Here are two selections from Kireet’s reflections on education (one from a talk he gave at Bharat Nivas last April to members of SAIIER and another to the group coordinating the CIRHU Resource Centre last November).
As you will see it is a very open-ended approach, one which he himself sees as an on-going research.
In answer to a question...
… I personally think that for younger children when lot of help is needed there is a need of schooling. The word schooling means a place where you need lot of help and lot of help is given.
This is my interpretation because Mother has not written what is Last School, what is After School and so on. This is my interpretation which is to be given, the interpretation of somebody who has thought over it. It may be helpful so I am not putting any authoritative statement on this subject. It is only my own research.
I think that the kindergarten is already no school. Children are free, they can do whatever they like, and it is very pleasant. In fact, everybody agrees all over the world that kindergarten schools are the best schools. Children are so happy, they can do whatever they like, they swim? Here for example you have got a swimming pool for younger children, which is a very rare thing, even anywhere in the world. But you have such beautiful experiences that you might say it is no school.
But then when you come to Transition, the kind of experience that you have got is also very good. The structure that you have created is neither a structure nor that kind of complete wildness which happens in some of the progressive schools in the world. It is a very good blend, and the possibility has been helped by the architectural design. What I call hall of culture and laboratories are already combined as it were in each classroom. This is what I would call a place where schooling is needed but as a last school, because that the children know that after this schooling will become less and less. Because when you begin to grow and you need less help, then you need to have a new kind of structure.
So I would say actually, in term of these words, that Transition school should be really called Last School. It is a last school. It is a good schooling because all things have been taught in a way where the freedom and structure are very well blended. I think that you have done something that is excellent. It is why the idea came to me that you should have somebody to report on the research that has been done in the emergence of Transition school. It is a beautiful school I tell you. Every child is happy, every child. For example, there is one girl who was writing a story and she said: “I don’t want anybody near me. I have to write a story and think.” She was allowed to sit alone at her table. This freedom is rarely obtained anywhere. A child who would say: “I want to write alone in my own small table…” So, first of all a child who is able to express this wish, her own decision that she needs solitude so much so that even when you are present she hardly looks at you is unusual. We were present in the classroom. She hardly looked at us. She wrote very seriously… So, I suggest that you should now have somebody to report, somebody who will interview the teachers and students and makes a good report of fifty, sixty, eighty, hundred pages on how this has emerged. But don’t disturb it, don’t make more structure than there is now. It is very well done; it is a kind of optimum level that has been reached. I would really call this Last School. In the sense that I would tell the children as they grow up towards the class 6 to 8 or whatever, that now you will learn more and more by yourself.
It is a last school. Not that you don’t jump immediately from last school to no school. So I am very happy that Mother has spoken of three schools in between: After School 1, After School 2 and After School 3. After school is something which corresponds to what children do at home in regards to homework. After school is a time for homework, for what the children do for homework?
What I find, for example, in Deepti’s school, which is called Last School, is exactly this. Every child is doing his homework. There is so much of individuality, so much of doing by oneself. The kind of drawings they have done? I must tell you it is something you should exhibit in Auroville in a very central place so that everybody can see the kind of drawings and painting that they have done,─ such beautiful things. It will be amazing. I would really say that somebody should photograph and keep them in your archives. It is very important.
So I conceive that what is done actually in Last School is what is should be named After School. Not Last School but After School because it is what children are doing when they are at home. When you want to individualize everybody in that school. It is a real freedom there is no structure as it were, which perfectly corresponds to the needs of the children at that stage. They can read by themselves, they can write by themselves. You know on the lower level you need to teach the children how to read and write — unless they need no reading and writing — otherwise how can they do work on their own. They need lot of schooling before that, so I would say that from class 1 to 8 should be called Last School.
Then after you should have After School. But Mother has spoken of three stages, and I was wondering what these three stages correspond to. In any case what is done here at Last School is one of the three stages of After School.
Intervention not audible…
… We have to see. I am not proposing anything. It is up to the teachers here what they decide to do, but if you ask me, I would like to give the name of Last School to the present Transition school. I would like to give the name of After School 3 to present Last School. What is being done in After School that is for me After School 1. The school Center for Further Learning I would name it After School 2. And this one which is Last School, now After School 3.
You see the progression. From the blend of structure and freedom in the classes of Transition school you come to another kind of structure — it is more like tuition which is given, like tutors who are teaching children at home. It is what I call After School 1.
When I visited the school Center for Further Learning which is such a beautiful school I saw there is lot of freedom there and there is some structure. Then I come to Last School which is really After School 3. And now I am taking classes with the students there and I find that what I am doing is Super School.
This is a novel experience for me because I was wondering what is Super School? And I find that the class that I am giving to them again involves a lot of teaching and there is no freedom. It is Super School. So, I was wondering what are the characteristics of Super School. First of all, the subjects that you are teaching must be of a high level, therefore super. Secondly, you are not actually schooling them but preparing them to learn higher subjects by themselves. It is schooling, but the purpose here is to enable students to follow higher studies by themselves. It is only a kind of a preparation. So still schooling is needed.
And third in this process of preparing you don’t trot or canter, you gallop. Therefore at Super School the speed with which you prepare them is not a slow, gradual development. You take subjects of such nature that even if you give hundred lectures it is galloping. As Mother said to prepare for studying The Life Divine you need ten years of preparation. This can be bridged you might say bridged to some extent, if you are at Super School, if you have the possibility of meeting students for two hours, three, four hours at a stretch and you can engage them and take them… For example I cover logic and which I have done in six months, in only two days which is like galloping. You go from one idea to the other. Because you know, most of the time in ordinary colleges, courses are lay down, periods are fixed, teachers come in their own way, many students are not attentive, you have to repeat so much, so it takes such a long time. But if you have students like this who are prepared — those who have gone to After School because they are ready to learn a lot by themselves so that their attention, their consciousness is already developed, then you can gallop in your movements. This is a personal new experience in my life: how you can teach a large number of subjects. First of all I made a survey of the different subjects which are been studied in the world, a very brief and rapid survey. And I fixed in this large survey where philosophy comes, where logic comes, where epistemology comes, where cosmology comes, what is metaphysics and how logic has to be seen in The Life Divine. If you want to study logic what is the process of ratiocination, what is the process of application of the law of identity, of the law of contradiction, law of extended middle, law of sufficient reason. Now all this can be rapidly gone over as Sri Aurobindo said… I have been very much aided by one sentence of Sri Aurobindo: “You should take the children rapidly to that which is the most interesting in the subject.” This sentence is very important and I found in Super School you should have such methods of learning, such processes of learning where the children gallop from one point to the other and go straight to the thing that is very interesting. Super School is a place where you need lot of schooling with regard to very high subjects, very difficult subjects and then you go as fast as possible, as rapidly as possible, you take the students to the heart of the matter as it where which is the most interesting part of the whole subject.
So I would suggest that the students of Last School could now go into Super School and then they can be trained to enter into No School where does not need schooling anymore.
This is how I understand what Mother had written. This is my present interpretation. You have today in Auroville Last School, After School 1, 2, 3, and now developing Super School which can then prepared at No School. And it is exactly what Mother has written. Isn’t it? It is how I understand and therefore now to answer to your question about growth and structure I feel that at every stage if you have architectural design in such a way that hall of culture and laboratories are side by side then depending upon the aid that a child needs you can put him here or there for shorter period or longer period and it is a teacher who will observe all this. This is the only structure I will plead for. All right.
I don't believe in exams. And yet sometimes exams can be a great amusement. We can even have quiz programmes. Not because of any ordinary reason, but because general knowledge is a very important door to the widening of the mind. The base of every student should be as wide as possible. In our general schools, in order to make our mind very wide, they are making every subject compulsory. Which is a mistake. You should not make any subject compulsory. Let students float very easily on the oceans of knowledge. Free style swimming. So that you enjoy without making anything compulsory. You get amusement out of it, in fact General Knowledge course can be very great amusement and at the same time the mind is widened. It becomes a boredom only if it becomes compulsory. If I say that you must study economy at the elementary level, history at the elementary level, it becomes boring. But if the most interesting parts of Economics are told to you in six lectures, it becomes very interesting. The same thing can be very interesting, it is for this reason that I have proposed General Knowledge course. So I will invite you to General Knowledge course at the same time.
This is a book called General Knowledge book. Don't be frightened because we will not study this book at all. But it only shows that if you want to appear for highest examinations then of course this book is necessary. As I told you I don't want you to appear in examination at all, but as an amusement we should be prepared to read such a book. As an amusement, there is no compulsion at all but in due course it may take four years, five years, six years, doesn't matter, time is enough. In any case some of the very interesting parts of the book should come to you as soon as possible.