone. You could’ve talked politely nicely welcomingly, and why can't you do it? Why? Don’t you give pleasure of your voice to the other person when you talk on the telephone? No, it is it's very interesting. Why? Because we don't have such minute things to be told to children that when you talk on a telephone, he said remember that the other person doesn't see you, and he must realize that he is welcome, that you are welcome. Your telephone should give you the sense that you are welcome. You are not thrown away, you are not a reception booth. It’s not as if somebody has come to ask you for information and you can give an answer, this is information. It’s not that. It's a conversation and a conversation should be polite conversation, present conversation, interesting conversation, informative conversation, a conversation in which you are enriched. You feel happy. A bond is established, like Anjaliji when she speaks, which is a wonderful. You should learn how she speaks on the telephone. I’ve learned a lot from her how she speaks on telephone. It is so polite, even when she has to disagree with the person, you can see how she disagrees with the person and politely gives a suggestion as to what should not happen again. It’s true. I mean this is a part of language learning. It’s a part of language learning, a teacher of who's teaching language should be able to tell.
You know in Taittirīya Upanishad, the very first lesson is ucharanam. It’s very interesting. Taittirīya Upanishad is the manual of Indian educational system. She is working on it, she is actually written a paper on this subject already: the educational material, the manual first manual that is available is Taittirīya Upanishad and there it is said how you should commence your teaching process with ucharanam, and then it says pitch of the word, tone of the word, the length of the word, the breath of the world and the breathing in the word, these are very important elements of your ucharanam. In our present system there's no place for it at all. It’s a systematic scientific way of teaching a language involves all this.
So use of drama demonstration is very important, have a drama, a good actor when he pronounces what difference does it make the same dialogue spoken by a lethargic man and a heroic man? What difference does it make? Demonstration, how to present by demonstration, how to give a good command. There are times when commands are of different kinds, Napoleon sitting on a horseback and giving a charge to the soldiers of one kind, but sitting in his desk and commanding his all his officers is quite different, and yet what are commands? Demonstrations of this kind are very important, demonstration of recitations. Good teacher, always recites very well. It is understood, and therefore we say all teachers have to tell you how to recite well. No, school must organize recitation programs officially.
We undertake some programs, dramas in this kind as societies, and that we have dramatic education in which we do this as an inter house competition. Our school is buzzing with all this all the time, so that the children and the teachers actually have no time because, besides academics, all this is being done in a huge amount.
So minus all that I am saying which you are doing already. But what I am saying is that I find that there is a difference between doing these activities and doing them for demonstration purposes. The pedagogical use of the same yourself, many things happen because there are good schools. There are many more dramatic sessions are there, but to use something pedagogically, that is to say deliberately, organizing a dramatic performance for the purpose of teaching has a different angle to it that you watch this drama from this point of view, you rehearse this program from this point of view. So anyway, you may be doing, you may not be doing, but I am only suggesting that it is good to think of it.
Second method of teaching is discovery method. We must have in our school discovery problems, and today the world is abounding with discoveries, so many discoveries have happened during the last 300 years that one can have a long list of discoveries, and even if you select 20-25 Discoveries and give that real demonstration of these discoveries. It will be a very powerful instrument of education to make a distinction to discovery and invention and to give demonstrations of inventions. A good school should have programs of demonstrating inventions or even participating. You give a problem, invention was made by somebody, you tell the children look, invention has been made already on the subject, but I give the problem, invent.
Such examples should be collected by one who is in charge of innovations in education, and it is not a work of one person. He can only stimulate. Actually all teachers ultimately have to participate. In fact, when I speak of this four five persons, especially design, it is only to give a special task so that it can be spread among all. Ultimately, everybody has to participate then only the school can really come to the right level.
So I will stop on this subject of education innovations. As I said, innovations regarding objectives, methods and third is content, which is a very large subject which I’ll take up later on, the innovations regarding contents of education. It’s a very difficult subject.