Auroville Education - Session 2

Only for this, to know oneself and control oneself and over certain years in Auroville itself, we have tried to study this problem among so many of us here and we have made a tentative curriculum. I don’t know if all the members have got a copy of it or not. I had one copy sent to Mary; you have received a copy, no? We have some copies here and perhaps at the end if you want, it has been produced under the title of our own Institute of Educational Research. Now this is a research work, you might say. I do not say that this is what Mother has said, or Sri Aurobindo has said. This is a development, an attempt, therefore one can criticise it fully and thoroughly because this is only an attempt, to visualise a kind of a curriculum over first twelve years from class I to class XII, how certain aspects or certain subjects, not taught as subjects but as elements in self knowledge and in the power to control oneself.

I would suggest that this curriculum be studied by all of us, critically, so that it can be enriched, modified, torn away and replaced by something else. But we need to study this subject thoroughly well. You might say that when Mother says this is a subject which cannot be for examination or certificate. So if our education is for passing examinations then this subject will be out. Our curriculum will not accept this subject at all, it can’t be examined. But this I consider to be the most important subject to be studied. How to study, what methods to be developed is a different question to which I‘ll come to later on, but not now. I am only proposing that in this curriculum the central part of the curriculum should be given to this — ‘To Know Oneself and To Control Oneself’.

Now this curriculum I have devised so that it integrates three important points. It integrates basically the knowledge of psychology as a central piece because to know oneself is a psychology basically. So psychology is the basic point. It is integrated with philosophy on one hand, science on the other hand and aesthetics on the third hand, ethics, aesthetics, philosophy and science. These are all integrated with the basic fulcrum of psychology. So basically you teach psychology, philosophy, ethics, aesthetics and science in their essentials. So the child who learns this curriculum will have a very good (I don’t say mastery) but a very good acquaintance with these subjects. But not merely in terms of the subjects but in terms of the faculties which these subjects normally develop — ethical faculty, aesthetic faculty, scientific faculty, philosophic faculty and the tapasya that is needed to understand oneself, not merely in a theoretical manner but by practising. This is a curriculum which emphasises learning by practising. This is the one aspect of education that is not sufficiently emphasised in our present syllabi in the world. At the most we do learning by doing but learning by practising has a different dimension. As Yudhisthira for example was told, it’s a story, a legend you might say — his teacher told him in the first class ‘Tell the truth’ and next day all the children were asked to tell me what I taught you yesterday? And everybody said you told us to tell the truth and Yudhishtara was the only one who did not answer the question. So he said: why don’t you answer the question, he said: I have not practised it, unless I practise, how can I say I know what you taught me yesterday. It’s a very small but very interesting, very insightful example. You do not learn anything unless you practise it. Now normally in our school education, practising is hardly given a place, except when you practise basketball or cricket or football, their practise is allowed but in the other subjects practising hardly plays a role and yet practising is a very important part of learning. So this is the explanation that I gave immediately of this curriculum that I have framed. I shouldn’t say that I have framed but it is a result of a number of people who have joined together and we have produced this and then for about ten, twelve years I have reflected on it and continuously modified it to some extent.

Now there is another incite that Sri Aurobindo has given in his book on education, National System of Education, where he speaks of the right hand faculty and left hand faculties. What are the right hand faculties and what are the left hand faculties? Right hand faculties, Sri Aurobindo says consist of judgement, understanding, comprehension and all that becomes creative, this is right hand faculties. Left hand faculties analyse and they allow specialisation, they go into details, left hand faculties concentrate upon the processes, right hand faculties emphasise essence, not the process but the essence.

Now corresponding to these, Mother has once said that in education two tendencies must be synthesised, the scientific tendency and the aesthetic tendency. Now these words correspond to the right hand faculties and the left hand faculties, synthesis of scientific is left hand faculty and creative, aesthetic is right hand faculties. Now if you combine the aesthetic and the scientific, a very beautiful combination and composition of human nature evolves out of it. Now based upon this even if I want to use the word subjects as terms for designating this, I would say that you should have a curriculum which includes the study of history, the study of classics, the study of music, art and poetry; this would be the syllabus of the right hand faculties. On the left hand faculties the syllabus would consist of languages, mathematics, astronomy, geography, anatomy, physiology, hygiene, physics, chemistry, biology, and a number of subjects. They are all very good in developing the left hand faculties. If I now speak of these in terms of faculties, not in terms of subjects but faculties then I would say that our whole curriculum should be so designed that emphasis falls not merely on subjects but also on development of faculties. And this should be done at all the levels but particularly in what Mother has called After School Level. That is to say when Mother speaks of After School I, After School II, After School III, I find that these three stages of education are extremely important for emphasising not subjects as such but faculties. In the beginning, what Mother has called Last School, that is the first level of education, first eight years, let us say should be devoted to the study of languages, pronunciations, and how to pronounce words in different languages. As I said in the first stage you teach subjects mainly, emphasis on subjects, later on in After School Level you emphasise faculties. I must tell you these are all mental ideas and I would not like to say that this is something which I would propose or prescribe, this I am only suggesting as a research work but to start a research I am only proposing the first rough draft, a kind of a statement so that it can be dealt with properly. But what I suggest is that in the beginning of what Mother called the Last School would be concentrated upon a few subjects. In After School you develop faculties’ especially through subjects but also especially exercises’ for example of reasoning, exercises of memory, exercise of pronunciation, exercise of discovery, exercise of invention, different faculties that we have. They can be developed in special methods of exercises. In Super School; you combine the two together, subjects and faculties in a very high manner. And when these are developed you come to No School and then you are free to develop whatever you like to do, you want to be an athlete, then you specialise in your own way but by your own processes, if you want to be a great surgeon or a doctor, you can develop that, you want to be a great architect, you develop architecture on your own etc. etc. but that it is left to you. You have now got everything that a school or education can give you, all the rest is for the life to develop for you.

And as Mother said all that, when somebody wrote a letter, I’ll give you the anecdote; a teacher wrote a letter to the Mother saying that the new method of education that we have now in our school and in our higher education is such that the quantity of studies will be very small, and as a result our students will be very poor as far as the quantity of studies is concerned. Outside world has so many subjects, whereas our students will have only a few subjects because you are emphasising too much on understanding, – the faculty of understanding. So Mother wrote in answer: ‘Higher course is meant to develop the faculty of understanding, if they can, the rest can be studied all throughout the life. In my own personal life this was a great revelation by the Mother because there is a great pressure usually in our school education or college education to stuff a number of subjects and then the whole load becomes so great that children cannot bear, even higher students also not bear that burden, its tremendous burden of education. So Mother simplified by saying: that even in higher education the important part is to make children understand, and to make them intelligent; if they can. All the rest can be studied throughout the whole life. So our curriculum should be such that it gives to the children a lot of programmes for their whole life time. They still have to develop quite a lot but now it is No School, you are on your own. So this is the framework that I was thinking of, that our curriculum that we need to develop is first for the first eight levels that is from class I to class VIII, then you develop class VIII to class XII, which I call After School and then you develop what is called a curriculum for is called Super School. And then a program for No School to be handled by students themselves in the way in which they like.

Question: There is one important faculty which I as a teacher of language something called the deep memory, not just something that you memorise and it is tested but something deep memory, just you don’t think, it’s just there that is how a pianist doesn’t concern with what is this note or what does his finger do, shouldn’t this be developed as a faculty?

Answer: Actually Mother has answered this question to me, when I asked this question she said: There are children, Mother said who are gifted with musical faculties and she said they need to practise a lot so that even their fingers, their fingers have got automatically the knowledge that is required to put their fingers at the right point and the right piece, so Mother gave a great importance to this capacity and the children should be given such exercises that is where subject verses faculty comes into sharp focus. Very often this faculty is hardly developed. As you rightly said that if you learn a language properly then grammatical mistakes won’t occur, when you speak, your language is certainly grammatical, not that you apply grammar and then you speak. The grammar will have so much woven in your habit of speaking that you cannot utter something which is ungrammatical, your own speech, your tongue will oppose you, will not allow you to speak that is incorrect. This is a great faculty, which has to be developed. I agree entirely. Mother herself spoke of it.

In fact if you study how to develop faculties, it is a big science by itself. When we speak of Piaget, for example the modern thinker in education, what is his speciality? His speciality was faculties; developing the faculties of the children. When Vivekananda said: you should have man making education; he was asked what is man making education? He said man-made education is the development of a faculty of concentration, this is all. If you develop the faculty of concentration all that you need comes as a result of it. The whole human personality is contained in the power of concentration that was his definition.

So this idea of faculty development is so important that I personally feel that Auroville as a field of research, we should have a very important research into this field, how to develop various faculties, as I gave the example of stamina, how to develop stamina of the body. It’s also a faculty; it requires exercise and various kinds of exercises by which stamina can be developed. Many children in our ordinary world when they can't do something, we say don’t do it, now it is finished, don’t worry. We don’t take the trouble as in the army for example a soldier who cannot run; he is given a capacity to run afterwards in two years time. He comes up with the stamina of running afterwards, it’s because there is concentration upon faculties, therefore the whole army training is of a different kind. Army training is so good because of this reason.

Let me state what I feel but before that I want to answer a question from François, the question that he had raised, you correct me if my formulation of the question is correct or not. I spoke of the need to develop faculties, the need to develop a number of articles of information regarding number of subjects and his argument was that school is only one of the instruments of education. There are many other instruments of education like the home, like the society, the groups in which one moves and the suggestion that he made was, do not arrogate to yourself as a school all the functions that belong to many others because education is only a part of the totality and don’t arrogate to yourself all these responsibilities, leave something to others also and do not burden yourself with so much of problems and troubles which you are taking in analysing this field of education. Is it a correct exposition of your question? Best instrument of education?

Now I think what he says is very true and now with this new amendment that he has made my answer becomes much easier. If it was only one of the instruments, I would have argued that it is not one of the instruments. Even if it is one, it is one of a very important instrument of education. Now we are saying one of the best, or the best; I am much more than satisfied. But the other aspect of which he spoke are important and my answer to that question is actually Auroville has been conceived as a totality of a school, Auroville as the whole not the school, not Livelier, not the Transition, not the Last School, not the After School, the whole of Auroville is a totality. The home, the parents, the members of the society, architects and gardeners, electricians and cooks all are teachers and children are to plunge into the totality and they will all learn from there. And actually speaking a good educationist would also prescribe a curriculum for the whole society, but a different kind of curriculum. I would say that actually in Auroville, the whole of Auroville should have a curriculum and actually Mother has given that curriculum – the divine life but not through mystic means but through life itself and no religions. I think this is the curriculum that Mother has given for the whole of Auroville. The Charter of Auroville is also a curriculum of Auroville, or you might say quest for mutation of human species is the curriculum of Auroville, which we are not emphasising sufficiently today and that is why also there is a problem in Auroville. If this quest for the mutation of human species is broadly shared and intensely shared, then some of the problems of Auroville could be resolved very easily. And it is necessary to have this vey broadly shared by people in Auroville.

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 in spite of so many years, an 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 the 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 textbook 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 textbooks 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 the English text book is almost as good 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 it over. 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, the synthetic answer, the 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 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 the 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 from the printing press that we should have Mother’s talks which are being distributed among teachers and students and an 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 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 is that nothing is compulsory. This is what Mother once told me. You see in our school there was 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.

In any case there is another aspect of this question which has to noticed as she said: each language gives you a certain vibration and a certain development of faculty, which is like Sanskrit for example, the faculty of pronunciation is best achieved in Sanskrit – shudha ucharan, the purity of pronunciation is greatly emphasised in Sanskrit as never, like even Le in French, now in Sanskrit like La is written full, it is la but when you want to make half lile, there is a word called lile, it ends with le but pronunciation in English is lile. But in Sanskrit if you write lile then la has to be halant, has to be half. So there is a great precision in Sanskrit pronunciation and there are many other emphasises in Sanskrit language which are peculiar to Sanskrit language. Thirdly there is also another aspect, any student who can speak four languages will already be a forerunner in the world. Therefore we have to look at it from all these points of view, what capacities we want to give our children, what will be his standing, his confidence. A child who knows so many languages, his confidence itself is very great. The contribution that language learning can give to the child is something not sufficiently understood as Sri Aurobindo says: we have to realise that clear thinking is possible without a clear mastery over language. So even for clear thinking, mastery over language is important. So our normal practise in languages is thought to be very perfunctory, there is no attainment of a mastery of a language. In fact, pedagogically today you go anywhere in Delhi, or in America, mastery over language is not emphasised. What happens is while teaching language, we switch over to literature and our assumption is that by reading a lot of literature, you master the language. But if you ask certain questions like reporting, what I said, now if somebody says now you report the speech. You may be a good literary artist, reporting my speech accurately, is a different capacity. Unless you have a good mastery over the language, not on literature but language, you cannot report my speech very correctly.

Now, therefore there is a difference between learning literature through literature and learning language through language skills. And this pedagogically very much neglected. In fact Mother once wrote a letter on this subject and she offended many people who were teaching literature through that letter. For a year whole controversy raged over that letter of the Mother, when Mother said: Literature is only concentrated upon the throat centre. It is the throat centre, according to Sri Aurobindo, that is for externalising intelligence, intelligence which is concentrated upon externalising consciousness. And in order to be literary, you have to learn how to find novel and original ideas. And for the sake of novelties you enter into a field, which is not necessarily sublime. Now this had created a lot of controversy in our Ashram School because many professors of literature wrote to the Mother saying what Sri Aurobindo has written on literature. Because it is true Sri Aurobindo has written so much on literature and has spoken of the importance of literature, that many professors of literature and one professor of Shantiniketan had come (he was a devotee of the Mother) and for one year he was so sad that Mother had written this, that it is degradation of literature, where Sri Aurobindo has spoken so much and everyone said that poetry, music and art are the perfect education of the soul. You know Mother’s statements as she has said there is no dogma about it, she is a force in action, it counteracts many people’s exaggerated notion about literature and she wanted to put everything in balance. But for people to write to Mother saying Sri Aurobindo has written this, it was an irony actually, to tell Mother what Sri Aurobindo has written on literature.

Anyway, I feel that these four languages, how to emphasise them, not to make them compulsory, but how to emphasise these four languages is a matter of curricular research. I feel that there should be, I don’t know Mita and Tapas are not here, but I think Mita is working on this subject also quite seriously, she has shown me. I think this research requires, Mother told me once that you should teach four languages simultaneously. You take a word and say this in English, this in French, this in Tamil, this in Sanskrit simultaneously, in Italian so and so, in Spanish this is this way etc. I think this also makes languages much easier. 50% of English words are French or vice versa or even more, it’s a fact. It’s a tyranny of subjects that prevents us from cultivating languages at a higher level, it’s a fact, I know it. Why is it that we do not give importance to languages because we feel he must learn Mathematics, science, history, geography, all this. Now there is a school of thought which says that first eight years children should learn only languages, it’s a school of thought, not that I agree with it entirely, but there is a great force in it. According to this school of thought, the first eight years should be devoted only to languages because they say if your languages are good, the other things you can learn easily afterwards.

Now I am giving this concreteness first of all that these four languages kindly emphasise in our curriculum and kindly emphasise mental calculi, Mother had spoken of mental calculation, not mathematics, mathematics is a different subject, it’s not calculi. Mother made a distinction she said calculi is not mathematics. And so Mother said at the lower stages, you emphasise language and calculi. She has not said further on the subject but I would say that in the curriculum of the first eight years, you should give a great emphasis on learning four languages and calculi, four operations of arithmetic. Because these four operations are actually a real training of the mind, the mind actually works best when mathematical problems are given, all the faculties of the mind of analyses, the left hand faculties they develop best. So this calculi is very important as a basis for mathematics, then higher mathematics can be learnt later on. So my suggestion is four languages and calculi, plus anything else that the child wants. These two things to be emphasised at this level in addition to this spinal cord and on the right hand wing, lots of stories. You give literature but mainly through stories, through drama, through recitation of poetry and through creative expressions, drawing and through music and through dance. These I would say you emphasise strongly in the first eight years, plus whatever the child wants to learn let him learn, you can allow him anything else. He wants to do a lot of mathematics even at the lower level, fine. If he wants to do a lot of physiology, let him do that, he wants to do a lot of physics, how and why for example, many questions of the how and why can be introduced at the lower level. They include geography, physics, chemistry, and lots of questions only through how and why. And then as a result he wants to read on physics, he can read, he can be helped, it is optional. But what you emphasise is basically what I told you just now. The spinal cord of this ‘To Know Oneself and To Control Oneself’, then four languages and calculi plus stories, dramas, recitations, dance and any creative drawing and so on, these are to be emphasised in the first eight years, up to fourteen years plus anything he wants to do in addition to this but these are to be emphasised. Anything else the child wants to do should be encouraged, it’s for encouragement. And even at the level of fourteen if some gifted children want to do some optional subjects, real study, we should allow him and the facility should be given.

So the curriculum should be of such a nature that this emphasises, this encouragement and this kind of optionality is available. This is my reading at present but I would like to invite people who want to make a curriculum. In addition to this I would emphasise two subjects which are not normally emphasised at this stage and that is Astronomy and Geography. This is apart from mathematics, which I said is a great mental gymnastics, as far as the empirical science is concerned nothing is more concrete to the child as Astronomy and Geography, from the point of concreteness and these two subjects are normally not taught except in a very general way. You speak about stars and galaxies and so on, but nothing more than that but astronomy would be a very good subject for study. In fact in the Indian system of education Jyotisha, that is astronomy, was given the highest importance. It was right from childhood Jyotish was taught to everybody – astronomy. So this is my suggestion and when I come back again if there is a group of people who are preparing syllabus or curriculum, or if all of us join together like this, I’ll be very happy. If we all can frame, people can bring some of their ideas. In fact I have requested Serge to be here, I told him to prepare his own. You know he is a physicist himself, I had a good talk with him and I have told him that you just give me your autobiographical development of study of physics.

You know one of the best ways of learning or preparing curriculum is to take biographies of some individuals – how they learnt the given subject. What was the curve of their development? And if you compare three, four, five such biographies, you get a good idea as to how to develop, instead of discussing in a theoretical manner, you take a biography. How you learnt music for example, I don’t know if you know music or not, or how you learnt art, for example, if I ask her, if you give a biographical account, it will be a very interesting study, seriously. If you can bring next time, I would like to only read the papers of individuals – how I learnt certain things. So when I come next time, let us continue, if you all agree. I’ll be happy if all are present because I want everyone to be a participant in this. It is a learning process for all of us.