On Education - Sovereignity of the Child (March 1999, Auroville) - Session 1

Now again there can be a dogma and say this is the method of teaching as against the other one. The most important thing that we have to learn and what I understand today was there is here in Auroville a tremendous effort to combine many methods. Fortunately there is not so much of controversy here; at least I did not find it on the surface anywhere that this method is better than that method. There may be underlying currents somewhere but at least in my observations I did not find teachers being bound by this dogmatic assertion of this method or that method. I found that there was a great flexibility. Now as we made experiment we had come to a very important stage and it was at that stage that Mother sent a message in writing. Now I don’t remember all the words accurately, so I do not say that I am quoting the Mother but she had said the following, in my personal life this message came to me when I had understood the birth of ideas. You know I was a student of philosophy in one stage of my career and we had to learn what is called ‘Plato Theory of Ideas’, what is a concept, what is an idea, what is a thought all these questions are very well discussed by Plato. But it was only now when I was in the Centre of Education that I began to experience what can be called the birth of ideas in the mind. So psychologically I was at that stage where there was a real joy of the experience of the birth of ideas in the mind. and at that time this must be valid for many, many teachers because suddenly Mother had sent a message to the school in which she said, ‘At present you are thinking with words, a little later I shall ask you to think through ideas and still later I shall ask you to think through experiences.’ So three stages she delineated in which she said at present you are thinking with words. Now this knocked me out first of all saying that I had began to think that I was thinking with the birth of ideas. But here was a message which said that at present you are thinking with words. A little later, I will ask you to think with ideas and still later, I shall ask you to think through experience.

Now this gave me three insights. At least as far as my personal education was concerned. The first was the use of words and very often we feel that words are basically not so important and what is important is the idea. But even with words I began to feel that if you concentrate upon a subject then you begin to have this experience of going beyond words and arriving at ideas but when the idea is grasped they begin to express through words which you have not even imagined. You begin to have a capacity to express yourself in special kind of words, automatically burst out with ideas. The moment you utter a word that word is of such a nature is like an outer clothing of an inner soul of an idea. So I began to feel that when you begin to have the ideas even the words become transformed. You begin to have ideas as to how to explain a certain thing.

In fact at that time I was working on some students were asking me the question: what is explanation? And I was contemplating on it and suddenly the word came to my mind ‘handkerchief’, it may seem very strange but it is a fact that when I was contemplating on explanation the word occurred to me ‘handkerchief’. And immediately there was before me the plot of Othello, you know the whole story of Othello is based upon handkerchief. And then when I went to the class I gave the example of handkerchief. I said supposing I drop my handkerchief from my pocket and I throw it, it is just dropped and I pick it up; it is an insignificant event but in the case of Othello presentation of handkerchief, what a significant event in his life and the life of Desdemona. In what way the two things differ, both the cases is the handkerchief, the handkerchief has just fallen down and you pick it up and the handkerchief is presented to Othello. In what way the two things are different? In the case of Othello handkerchief was an instrument of explanation to him it explained, whereas merely picking up a handkerchief explains nothing. Of course I gave a long lecture on this subject later on but I can tell you that this word handkerchief it was just born in my mind, when I was trying to see how to explain to students the idea of explanation.

The statement which Mother had made a tremendous meaning to me thereafter and I said that the teacher should be constantly in search of such words and they cannot be searched by a dictionary or by going through books, unless you think over a subject very, very deeply the real word will not emerge. It was later on that I learnt when Sri Aurobindo has written on word in The Secret of the Veda and where Sri Aurobindo says that and vision of the truth are interrelated to such an extent that when the vision becomes intense the right word to express that vision also automatically emerges out and that is why the words of the Veda are immortal. The vision of the truth and the word are interrelated, immortal. So if you are at the level when you are thinking with words, we are at such a stage that we have to make a real jump into the realm of ideas, when the real words will be born from the ideative consciousness. Then of course when you go to still higher level of experience then even ideas themselves and the train of ideas are the bye products of the experiences. Now this is a program in which I myself am engaged because even to go beyond the realm of ideas is difficult. To enter into the realm of experiences and to speak to students from the level of experience is a very difficult task. So if I have to have all friends here together as what should be the program of education in Auroville, I think one of the most important program should be this.

We need in Auroville a large number of people, it is the one observation that I would like to make that the number of teachers available to our Centre of Education here is not adequate. We need a large number of teachers. This is one of the reasons why many students at a certain stage of maturity they want to migrate, just as in the Ashram we had eminent persons to teach, I would like to invite eminent people of Auroville to consider that they should come to teach at the centre of Education; whether it is kindergarten, or transition, or Last School, or even beyond. We want to develop higher levels of education. It is only when large number of teachers come into the field that these developments of going from words to ideas, from ideas to experiences, this program can be implemented. It is only when this fight takes place that students also when they grow up they will be taken up.

After all what do students want? Many teachers might say: well parents are afraid of the future of children; if they don’t get certificates then they feel the children might be left in the lurch afterwards, if they want to select ordinary way of life. To my mind this is not the correct answer. I don’t think that the parents of Auroville are afraid, this is my inner feeling, I have not talked to many parents. It is not out of fear, it is because we do not have sufficient number of teachers who can fly with the students to the higher levels of thought and experience. I know that in the community of Auroville, I met for example eminent persons in CSR, – Centre for Scientific Research, very learned people, they are extremely top in their field. There are engineers here, who are top engineers, architects of the highest order.  Many of you have read the books of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother, therefore I can say in the field of knowledge many of you have reached quite a good, not only acquaintance but a good mastery over certain things, if not everything. You have a centre for Savitri, you have a centre for Agenda; I mean therefore example there is a marvellous centre for Indian Culture. And now Deepti was telling me about the program of Human Unity. All these possibilities exist in Auroville. There is a need to marshal these possibilities. No child would like to leave a school, if the child knows that here is a teacher who can make me fly. This is a fact, even if the parents say: now you go out, the children will refuse to go, if this is the condition of things. Therefore my request to you is, particularly to all those who are exploring in their respective fields. Please come together. As I said in the beginning, children in Auroville are happy because they are being looked after but one remark which is critical, which I can make and you permit me to do so and I make it only because I am your brother that children are not in the centre of Auroville. They are happy, they are being looked after and this is where a new emphasis needs to be laid in Auroville. If children are kept in the centre that is to say all our energies wherever we are, whatever we are, if that is to be used please pour that on the children.

Mother has said that when children are in the field they should be in the centre. The moment they are in the field even if they are in the periphery please bring them into the centre. And no activity should be allowed in a society which will injure the child’s growth this is another responsibility, no activity in the society should be conducted, should be promoted which would injure the children and their growth. This means the discipline on the part of all the elders. In fact this gives the meaning to the statement of the Mother that Auroville is a sight of continuing education, endless education and eternal youth. If we ourselves become students and if we look upon our own work as a work conducted by students, for the sake of students, we shall have gained a great access to the real meaning of Auroville. In fact there is no place in the world where children are in the centre. You go to any country, any town, any village, anywhere; children are not in the centre. In 1976 when I joined the Ministry of Education, one of the first things that Indira Ji asked me to do was, to write for her speeches on education which she wanted to broadcast to the nation. And when I thought over this question the one title which flashed before my mind for these speeches was ‘Sovereignty of the Child’ then I wrote six speeches for her on this theme, ‘Sovereignty of the Child’. Now this concept of ‘Sovereignty of the Child’ is, I told you that I didn’t, it is not coined my me, it just flashed before me, then I began to realise why this word flashed out in my consciousness. Then I found that our present society is a society in which sovereignty is of the consumer. If you read the books on economics, you’ll find as if it is a law, law of economics is ‘The sovereignty of the consumer’. As if it is a law everywhere, wherever there is economy it must be so. It’s a false notion that has been created that if you study economics first principle of economics is ‘consumer is the sovereign’ of any economic activity. It’s a false notion; it gives a wrong orientation to the social development. In fact thinkers like Ruskin and others, they have written biting criticism against the ‘sovereignty of the consumer’. But this criticism has not yet helped people to come out of the spell of ‘sovereignty of the consumer’. Then when you read political science there is another spell in political science as if there is a law in political science and that is ‘Sovereignty of the Parliament’. It is another big spell as if all political science as if all that is political, ultimately must be judged by the ‘sovereignty of the parliament’; parliament is supreme everything else is it’s subordinate. Now these two principles today in the whole world is in currency. There is no third concept and this stressed in my mind and I thought if Indra Ji could give the country this concept that India wants to establish a society in which sovereignty lies in the child, child is the sovereign of the whole nation and nation will do nothing that injures the child. On the contrary today everything happens which injures the child, not in Auroville but this is the general currency everywhere. Unless we in Auroville who have been given a tremendous privilege to start, redesign society from the scratch as it were; as Mother said: only those need to come to Auroville who are convinced of the futility of all the past notions of economics, politics and social existence. Now this is as it were on a blank page, blank page is given to us on which we are still to write our new existence. Therefore my request to you is ‘please make Auroville a place where child is sovereign. Unfortunately at the time when I had written those speeches for Indira Ji, soon thereafter her own power fell, so the whole program also fell. May be that we were not yet ready at the national level but here, this is our own Mother’s creation and Mother has herself spoken of the centrality of the child, therefore I would very much urge upon you. One critical remark I make is that although children are happy, children are being looked after; Auroville has not put the child in the centre. I may be wrong, you kindly correct me if I am wrong but this is my observation. Please make me convinced that child is sovereign in Auroville.

You know there is another concept in the western world now developing as an alternative to consumerism and that is called learning society. Concept is of learning society. And I like this concept very much. And I believe that it is only in the learning society that the child is the sovereign and when Mother said that Auroville is a sight of continuous education and education means to remain child forever and therefore we all are children in this land. In which what is supreme is to be child and to put the child all the time in its sovereign place. This is all that I want to say this evening and I am very happy that the great opportunity given to me to be with you, to share some of my aspirations and my feelings and I request you to now, work on such programs of education in such a manner that children do not wish to migrate from here for education, they may directly migrate anywhere, we should give them all the possibilities here. Everyone wants to be achieve perfect manhood or womanhood, everyone and if that is being given here and why should it not happen, I do believe it will happen. It is with this hope that I make the prayer for all of us together.

When Mother was giving means to the Centres of Education in Auroville, I was myself greatly illuminated when she spoke of Last School, meaning thereby that school that was being opened at that time was a concession to humanity because humanity has a habit of creating schools and that was the concession which Mother gave to us and allowed a school to come into existence. So  I felt that after this something else has to happen in which there will be no school at all and then afterwards I heard that Mother said that After School and then No School. So she gave three concessions one after the other because we were still not awakened from our sleep that mother wants something quite different and that is that Mother’s second article of the Charter that whole of Auroville is to be a sight of endless education. Now if whole of Auroville is nothing but endless education then where is the school? Whole Auroville is a school, you have a right to call it a school actually it is not a school.

Now in this context your question is significant. Ideally every activity in Auroville should be developed as a school, every activity, whether you are constructing, weaving or spinning or pottery, or gardening, or farming all activities in Auroville should be educational activities. Now if that really happens then there will be no school as such. The question is are we still ready for it? If we are ready I’ll be very happy, it’s a big experiment,– how to make every activity in Auroville an educational activity. For that all the adult members of Auroville have to sit up, how to make my office for example an office for education. If I really become a learner myself and I vibrate with the aspiration to learn, giving up my pride of my expertise, my knowledge, my mastery; saying what Mother had specially written to me, ‘Never believe that you know, what you know is nothing as compared to what remains to be known.’ Now if we can live in that state of experience and not only believe but in the knowledge of it, a real realisation as to what you know is nothing. As in the Agenda, Mother herself speaks about her own. She says: We know nothing. At the age of 93, she says we know nothing. Now imagine what a freshness of consciousness is there where you really, genuinely feel you know nothing. it is to be born to that experience that all education should emerge. We can say that we are truly educated when we are constantly fresh and we encounter every experience with the freshness that would really give the true character of Auroville. We are very far from the ideal because of this reason. I think the answer to your question lies in this. If this happens then this question will be answered automatically, therefore I do not give any answer in a theoretical manner that: yes, children should be sent to factories, let them learn, I don’t give that answer. if this happens first the children would be sucked as it were into the whole and you will find that every place you go it will be teaching, learning experience. It will happen, if this is really done and that is my personal aspiration for Auroville. Let Auroville be really a sight of endless education of the children.

Here again Mother once wrote down for me very nice sentence,– If the body does not obey in its very functioning meticulous discipline you cannot put one step forward while walking; and this is the importance of discipline in education. Without discipline there is no education. This conflict which comes about between freedom and discipline is because we are all lame. We are limping all the time and then these conflicts arise. If you are really free, Sri Aurobindo has written ‘Discipline is a child of freedom’. If you really become free then discipline will automatically flow from it, it’s not the other way round and the highest goal of life is freedom. So the moment we begin to grow into freedom, you’ll find there will be no conflict between freedom and discipline. More free you become the more disciplined your methods for work, for example if you read  The Life Divine, the meticulous arrangement of ideas and oceanic ideas, you think without discipline all this can be written in the way it is written and all that is written is in absolute freedom. That freedom automatically expresses itself in all disciplined methods of writing and expositions. So if we develop ourselves into freedom, you will see your children will be highly disciplined automatically, you don’t need to tell them: now do this, do that all the time, taunting the child that is not necessary. If your own life is full of freedom, true freedom, all your activities will be rhythmic, arrangement of life will be rhythmic, in fact the whole atmosphere of Auroville will be rhythmic, you won’t need to tell the children: now be disciplined, be obedient, you won’t need it. I have seen families where children who are really living a life of great freedom and parents are living a life of enlightenment, the children are automatically obedient. It’s a fact. This is a place according to me of discipline and education.

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 Oh! 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.

In fact this is the answer which reconciles the conflict between teaching through worksheets and teaching through talking. In the process of collecting material you can talk to children but not for the sake of creating agitation or cogitation of the mind but by providing material, by raising questions. It is not as if talking has no meaning and no value, even talking or even hearing a talk can induce a state of silence, it is not that when you don’t talk silence is induced sometimes it is the contrary. The mind begins to churn out so many thoughts because there is nothing to hold the mind on any specific point but when somebody talks you mind can be fixed on a topic. So there is no general dogmatic rule about it and that was very important. Normally what happens is and Mahabharata takes place only when there are strong rigid stands taken by people, this verses this, then the other one is excluded. But he had to pass through a long process in which you might say we arrived at the following conclusion – what is the place of a lecture, what is the place of a worksheet, what is the place of silence in the process of learning? As far as my own personal learning is concerned I can say that what I learnt from this experience was that lectures are useful for only a few specific purposes. First when you want to introduce a subject, second when you want to initiate a discussion about a subject, third when you want to create a collective atmosphere with regard to a subject, fourth when you want to give a resume and fifth when you have made a research in a subject and you are fresh with the knowledge and when you communicate through a lecture; as Sri Aurobindo has said in one of his aphorisms: ‘knowledge is invincible when it is fresh.’ When you have made research and you have arrived at certain conclusion and the knowledge is fresh and you speak, it is really invincible.

Now I found that apart from these purposes when lectures are given they are irrelevant, they are boring, children look at the time in their watch all the time or they look out through the window, what is going on outside in the world. Like the young boy in the story of Tagore (don’t know if you have read the story The Post Office) it is a drama written by Tagore called Post Office in which the child is sick and the doctor has come and said this child should not move out even a inch of the room, he is almost like in a prison. And the boy is so soaring out, he wants to fly in the sky and here you imprison the child; the whole story revolves around this idea of imprisoning the child and child’s wish to fly freely. In fact this is the real state of every child basically, unless the child is spoilt, every child wants to fly, that is the movement of the soul, its kinship is with the sky. Because the soul is as the vast, it’s only equivalence is the sky, therefore it is a natural kinship; like a bird it wants to fly. Therefore to imprison the child and lectures could be imprisoning because you ask the child to now sit down and listen to something which is being communicated through a lecture. This is a misuse of an instrument which can be useful otherwise. As I told you if you reduce your utilities of lecture into these five categories then it’s a very useful instrument. But the moment you extend that use into something else, you want to explain something, you go on lecturing. I remember when I was attending, when I was a student of history one time, I was fifteen years old at that time and my teacher of history he started lecturing on history and as you know usually the teachers in the classical method they go in a very classical way expounding what is history, definition of history, and there are seven, eight definitions that are given so and so has said history is this, the children do not even know what is history, they have not read anything and you know very little and you start by saying definition of history which has been given by greatest historians, who have mastered the whole of history. But in the very first lesson you get all kinds of definitions then you are told now discuss who, secondly he started by saying the sources of history, first is definition of history then question is of sources of history and the teacher started saying that there are two very ancient ages of history – the Palaeolithic and the Neolithic and then one of the most important sources of knowledge about this is the stone and the implements which are made of the stone and the terracotta. In fact it was the first time that I heard about terracotta in my life, when you don’t even know what is terracotta and the teacher says that terracotta is a source of knowledge of history but this is the way in which history is taught. So the only thing that happens to the child is he is completely dry about the whole subject of history. You never feel inclined to read history. I always feel that the text books are the worst enemies of education because text books give you a very defined, not that the text books are useless but text books is something to be presented to the child. Once we had a very good insight into this subject when a very beautiful book on mathematic appeared in France. ........was the title of the book, it was a beautiful book and Pavitra da himself was a great mathematician and he had read this book and he suggested that this book now should be introduced in classes v, vi, vii, viii. It was a big book but the book had to be introduced there.

Exactly at that time there was a big controversy in our school about medium of instruction, whether it should be French or English and again there was a Mahabharata on this subject, a real war. I mean so many teachers who did not know French always found that French was being imposed and it was argued that because Pavitra da is a Frenchman therefore French is being imposed upon this was absolutely illegitimate. But you know human nature is like that. Everybody is critical basically, teachers particularly are very critical. And I have seen that when you don’t know a language, you always feel a resistance to it. You always feel that somebody is imposing upon you and a number of teachers in our school they did not learn French sufficiently well. Even for me it took many, many years before I could be thrust into French. To learn a language also is difficult. Now this book was in French and some teachers said that this book: why should it be introduced in our school, particularly when this book is very costly. Now you see how the language controversy, basically it was the question of language; the resistance was to language but difficult to say because it is in French we don’t want it. Then there was the ....... and the argument was when such books are available in English and which are much, much cheaper then why not to teach Mathematics through English. It will be very economical and question of language is very minor, whether you learn in English or French, what difference does it make. Anyway, this controversy raged for about a month. In the meantime these books were not bought and then when the controversy reached a very great climax then somebody requested Pavitra da, ‘Please put the question to the Mother.’ And that too impartially as though he was going to interpolate in favour of and then Mother could be persuaded because of some pressure, if you put it this way, the answer would be this way, if you put it this way, the answer would be that way; these ignorant ideas which were so much, sometimes raging also. So Pavitra da simply put the question, it was written down, so that nobody can say that he put the question in such way that Mother would say: No! No, kindly this is necessary or anything of the kind. Pavitra da himself because I had a very intimate relationship with him and he had told me, he said: Kireet, I have no difficulty at all, if Mathematics is taught through English. Although it was our policy for a long time that Mathematics and science be taught through French, English through English, French through French and History and Geography through English and mother tongue through the mother tongue, this was our normal policy. But when this controversy was very high then this question was put to Pavitra da and he told me that I have no difficulty at all from my side. Anyway he took this question, the question was well drafted, well defined so that so that it could be seen that it was transparent, impartial and there was no weight age given in this way or in that way. And the Mother kept the book with her for two days, both French book and the English book, both – this was costly, that was cheap. After two days Mother said this French book is far, far superior, this was her answer. So it was decided now that the French book had to be studied. Then Pavitra da ordered five copies of the book because it was very costly book so he could afford only five copies of the book. So now came the turn of those teachers who still felt uneasy about it, they said these are only five books, how can we teach our children, we should give one copy to every child. There was a proposal to buy thirty copies of the book and that would mean a tremendous budget, thirty copies very, very costly. So once again Pavitra da went to the Mother and said: Mother this is a big question, shall we not therefore switch over to English books? But then came a reply which was which has struck in my heart very deeply and that is relevant to the question of text books.  Mother said that: text book is meant for the teachers and not for the students. it’s a real illumination in my heart, let the teachers read the text book and then having read it, let them write special work–sheets for the students in such a way that the work–sheets are appropriate in child’s inquiry. At that time I learnt and I remember my experience of my history learning where my teacher was giving lectures on history on a textual basis then I realised history should not be taught in a textual manner. According to the questions that the students have in their mind, a teacher who knows, who has read text books very well should write in a very interesting manner so that the child’s interest in history is awakened. Now this meant a tremendous program for the teachers but I tell you it was so beneficial to all the teachers of Mathematics and students. I think our students learnt Mathematics so well through this method.

Now having said this, the meaning of teaching through work–sheets became much more clear to me. It is not merely a question of keeping silent and yet communicating. This put upon the teachers the greater task of digesting the whole material of the subject and communicating to the child and to every child separately, because if you lecture then individualised learning becomes very difficult, different children have different questions. And education becomes truly fruitful when it is individualised not that every aspect of education is necessary to be individualised it is another dogma because those people who say education should be individualised completely, one to one relationship that is also a dogma. Just as you can say, you can lecture and it is also true in a lecture you can lecture to thousands of people at one stroke and everybody could be benefitted. To say that it is only when you have one to one education then only education is very fruitful that is also not true. There are certain things you can broadcast to thousands of people at one stroke, it can save a tremendous electricity in fact and lots of insights can be created that also is possible.

One thing that I learnt and Mother once told me, she said that there should be no dogma in education, to say that only this is the method or that is the method and then I happen to read at one time, just at that time Sri Aurobindo’s book called The Synthesis of Yoga. In fact this is the book I regard as the greatest book on education because education is yoga and yoga is education, therefore The Synthesis of Yoga is the greatest book on education. There Sri Aurobindo’s one sentence is very powerful that teacher has no method and every method. This is the key sentence, it takes you of all dogmatism about education. In fact if you remember this proposition all controversies about education can cease. I myself learnt this precious lesson after long experience and long raising of a battle then I realised the meaning of this that good teacher has no method and every method. Now I am saying this because every teacher here knows that our field is the field of experiment and this is what I found in every school I visited. Every teacher knows that he or she is making an experiment. There is a search. In fact Mother has said that Auroville is a field of experiment, of research, I think Auroville itself is a field of continuing education. I found this underlying current in all the teachers whom I met, every teacher is trying to find out the right method of communicating. Even in the School of New Creation they are employing new methods of teaching language to Tamil kids, where children are not taught the alphabet but words directly.