Innovations related to Methods and
Processes of Education
Child-centered education is being increasingly advocated in all programmes of innovative methods of education. That education should aim at each student's ability to exceed the present boundaries of limitations may be regarded as one of the possible formulations of child-centered education. How to materialize or actualize child-centered education is a difficult task, and it can be facilitated only if we can pool together the results of great experiments connected with basic education or Nayi Talim, or with Swami Vivekenanda's message of man-making education, creative education conceived and experimented upon by Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore, radical experiments in integral education conducted in the light of Sri Aurobindo, as also pioneering experiments conducted in different parts of the world under the inspiration of Rousseau, Montessori, Pestalozzi, Bertrand Russell, Paulo Freire and others.
It can be seen that the central knot of the problem that confronts child-centered education consists of the intertwining 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 inter-locked, and yet the organization demanded by each is so different from the one demanded by the other, that a
series of difficulties begin to emerge as soon as we try to conceive or workout some complex and flexible organization which will harmonize all the needs.
There are areas of study where general stimulation is needed and where methods of group learning and learning through mass media may be found suitable. There are areas of study where detailed precision is necessary, and various methods of individual study or methods of individual consultation with the teachers will have to be employed. There are a number of areas of studies in regard to which regular and fixed timetables are necessary, but there are others where a free pursuit without constrains of timetables is quite legitimate. There are still further areas where project work would be useful and indispensable. Again, there are skill-oriented courses of study, where special kinds of time-tables need to be developed.
Innovative experiments are needed to develop a new framework of educational methodology and they will have to be conducted with great care and responsibility.
The first principle that may guide us in innovating methods and processes of education would be that each individual is, in a sense, unique, and each individual needs to develop in accordance with one's own essential nature and one's own law of rhythm of development. It is to be realized that the imperfect nature of each individual contains the materials of his or her perfection, but inchoate, distorted, misplaced, thrown together in disorder or a poor imperfect order. As Sri Aurobindo points out: "All this material has to be patiently perfected, purified, re-organised, new-moulded and
transformed, not hacked and hewn and slain or mutilated, not obliterated by simple coercion and denial."
In the light of this, a new programme of teachers' education will have to be developed so that teachers are able to observe the students, to appreciate their strengths, weaknesses and to extend help to each individual on the lines that are suitable to his or her pursuit of excellence and integral development. The development of innovative teachers' programmes is an indispensable essential necessity for the development of radical reforms in education and for developing a new national system of education or a parallel system of education.
That there should be a possibility of allowing progress of students according to their individual pace of progress is an implicit condition of child-centered education. How to attain the fulfillment of this aspect of education will require radical innovations in the current systems of lectures, curriculum and examination.
These innovations can be facilitated, if efforts are made to harmonise two important ngeds of a happy processes of education that ensures progress, viz., freedom and discipline.
To harmonise freedom and discipline, the innovators need to recognize that:
(a) Education must be a happy process, and happiness is a fruit of the inherent urge to grow, unhampered by external pressures.
(b) In the absence of this inner will in the student, and where this inner-will is not yet disciplined, there is a
need to impose outer discipline. But this imposition should only be a temporary device and the aim should be to eliminate it gradually and totally. Even the temporary imposition of discipline must not be arbitrary and should not be offensive to the sensitiveness and sensibility of the students.
(c) Educational organization at the lower levels should permit small classes, each consisting of not more than twenty students. The smallness of the classroom will provide to the teachers the time to observe the children under their care and to pay individual attention to those who need it. At the same time, the framework of "class-learning" fulfils children's need to be together and to progress collectively. But the programmes such as those of horticulture, agriculture and elementary courses for skill development will require different kinds of grouping, depending upon requirements of the tasks involved in the respective courses. Finally, where the programmes of demonstration, exploration and presentation of power-point projections or films are concerned, large groupings may be both permissible and salutary.
(d) At a level where students are able to read elementary books on various subjects, a different and innovative organization would be recommended. Individualized learning through personal study of programme books, work-sheets, text books or reference books can be encouraged. Here the freedom of the pace of progress and freedom to choose the subjects of study according to the immediate interest of the students could also be encouraged. Here the grouping of students can be more flexible, and even the time-tables could be partially or
fully eliminated. Even the necessity of pursuing a fixed syllabus could be made so flexible that different students can study the same subjects through alternative methods of learning or through different steps of sequence, which can be determined by the student's need to learn in accordance with his/her own immediate interest.
(e) As a supplement to the framework of individualized free programme of learning, the innovative system of education will need to develop laboratories for each subject of study. These laboratories will aim at helping students in imposing discipline on themselves and developing habits of hard work, of regularity, of punctuality and self-discipline.
A manual of innovative education will be brought out which will give further guidelines, and experiments will be conducted for implementing these guidelines.
(f) The system of examination needs to be reviewed, and the general principle of innovation will aim at creating a new system that will not impose tests but will provide tests when students express the need to be tested, and where teachers will need to suggest tests for those students who require occasions for exercise, revision, comprehension, encouragement and self-evaluation. The evaluation in tests has also to be innovative, and evaluation should promote encouragement and guidelines for further progress.
(g) Tests for placement in the employment market should be conducted by a National Testing Service, and these tests should be open to anyone who wants to take them provided they have minimum qualifications certified
by the recognized current system of education or by the innovative system of education. These tests should be related to specific jobs or employment opportunities or certain pursuits of studies and disciplines of knowledge and skills. They will also test physical fitness, artistic and other talents, practical skills and value-orientation. -
The role of teachers in the innovative system of education is crucial. The teachers should have not only competence with regard to their subjects but also the necessary spirit and zeal.
If students are to be given education for integral development of personality as also for value-orientation and sound physical fitness, teachers would also need to be examples of integral personality, value-orientation and sound physical fitness. A separate manual will be brought out for proposing innovative programmes of teachers' education.
Teachers should be available to students for personal and academic guidance as also guidance required to help them in organizing their work and in learning the art of self-learning as also other ways of learning.
Teachers may, by personal contact, be expected to provide motivation to the students for various works, topics or subjects, according to the needs and circumstances.
They will also ensure that all the materials needed for studies and works are provided to the students, according to the circumstances.
(f) Teachers would give necessary help in framing the time-tables, particularly where there will be innovative time-tables or no time-tables fixed in advance for the whole year.
(g) Child-centered education can be nurtured only if teachers contribute to the creation of educative environment. They will be expected to provide an atmosphere of self-control and utmost inner discipline.
(a) Students in the innovative system will endeavour to learn the secret of self-education and to work hard so as to remain steadily on the road to self-perfection by constant practice of self-knowledge and self-control.
(b) To study and work widely and intensely, to study and work with joy and diligent application, to study and work to grow and to remain perpetually youthful - this will be the content of the work demanded from students.
(c) Finally, to remain engaged in the quest of Truth, Harmony, and Liberty, and to surpass the limitations of their nature and capacities — this would be expected to be the very heart of the student's work.