Auroville Education - Track 7

Can we think of the first eight years curriculum? The following are my ideas. I have already presented what I call the core curriculum for twelve years, so it includes eight years also. So that is my first proposal, these eight years course which is here, let that be the spinal cord of our curriculum. Now I come to first the Left Wing. It consists of the study of languages. So my proposal is that we should have a curriculum of the study of English, French, Tamil, Sanskrit, this is my proposal — these four languages. Now pedagogically it’s a very difficult problem, how to teach four languages to our students. At present we have made some efforts, our children speak English and Tamil, these two languages are more widespread than other languages. Now Mother had spoken of French very prominently, and I always feel sorry when our children are not able to speak French, this is my personal regret in fact, which I want to share with you because I would like to tell you my own story about French.

You know when you don’t know a language, you have prejudice against it. When I came to the Ashram, I did not know French and therefore it’s a fact that one has a prejudice against what we don’t know. Other people say you should learn and there is a reluctance. It’s a difficult task to learn a language, so for quite some time I did not learn the language. And the fact was that French was the medium of instruction in Ashram school and I was the Registrar and not knowing French I had half the school out of my understanding, which was a very troublesome thing for me as a Registrar, you should know the whole school, everything that is going on in the school but because I did not know French, half the school was out of my purview. So all the time there was a knocking on my door as it were, ‘learn French, learn French’ and I wanted to learn French but where is the time? my work was so heavy, fourteen hours a day and tremendous amount of work to be done, so many experiments going on, so much correspondence going on and then reports to the Mother, Mothers answers to be implemented and expansion of the school taking place, construction work going on at the same time and I had no Kripa with me at that time to assist as Sanjeev has got somebody to assist, I had none. So where is the time for learning a language? I also wanted to learn Tamil because Tamil was spoken all over and even now I have not learnt Tamil inspite of so many years, unpardonable thing. But it is in my program, my curriculum still includes Tamil, anyway. Many teachers in our Ashram school had a prejudice against French, because they also did not know like me French language and they felt that French is being emphasised in our school because Pavitra da is a Frenchman, who was the Director of Education. Because he is the director therefore French is being imposed upon all of us. While it is a burden, actually it is a burden on our educational process and this view was expressed implicitly in whispers and sometimes quite openly. All teachers who were revered teachers, they also used to say Pavitra being a Frenchman wants to impose French in our school, it was blunt like that. And naturally people like me who did not know French and had the reluctance to learn French used to feel that there may be something in it. I am talking to you quite in a confessional mood, it’s a fact.

Now a time came when there was the question of introducing new mathematics. I think around 1960-61 there was a new wave in the world of new mathematics and many books came out on this subject and since Pavitra Da was also a mathematician and Mother herself gave a great importance to mathematics, teachers said that we should introduce new mathematics in our school. And many text books were bought and there was one book in French, which was one of the best as a production but very costly and there was another book in English, not so beautifully produced but content wise the same but very cheap in cost. So now the question was which text book to follow, that French text book or this English book? What book to follow? And the argument was of all those who were advocating English as a medium of instruction, their argument was that if you want to buy a number of copies of mathematics for each student (which was the practice in the Ashram School, in Ashram School everybody was given a text book by the school itself) So the school had to buy a number of copies of mathematics text book and if so many text books had to be bought the budget will be very high. So it was suggested that it is better to buy cheap books so that the cost is not high and English text book is as good almost as the French book. So a question was put to the Mother: Mother here are two books and please tell us which book should we introduce in our school as our text. And Mother said: you leave the matter to me and I will think over it. And after three days Mother wrote –this French book is the best, that was her answer but you need not give the text to every child, teachers must study this book and produce worksheets for every child. You see how synthetic answer, cost is not so high if you buy only for teachers, not for pupils, but then she gave a home-work for teachers that you read the text books and prepare work-sheets for children. So teachers have to work on it and give work-sheets to the children, in French. Now this was Mother’s answer, this gave me a tremendous insight into what Mother’s, why she was emphasising French.

And then one student wrote a very clear question, ‘Mother you tell us yourself, what is the importance of French from your own point of view, not because so many others are advocating French, because the Director of Education is French but you, yourself. What is your view? And I read out this letter to the Mother and said the following to me: (which I want to share with you because I really want to emphasise the study of French in Auroville) Mother said the following: ‘English language has brought into India vulgar commercialism and this has to be combated so that the Indian spirit comes back to itself. French is the only language, which can combat with English because it has in it the qualities of clarity, precision, robust intellectuality and aristocracy of the spirit. I want these qualities to be superimposed upon whatever is given through English language in India, (She didn’t speak only of the Ashram, she told me in India) so that the corrupting influence of English is counteracted effectively. And then she told me ‘I do not know how much you can do in this direction?’ This was her answer and this gave me a complete knock in my consciousness. this was just preceded by another sentence of the Mother, I give you, I had requested the printing press that we should have Mother’s talks which are being distributed among teachers and students and equal number of copies in French and English so that those who do not know French can also study Mother’s talks in English. So Mother had written to me ‘Those who want to read me should read me in French’ and she underlined ‘French’ three times. So I would like to share with you that I would like to plead with everybody in Auroville, please attend to French, at present it is being neglected greatly.

Anyway I personally feel that there is a research to be made in this subject because even teaching four languages is a big problem.

Question: Is it compulsory for everybody?

Answer: No, as I said the first principle of curriculum is that nothing is compulsory. The first statement to be made in this curriculum nothing is compulsory. This is what Mother once told me. You see in our school there was that an assumption that physical education is absolutely inevitable in our school. Even today you cannot join the school, if you are not a member of the Physical Education Group. As a result many people believed that according to the Mother physical education is compulsory. I had asked the Mother one question because once one student said ‘I don’t like to go to sports’. So Mother said: why do you force it, in our school nothing is compulsory’ she said, these were her own words. Now this is a marvellous statement.

 So even when I say four languages, I make a distinction between three things – those which are to be emphasised, those things which are to be encouraged and those things which are optional. Nothing is compulsory but certain things to be emphasised, I think we have to, you see when a child is taken to body awareness in your experiments, which are admirable experiments, I don’t think anybody says, look this is compulsory, it’s being done, it’s not compulsory. I am sure if some child says: Oh! I don’t like it at all, I don’t think we will force him, but it’s being done. Similarly, if these four languages are spoken, taught, given, it is what I call emphasis, you are emphasising the learning of four languages. Actually Mother said all the spoken languages of the world are the languages of Auroville, not only these four languages but all the spoken languages of the world. So it does not contradict the formula that in addition to four languages if you have any other mother tongue that also is to be cultivated so you have five languages.