What innovations do we need? And Why?
1. The modern age is marked by breath-taking discoveries and inventions. But nothing is perhaps so significant and pregnant for the future as the discovery of the child and the modern educationist's efforts for the invention of the New Education which would be appropriate to the ever-fresh discoveries of the mysteries of the child.
2. The modern educationist has been wonderstruck by the tremendous feat of learning that the child performs in the first few years of its life. What is the secret, he has asked, of this tremendous speed of learning?
3. He has observed, with fresh eyes, the child craving for the moon, and its wonder at the stars that twinkle. And he has made fresh propositions. The child learns so fast, he says, because it has no other occupation than that of learning; or rather, for the child, all the occupations are occupations of learning. To it, all play is learning and all learning is a play. The child learns so fast, he continues, because it has before it a living book, the open book of Nature itself. And the child learns so fast, he concludes, because the child "reads" this book of Nature with its total being, by the happy exercise of all its faculties, by the concrete urge of experience.
4. The modern educationist is led to apply these propositions to all aspects of education, and he finds that this application implies a radical change in the contents, methods and structure of education, and above all, in the very aim of education.
5. This is the central context of innovations in education all over the world.
6. We have begun to look upon the child as the creator of the New Future. And the educationist is, therefore, necessitated to look into the Future, not merely as a happy exercise of imagination or even of direction, but as an object of a serious and scientific study that can be used as a tool for current planning. Indeed, at no time was the Future so central to the present.
7. An important realisation has come to us that the future that the modern age has been labouring to fashion seems possible only on the basis of the fulfilment of one condition, namely, a universal and lasting peace. It has been realised that wars must be eliminated, that actual wars are fought primarily in the minds, and that, therefore, there is a need to change the very working of the minds.
8. The educationist is called upon to define this change and to present new contents, methods and structures of education that would, in their total effect, enable us to develop not merely the normal, beings but to develop it in such a way and to such a degree that we would be able to transmute ourselves, to eliminate from ourselves the wars that are fought in our minds, and to grow into a new kind of global beings.
9. The modern educationist is called upon to find the right means of the education by which the growing child may, in due course, come to transmute its ordinary texture and grow into a new kind of being, into a new lotus of light that would radiate the breath of peace and harmony and live by intimate mutuality with the entire universe.
10. We must note that this task is new, its dimensions are multiple, and it invites the educationist to soar high above all his narrow preoccupations and to apply himself to the task of innovation with a new mind and a new heart. This task is imperative and urgent.
11. Is there, we have to ask, something in the child itself that has an inherent capacity to grow like an angel of light and to meet all the pains of growth without getting entangled into the knots of ordinary human thought and action, which limit and bind man into the stifling grooves of jealousies and rivalries and narrow and suicidal loyalties? For if there is nothing in the child which is intrinsically angelic, if it is true that eros and thanatos are the alpha and omega of the child, then it is impossible to predict any ultimate and harmonious survival of human existence on this planet.
12. But as we stand at the frontiers of science and of human potentialities developed to their highest value, we are led to an optimistic conclusion. The brilliant messages that come to us by flashes and inspirations, when studied impartially with a scrupulous scientific rigour, give a clue to the domains of knowledge that seem so pertinent to the basic premises of the educationist. These domains
of knowledge await the quest of the educationist and there is a promise that just as he has discovered the child, he will discover also the soul of the child,the real angel of light. And in this discovery may lie, it is suggested, the true justification of his aspirations and his efforts.
13. The educationist has today spoken of "Learning to Learn" and of "Learning to Be"; he has spoken of the necessity of the freedom in the process of growth, and of the necessity of breaking the walls of the school and of removing the boundaries of studies. But it has been suggested that it is only when the soul of the child is discovered that we shall find the true justification of these pronouncements of the modern educationist. It has been suggested that there must be freedom in the process of education, not for any reason, but because the soul of the child is, in its nature, free, and that it can grow to its fullness under the conditions of freedom. There must be, it is affirmed, the breaking of the walls of the school, not for any reason, but because the soul is not a prisoner, and because it is the breaker of the bonds and fetters. The boundaries of studies must be removed, it is confirmed, not for any reason, but because the entire universe --the expanding universe -- is the soul's own home. Learning must be to learn, for that is the essential method of soul's growth in the universe, and learning must be to be, because to know, to possess, and to be is the natural breath of the soul. It is on these premises that, it is suggested, the entire story of innovations in education can be truly understood, and it is on these premises that our
future innovations in education, I think, can find their right direction and goal.
14. Permit me, in this context, to present to you a passage from Sri Aurobindo that indicates the value of the modern educationist's discoveries and the direction of his task ahead :
"The discovery that education must be a bringing out of the child's own intellectual and moral capacities to their highest possible value and must be based on the psychology of the child-nature was a step forward towards a more healthy because a more subjective system; but it still fell short because it still regarded him as an object to be handled and moulded by the teacher, to be educated. But at least there was a glimmering of the realisation that each human being is a self-developing soul and that the business of both the parent and teacher is to enable and to help the child to educate himself, to develop his own intellectual, moral, aesthetic and practical capacities and to grow freely as an organic being, not to be kneaded and pressured into form like an inert plastic material. It is not yet realised what the soul is or that the true secret, whether with child or man, is to help him to find his deeper self, the real psychic entity within. That, if we ever give it a chance to come forward, and still more if we call it into the foreground as "the leader of the march set in our front," will itself take up most of the business of education out of our hands and develop the capacity of the psychological being towards a realisation of its potentialities of which our present mechanical view of life and man and external routine
methods of dealing with them prevent us from having any experience or forming any conception." 1
15. We speak today of the need for mass education. And in India, we have indeed a massive problem of mass education. Mass media are, no doubt, a powerful aid for the solution of this problem, and all the innovations that are being attempted in this direction are not only welcome but ought to be augmented both in regard to quantity and quality. But still we need to underline a very important phenomenon which has begun to emerge more rapidly in recent times. It is the phenomenon of an increasing demand, implicit or explicit, from the members of the masses to provide them individualized education. This is a phenomenon which is not sufficiently known. But the psychological law of awareness is that it always tends more and more towards 'self-awareness'. It is for this reason that wherever the mass media have begun to operate successfully, there has arisen, within a short period, a need to provide means of education that will cater to the problems of individual growth. Failure to provide this has led to a sense of suffocation among the masses and to an implicit or explicit unrest. One of the root causes of the massive youth unrest all over the world can be traced to such a failure. For while the masses of the youth have become more and more aware by various media of education, there has not been, at the same time, a sufficient realisation of the need to provide as soon
1. Sri Aurobindo:Collected Works, Centenary Edition, Vol.XV, pp.27-28
as possible individualized education to these large masses of the youth. We try to persuade ourselves that we can still postpone the demands of what may be called massive individualized education. But this postponement is neither possible nor desirable. An important field of innovation in education, therefore, is how to provide individualized education to larger and larger masses of people.
16. We come now to the area of individualized learning itself. Individualized learning means, it may be suggested, learning that is suitable and appropriate to the individual in question. Each individual, although a member of a group, and although he shares the commonness of the group to which he belongs, has still in him a special and unique combination of qualities, latent or active, which follow a special law of development towards the fulfilment of a specific and unique function. To use the Indian terminology, we may say that each one of us has his own swabhava and swadharma, and a learning process that answers to the rhythms and cycles of swabhava and swadharma is what may properly be called individualized learning. And it may safely be'said that the central preoccupation of all the modern educational methodology and innovations is to invent a flexible structure of education that would fulfill the demands of individualized learning.
17. And we may at once state the heart of the problem that is related to individualized learning. The central knot lies in the inter-twining of three needs in a meaningful process of learning, the need for self-learning, the need for different kinds and
degrees of help from the teacher, and the need for a group or a collaborative study or work-experience. These needs are interlocked, and yet the organisation demanded by each is so different from the one demanded by the other, that a series of antinomies begins to emerge as soon as we try to conceive or work out some complex and flexible organisation which would harmonize all the needs.
18. A close examination of this issue may be suggested so that a satisfactory solution could be evolved. To most of us, who address themselves to the learning process which is circumscribed within the walls of the lecture system, syllabus system and examination system, and yet who aspire to initiate and organize a meaningful learning process, the solution of this problem is a thing of paramount importance.
19. It seems to me that in order to arrive at this solution, a number of difficult things need to be done patiently and laboriously, and each one of them could constitute a project of innovative experimentation. For instance, the grouping of students will need a new basis; and this will largely be determined by the nature of areas of studies in question. Teachers will need to prepare materials which can be studied by students without much help, and there will be a need of a new material which can be used as a part of the environment. Again, in regard to each area of study, we shall need to determine with some precision the essential elements, and differentiate them from that which is peripheral or which is a matter of detail. We shall need to determine several different ways and approaches to
learn the same topic or subject. We may also need to enquire if there is something like most essential and indispensable knowledge that we, as human beings, must possess, and if so, what is the best method of acquiring it.
20. The way in which we should study, for instance, the inner meaning of Indian culture is evidently to be different from the way in which we learn, say, the details of some geographical area. History, for instance, can be learnt in several different ways. It can be learnt predominantly through an account of events, or else, through biographies or predominantly through the study of the growth of institutions or cultures. One may like to begin the study of history from modern times and then go backwards, or one may prefer to study "then" and "now" in a systematic sequence.
21. Moreover, areas of study where general stimulation is needed, methods of environmental influence by mass media may be found suitable. And areas of study where detailed precision is necessary, various methods of individual study or methods of individual consultation with the teachers will have to be employed.
22. There is also the question of time-tables. To create a situation in which time-tables could be flexible is perhaps one of the most difficult tasks of innovators in education. There are a number of areas of studies in regard to which regular and fixed time-tables are necessary, but there are others where a free pursuit without the constraints of "periods" is quite legitimate. It is true that a 'rough' solution is always possible, but I do not think that we, as
educational scientists, should feel satisfied with any rough solutions. We need to invent a new system which reconciles all the needs of the total process of learning accurately and harmoniously.
23. There are still further areas for our innovative effort. We may state some of them.
24. We witness today an endless explosion of knowledge, and we do not know if we can psychologically contain this explosion. We need to ask, as in the Chhandogya Upanishad, if there is knowledge possessing which all can be known.
25. Is there, we may ask, an all-embracing project of work experience that would generate a continuing process of life-long education?
26. Is there a programme, we may ask, which would necessitate an effortless synchronization of the needs of personal development with the needs of collective development of humanity?
27. Is there, it may be asked, a tool of the acceleration of the summing up of the past and the unfolding of the future?
28. And we may ask if there is a secret which we can educationally provide to the child whereby it can grow continuously and yet remain a child, like Newton, playing with pebbles on the shores of the ocean of knowledge. In other words, is there a secret of perpetual progress and of perpetual youth?
29. All these are fascinating questions, and we can suggest that all of them are centrally relevant to answer the question as to why we need a new education for tomorrow.
30. May I mention that I am one of you engaged in the task of innovations, and it is with a sense of identity with you that I have presented these questions so that we may all share together our quest. What I have presented is only a small fraction of a number of problems that confront us in the field of innovations. And this workshop is an excellent opportunity to pool together all our problems of innovations, our experiences and our reflections for the possible lines of fresh enquiry and experimentation. I am sure that the results of this workshop will be of immense value to the development of education in general and of education in India in particular.