On Education - Sovereignity of the Child (March 1999, Auroville) - Track 3

Once Mother had told me was when you see children happy that is the sign that children are progressing. And one general remark I can make is that every child that I saw was happy. Even in New Creation the children have come from surrounding villages there exuberance, they gave a dance performance and the force with which they danced and the rhythm that they produced, they expressed tremendous joy in their heart. So I feel that children are being looked after very well. I had the chance to meet children like Jivatma, who is here before me; and Isabelle and Shakti, I think I am now remembering many, many names because of the imprint they have made on me. You know when children enter into your being, it means that they are vibrating with so much of the awakening that they can communicate with you without words and there was one child when I was speaking was so concentrated, I have hardly seen such a concentration. I felt that every word that I was speaking was absorbed like the dry land receiving the rain that is my first observation about what is happening in education here. This is my personal feeling. Similarly I found amongst teachers a great sense of responsibility and dedication. I can tell the parents, your children are in very good hands. The teachers are looking after children with full heart. The kindergarten which I visited this morning was a marvellous experience. It is perhaps the ideal structure, ideal environment and the children     were so happy; I have told Sanjeev that he should give me a blueprint of the structure of the architecture of the kindergarten. It can be a good thing which can be replicated in the country, so well organised, so well arranged. I am sure much thought has gone into the organisation of the kindergarten. I have gone to Transition, I have gone to Last School. The further question which is in my mind is – if such is the condition, why should some parents feel that their children should be now sent away from here? I had some marginal discussion on this question with some people and although I am not satisfied with the answers that are given, I can understand to some extent why this is happening. but I will not go into this question now, what is needed now is to take this experiment farther. I went to Miramukhi for example this morning, it is a marvellous work, how silence can be the instrument of awakening the children. The tranquillity that reined in that area and the speech is so soft is almost like whispering.

We had again in the Ashram School at one stage a very powerful wave of experimentation where the one word which was supreme was Silence. There was a period when all lectures were suppressed in the school at all the levels and the idea behind it was that it is in the atmosphere of silence that the true knowledge is born. Knowledge is not an article that can take birth when the mind is agitating itself; there is a place for the mind in agitation but we have not that power of silence. That experiment was a kind of a revolution, Mother had warned us in advance that in a few weeks, or in a few months that storm will sweep over the entire school and teachers will find themselves earth slipping away from under their feet and I can tell you at least for me that when this experiment was proposed the earth really slipped away from under my feet. It was a fact. How to suppress all lectures and yet communicate and yet to educate, the answer that was given at that time was that whatever the teacher wants to speak, whatever he wants to communicate should be written down. This experiment was to start in the month of December, it was in October the decision was taken and teachers were required to write down their first lesson in a special form which was called worksheet. Within a period of one month and a half and the very first day I was required to give in a type form seven hundred and fifty worksheets at different levels of study. It was not only a tremendous feat on the part of teachers, who had no background of writing worksheets at all but it was like a big work-shop and teachers were writing down, correcting type and again retype, a tremendous work was done within one month and half. I cannot tell you and cannot communicate to you the atmosphere that reigned in our school at that time. Particularly when this whole idea was challenged in our own school by a number of teachers, how can you teach without talking, what is wrong in talking, what is wrong in lecturing? And this debate went on the school for nearly four years. In the time there was a great effort to prepare what is called worksheets of various kinds and the more important variety of worksheets was what was called heuristic worksheets. And we all learnt it for the first time what is a heuristic worksheet, at least I never gave the word heuristic it was Pavitra da who took me to his room and explained to me what is a heuristic worksheet. And I discovered that a heuristic worksheet was one in which the teacher presents the learning material in such a way that while reading the student has to make a discovery, unless the child makes a discovery at every few steps, the child cannot read the worksheet. You write a sentence, you write another sentence and leave a gap, you write a third step and put a question mark, you write a fourth sentence and you give some fact by application of which you will be able to fill the gap and the answer to the question. Everything is there in the worksheet, the answers are there, questions are there but they are all hidden and the teacher has to write in such a way that the child when he reads, it must be first of all interesting otherwise people won’t even read. It must be interesting material and it should be written in this fashion.

When we speak of educational research I think it was one of the greatest experiments in educational research where hundreds of worksheets were written. And after Pavitra da had explained to me, he gave me the charge now you explain to all the teachers how to write. I had only learnt for one day and immediately he asked me now you explain to all the teachers how to write heuristic worksheets. So within a week’s time I had to attain some kind of mastery over heuristic writing and then teachers after teachers, I used to meet them and explain to them. And the ultimate aim had to be remembered that this is to encourage silence of the mind. Intellectual activity which was involved in reading the worksheet was one side but the ultimate aim was to develop silence of consciousness. Writing should be such so as to induce the calm and the silence not agitation in the mind; this was a much more difficult task. How to write in such a way that there is no agitation of the mind, there is inducement of calm and tranquillity and discovery of knowledge as if it were rising up. I myself wrote a number of worksheets at that time and I can tell you that in four years time when this debate raged in the school it was like Mahabharata.  It was a controversy, I can see that when education is disturbed everybody is an educationist, everybody has studied, everybody has experience of education and everybody feels that the way in which he learned was one of the best way. When you look back, you always find that O! This thing struck me very much because it was in this condition therefore that is right method of learning and if you put twenty teachers together, everyone feels that this is the right way. This method as opposed to lecture method occupied our experimentation for a long time and there was an irony, in the sense that the teachers who advocated the silence, some of them at the end of the experiment said ..............this was the irony. That shows how much experience was gained and there was a real synthesis.

You have to have a kind of an understanding in that there should be no rigidity. While silence can be the source of knowledge, it is not only by suppression of speech alone that can bring you silence. There are deeper means of silencing and different levels at which silence of the mind can be attained. At one time, you know this method was applied also in engineering. You know in engineering particularly this was a big challenge, even in the higher level of education and we had very eminent teachers for engineering, those who are eminent engineers. There was Prajot da, who was the chief electrical engineer of one of the biggest projects of India and he was the teacher of electrical engineering in our school. Udar as many people know Udar very well, he was also one of the teachers. Vishwanatha was a teacher, all of them eminent engineers. Now they had very difficult questions in their minds – how to teach engineering without talking and as you know engineers are always very inventive. In fact Udar took a question to the Mother and said: Mother, please tell me: what is the relationship between speech, writing worksheets, communication and work of knowledge, in the state of silence? And Mother’s answer was as follows it is very enlightening: you first of all raise a question and put before the students as a project then you tell the children the relevant material that they should read to answer that question. When that material is gathered in the mind then the mind should be silenced, it is not as if all the time you attain to silence of the mind but for that specific question, once you have read a good deal of material, collected it then you try to silence your mind, don’t agitate, don’t cogitate but there is a deep sense of inquiry that is to say your material give you a deep sense of inquiry and put that question and then keep absolutely quiet  and Mother said: in that state of quietude the answer will be born and the real learning experience will take place.