Auroville Education - Track 2

But in case the important point that I want to make is that the teacher is one who is at least two steps ahead of the child. In fact in Sri Aurobindo’s words a teacher is one who is able to uplift the enthusiasm of the child, this is the minimum definition of a teacher. A teacher is one who is able to uplift the enthusiasm of the child. Whatever enthusiasm the child has got, is not enough; there is a role of a teacher. The role of the teacher is whatever the enthusiasm the child possesses, he should be able to uplift it by whatever means. Very often you find that many good mothers in knowledge terms they may not be very learned but they become great inspirers of their children. Even the learned sons of good mothers they derive inspiration from their mothers. Shiva Ji was a great conqueror and a great administrator but his inspiration was from his mother. Now this is because this is the power of the teacher, he should have the power to lift the enthusiasm of the child by whatever means; it may be because of the character one possesses or the great fire of aspiration, great knowledge he or she might possess or whatever. This is what in terms of Rousseau, he says: taking the hand of the pupil in your hand, that is the mark of a teacher. You should be able to take the hand of the pupil in your hand, that is the mark. So the minimum thing the teacher should possess is this power and this power comes from a certain kind of vision, so a teacher must have a vision and that vision should be capable of lifting up the child. These are the two things that you should possess as a teacher. And then as a result of your vision you should be constantly in search as to how that vision can be further developed, can further be enriched, can further be chiselled, sharpened and can be so expressed that children can understand and can feel that to be a kind of a light, in the light of which the child can progress.

Now this is the background against which I personally would like to make a few statements but this is just a background, that is to say I don’t take the view, there is a view, – should there be a structure of education or no structure of education. It’s a question which Sanjeev has discussed very often with me. Now there is an extreme view that there should be no structure at all. When I said in Ashram at one time they said: no lectures, no curriculum, no examination. It would be a kind of an argument against all structures. But the moment the teacher has a vision and a guideline, already some kind of structure has come into existence. The only question is the structure should be such that it does not imprison any body and this is a very difficult problem, how to have a structure which is not a structure. It is similar to the question which Mother asked at the highest level of experimentation with her body where she felt that the human body has a skeleton and this skeleton is an obstruction to the development of the supramentalisation of the body, because the skeleton is a rigid skeleton. So actually Mother was asking the question: how to make the body so supple, so very, very subtle so that this skeleton’s rigidity would be broken and yet the individual would be able to stand up. In fact there is a beautiful conversation with Satprem and the Mother on the subject and Satprem says a small child for example, his skeleton is not rigid. Mother says: yes but the child cannot walk. I mean if you break the structure of the skeleton the force of the skeleton then this is the problem. And I think this is the basic problem also with education. You should have a structure and no structure, such a structure which is not serving as a structure and this is a very difficult problem. That is why I said education is a very difficult process because basically a true education is one in which you neither hammer, nor allow the child to go wayward and haywire, this is the contrast, the two conflicting tendencies and we have to bring them into harmony. So in a debate in education I feel I cannot take part because I am neither here, nor there and I believe that both should be there but somehow should be synthesised but synthesised by what and that is the alchemy. And I personally believe that that alchemy is still not known. Auroville is the field were we have to make an experiment.

Now having given this background I put the following questions. I think we all agree that we are here to give a concrete shape to Mother’s dream. I take it, it is a incontrovertible statement and we study Mother’s dream again and again and we want to realise this dream as faithfully as we can. Now Mother’s dream is very clear, where she says there should be a place on the earth, where students do not study to pass examinations and to obtain certificates, these words are absolutely clear and categorical. She has also added that students should study to develop their faculties and to study the secrets of the world, these two very important words she has given, not to pass examinations and obtain certificates but at the same time to develop faculties and also to learn the secrets of the world. Now both these propositions have to be read together. Now developing faculties very often involves passing examinations. You need to pass tests, certain faculties can be developed when they receive a test. So Mother is not opposed to passing examinations or to face examination, very often therefore people misunderstand and say Mother is opposed to examinations, which is not true. Passing examination as a motive of study that is not what is wanted by the Mother. You study to pass examinations, that is not what Mother wants. It doesn’t mean you should not have examinations; you should not pass the examination that is not the correct meaning of it. Development of faculties itself requires passing tests and we knew for example even for sports Mother herself used to measure with tape how much a student has been able to jump, how fast he has been able to run and there were hurdles and tests for sports. So it is not that Mother was opposed to tests, on the contrary, Mother wrote to me once ‘Tests are and will be, but (this but is very important) a silly mechanical mind passing an examination and that too with flying colours is an indictment on the examination system.’ What kind of examination do you want to give to child? If the child is to pass an examination, which he can pass even with a silly mind then such examinations are out of the court. Now most of the examinations in the world are like that that is the whole problem. By memorising, by mugging up, you can pass an examination and that too with flying colours and after examination you forget everything that you have learnt. For five days you learn at the last moment, mug up, vomit out and you pass an examination. It is this kind of examination that is out of the court whether here, or there, or anywhere. Then she said examinations should not be uniform, the same examination for everyone. The examination should be adapted to each child and his progress. Examination should come to a child at a time when he is ready for it.

Now these are all the qualifications that Mother has made when she said ‘tests are and will be’. And you can say there is no rigid stand that examinations are to be encouraged or not encouraged. It’s a very subtle process in which examinations have to come in the process of education but the most important thing is that you are developing faculties of the children and that is an important point. Ultimately whatever you do should develop the faculties and this is a very vast subject. What are the faculties? I’ll come to this a little later.

Second aspect is the student should study to find the secrets of the world. Now this is another aspect, what are the secrets of the world? And if you study Sri Aurobindo’s and Mother’s exposition of the world and the secrets of the world, you find that they put before us the secrets of matter, life, mind and of the worlds which are beyond the mind, and behind the mind, the universe behind universe or the universes behind the universe.  In the Kathopanishad there is a beautiful sentence ‘one who thinks that this world alone is, will always go round and round in misery’ it’s a very beautiful sentence. So secrets of the world would mean what, that this world alone is not that there are worlds behind worlds, and universes behind universe. Now this is the meaning of what Mother says to learn the secrets of the world.

Now when you come to the subject matter of the secrets of the world, we come to what is very important educationally and that is what is called subjects of study. This is what normally is called in our whole syllabus or curricula wherever you go, you always ask what subjects are you studying? And this brings us to one of the most important issues of education. Traditionally in India and elsewhere, during the last five hundred years, we are all accustomed to a system of subjects. The idea of faculties has gone into the back into the background, don’t ask the question what are the faculties we have to develop? Not that the development of faculties is denied by anybody, No! But it is expected that through the study of subjects, faculties will develop. We are not making a scientific study as to whether this is a true statement. There is no doubt that by studying some subjects, some faculties do develop but we are not asking whether all the faculties that are needed to be developed are developed or not. And what subjects will develop what kind of faculties, in what way will you study the subject by developing what faculties, we do not explain this or don’t undertake this study and that is one of the important problems that we have to face in our development of education here.