This Resource Center will be a sort of a no school, in the sense that here there is no school teacher, but everybody learns by himself or learns by collaboration and that membership to this no school is open to all.
The idea that emerged was of a multi media Center and it corresponded to one of my own idea where I had spoken of a learning environment which would consist of hall of culture and laboratory both set together side by side or intermingled in a magical way so that an individual is free to be at home. It is a place where individuals come with questions or without questions in their mind. If there are questions there is a possibility of exploration. If there are no questions there are possibilities of being stimulated by what I would call demonstrations, or else one comes to practice or apply whatever one has learnt theoretically or otherwise so as to develop it further. In the process of practising the help can best be given by what I have called laboratory. The difference between hall of culture and laboratory is that the hall of culture is more predominantly a place of demonstration and exploration. The laboratory is a place of practicing, a place of development of faculties. In the hall of culture the pace is leisurely; in the laboratory the pace is measured. There is a rigor and there is a concentration. In the hall of culture there is basically a silent atmosphere, but there is no stress of arriving at what I would call perfection. It is a preparation; it is a place for preparation. Laboratory is a place where the stress is on perfection. Both processes are very often simultaneous and therefore the contiguity of hall of culture and laboratory should be contiguous, so that one can switch from here to there whenever one likes
In fact, the more I think about what Mother has said about Last School, After School 1, After School 2, After School 3, Super School and No School and Mother's big word research if you put the whole thing together it makes a big cycle as it were.
And although they may seen to be successive in a certain sense they can be also simultaneous. One can be simultaneously in the Last School, After School 1, 2, 3, Super School, No School and Research. This Resource Center could have also all these aspects in the simultaneously manner, although the emphasis will be here on No School and Research. I think all these aspects are actually aspects of emphasis of one of important process namely the learning process. We are all students and we are learning all the time but in the learning process sometime you emphasise one aspect, sometime you emphasise the other and so on. In fact I have been contemplating on this subject deeply and these are my reflections that I can share with you.
There is a kind of unity which can be filled to its fullness if we have this Resource Center. I see now the necessity of what we call a Resource Center. May be we may change the name afterwards but there is a need of such a place where all the processes of learning are available in the form of resource. That will be the special quality of that particular place.
So let me now go back to all the processes of learning and then it may give us a better idea.
There are, I think, four things which happen whenever when one learns.
There is first the process of development. It is something that is inherent to every individual to develop. A child right from the first day, if there is one learning process it is development ‒ automatically, inherently. And, in fact, if you learn what is the process of child's development it throws a great light on the entire process of education.
In the first place we see that the child has an inherent enthusiasm. If that enthusiasm is wanting we might say the child is either sick or born premature — of course we are all born premature therefore we have not enough enthusiasm — but enthusiasm is something which is the basic capital out of which everything grows. In fact, Sri Aurobindo has said the special characteristic of the student is enthusiasm — utsaha. There is no educative process possible without this utsaha. The teacher's function, Sri Aurobindo says, is to nourish that enthusiasm and to lead it further. But the base is the child lifting up his hand and the teacher drawing that hand which is lifted up. The kind of picture we have put in the book The Good Teacher and the Good Pupil. So, the child automatically is holding up his hand as it were, all the time. This is the basic expression of his enthusiasm. It is that which develops. Every activity of the child afterwards develops because the child is constantly kicking up.
Secondly the child has no intention of learning. His intention is playing. So basically all learning should be play. Mother once told me that if you are concerned with very small children, you should arrange time to play freely and watch them play and intervene only when it is necessary. Seeing that they don't injure themselves. All the things that you arrange in the surrounding should be to stimulate the play.
The third thing about the child is that whenever he plays or learns — learns through play, because for him all learning is playing and all playing is learning — the child does it with his entire being. This is a specialty of the child of the learning process. Whatever the child does, he does it with his all body, mind, heart, everything, whole heartedly.
Fourthly the child has a normal habit or natural tendency to learn and to repeat what he himself has learnt, and this repetition is done with a kind of a joy. When a child has learnt and you ask him: "You know this poem." He wants to recite it immediately and he is not tired to repeat it several times. I think these are the real processes of development: enthusiasm, play, whole being involvement and repetition. And there is a cycle of this and that is how development takes place.
I was reflecting first on the kindergarten. This is a process, a natural process of learning. Kindergarten is the process in which you develop, in which you begin to grow. And this should be present in the entire process of learning, whether you are a child or an adult or an old man or whatever. You remain a child and all the time you learn by playing and by an enthusiasm which never vanishes. We should ensure that this should be the real spirit of learning everywhere. The whole atmosphere of Auroville should be inflamed with this spirit. We are all the time playing in the garden of God. That should be our real feeling all the time.
So the first stage is an ever-present stage throughout kindergarten. We are all the time in the kindergarten. I think Mother use to love the idea of jardin d'enfant. And you know there was a very interesting development of jardin d'enfant. Usually we used to take children in the school of the Ashram at the age of three or four but then requests began to pour upon the Mother to take children of a lower age. And we did not have so much space either in the school for children of a lower age and so on, but there was a real pressure so Mother told me once you develop jardin d'attente. And I have had the privilege of developing jardin d'attente.
Playing with ball was found to be one of the best methods of helping children at that stage (one year) in the jardin d'attente. I use to play with a big ball or a small ball with the children. I think that this idea of jardin d'attente and jardin d'enfant should be a constant atmosphere in Auroville. All of us are at every stage in jardin d'attente.
We could call the CIRHU "kindergarten of God's children".
Good idea. Try to fix it somewhere. Research is a natural process in God's kindergarten school.
What I am trying to show is that all the processes of learning should be simultaneously be present at all the stages of education. But some of them may be more predominant at a one stage; others may be less prominent at other stage. If you develop in order that the kindergarten spirit is present at every stage, soon you begin to learn by the method of kindergarten — playing. There is a need to nourish that development. Because of our human frailty we cannot keep the spirit of playing all the time therefore we make a concession and create what is called Last School. Right from the beginning we give a message to children that "you are now going to a school but remember it is the last school." Do that so that the spirit of play does not disappear. We tell them: "This is a concession we make for you." The first stage of schooling is the stage of last school. In the last school the emphasis is upon development.
If you want to make a curriculum of the entire process of education in Auroville, this curriculum would consist first of further developing what the child has already developed in the kindergarten, automatically. You give a push by the methods of schooling.
What do we mean by schooling? Schooling implies in the first place what we call spoon-feeding. There is a need of spoon-feeding — that is to say a great help is given to the child to develop further what the child has already developed by way of playing. Schooling should not be necessary, normally if the world were perfect and play would continue all the time so that all that you need to learn would be learned only by playing. But because human society is very artificial and is not spontaneous, there is a need of schooling which consists of giving a further stimulus to what the children have learnt by play. And usually the children automatically develop three things: speech and therefore language, movements of the body and some of the development of faculties of the mind. The minimum faculties of the human mind are adding, subtracting, multiplying, and dividing. Sri Aurobindo has said that human mind does not go beyond these four operations.
Integration is a higher level of mind. The specialty of mind is to differentiate, to divide. As Sri Aurobindo has said: "All ignorance is based upon division." Supermind unifies. It is the special distinction between Supermind and Mind. Supermind unifies and unifies totally. It is based upon a oneness which is inherently complex. But the complexity is complex at once. It is not by adding up various elements. It is all at once. Supermind is a consciousness of all at once. It is its very constitution. Human mind organises but basically it organises on the basis of adding, subtracting, multiplying, and dividing. Its organising is a kind of reflection of the Supermind because Mind is not at anytime separated from Supermind. Therefore the faculties of Supermind already operate in the Mind. But if you want the differentia of the Mind then the differentia is these four operations. And Sri Aurobindo has said that Mind does not go beyond these four operations — as Mind.
Question: When a child plays he is also not attached to the result...
Absolutely. That is why God is a child. He plays. His enjoyment is ananda, ‘a constant delight’. Whatever activity is done is delight. So what you say is quite true. That is why we have to be in kindergarten all the time. It is an imitation of God. God is in a constant play and if you are playing in the garden of God you are in a constant play. So, even in the last school this element should be prominent. As far as possible you should always learn through play. It is only because human beings cannot sustain the play that, because of the artificiality of the human mind, that other processes have to be implemented or supplemented there.
In the last school, however, this element of spoon-feeding where the teacher knows what the child has learnt by play and these three things as I said are normally learnt: language, bodily movement and four operations which we then call afterward mathematics.
After a short discussion on discipline and freedom...
In the ordinary circumstances whenever the mind begins to predominate these dichotomies arise and we must respect them because mind develops in this mathematical manner: freedom, discipline; work, play; all these distinctions we make — spontaneous schooling and learning. Schooling itself is a part of a dichotomy of free play, free learning and schooling. As soon as the mind begins to develop the idea of schooling arises. But first of all you should remind everybody it is a last school so that the idea of play remains predominant. The real education, the real learning should be basically a matter of play. And this schooling, which is being done, is the last time that it is being done. The idea of last school I like it so much that right from the beginning a warning is given to everybody, to the teachers as well as the pupils, that this schooling is a concession given to them. They need it because their mind is not directly in consonance with the rhythm of the Divine, so schooling is necessary.
After a discussion with the assembly...
It is why the role of teacher is so great. The role of the teacher is a normative role. It is a role in which you lead the child from positive to normative — to higher. Normative means in which you have reference to ought. Always the teacher is one who holds up to the child the idea of ought. The idea of ought is actually the idea of God. Because we are separated from God, at present in our mind, we always hold up the norm of God. Therefore all education is basically spiritual education whether you like it or not. Any reference to ought, which is normal in an education process, derives itself from God. It is from the Divine nature. Our aim should be constantly to lead the child from the present stage to the ideal stage with least friction, which is very difficult. That is why Auroville education is a great experiment. The reason why we should not do what others are doing elsewhere is this, as Mother once wrote to me saying: "We are not here to do better than what others are doing, but to do something that others do not even know that should be done." And this is actually the true education that we have to develop. And then the role of the teacher is very great because you have to be constantly aware that actually you are with a soul. And you are dealing with a soul which is playing. Outwardly the child has forgotten that he was playing and you have to lead him back to what Plato call remembering. That is the very definition of education for Plato. Plato said that all learning is remembrance. You remind the child that he is God, that he is the child of God. In fact, that is the only thing that has to be done in education.
Question on the word normative and how it could be misused.
You are right, therefore idea of normative should be defined. The word normative is not enough. You have to be constantly defining what is value.
Alright, to come back to last school which I was trying to expound in my own mind. Last school is largely a kindergarten, but supplanted with a tremendous amount of schooling. Reminding the child all along that he will soon overcome this need of schooling. So the method of last school should be so constituted that you remind the child that he has to do by himself. The schooling is only a concession. It may be a long period of seven to eight years because the purpose of this schooling is to develop more and more what is already developed in the kindergarten namely: language, mathematics and bodily movements. Plus many other faculties which might develop up automatically, imagination for example. Many children develop imagination automatically. Then power of imitation and therefore dramatics; the power of formation, designs of various kinds and that is what gives birth to art. And along with sound and language are connected the art of poetry and the art of music. Apart from those three things namely: language, mathematic and physical development you allow also the others things which result from imagination — painting, music, whatever.
If you want to make a curriculum for the last school you emphasise these first three things because to the mind proper these three things are very important. And for other things every child does not necessarily manifest those developments. Every child does not become a painter, a musician or an artist. Therefore although this should be encouraged you should not have a kind of insistence that they should develop these faculties. Even with regard to those three things there should not be compulsion. There are children who are tuned to music more than to learning the alphabet. It is in our preoccupations with our present life that we say you have to learn the alphabet first and we insist that the children learn the alphabet, but some children may not like it, they may be good musicians instead. Once Mother told me that nothing should be compulsory. In the whole process of education nothing should be compulsory.
So you should have a kind of flexible curriculum for a last school within the first eight years — last school should be only for eight years when children need to learn by schooling, by feeding, by the constant presence of the teacher to look after them and to see their defects and deficiencies, when their development requires a good deal of guidance. And our aim should be that during the eight years the children learn at least the languages which are spoken in their environment. Secondly, the children should learn very well the four operations of arithmetic. That should be the aim of the curriculum of the eight years. This is the sound rule actually three R's as they are called. They are quite good but if you limit yourself to any three R's and put them in a sequence, first year you do this, second year you do that, third year you do this, it becomes uncreative. You should not prescribe first standard goal, second standard goal and third standard goal. You put overall goals for the first eight years. During the first eight years you should educate the child so that basically he will be able to speak, write and read, at least three or four languages. This should be done particularly in the kindergarten and in the first few years. We in Auroville emphasize those languages which are appropriate to the international surroundings that we have. Apart from this what should be the level to which you should reach in eight years? You should have at least the minimum level at which the child may be capable. Some children may become quite proficient in certain languages even at the age of twelve, thirteen; some may not have that capacity or they may be doing so many languages at the same time that in each one they progress only a little, but their capacity is very great. They can become very good translators in due course. We should not discourage, we should only put down the minimum level and we can say that the maximum is any height to which the child is capable of reaching. It may be that even A level in the first eight years in particular respects is possible. We should have no limit with regard to the efficiency that should be reached in the first eight years. Reading, writing and calculating at the minimum level so that afterwards — and this is the minimum level that I am now defining — he does need the help of the teacher to do further studies, as far as those things are concerned. This is the minimum level that is why it is last school. Last school means that afterwards he does not normally need the help of the teacher — spoon-feeding is over. That should be our norm. The maximum is any level you can reach, but for minimum a child should learn at least this much. In these days for example computer is a very important instrument for learning by oneself and you should add that also the capacity of skill for computer, so that afterwards one can learn by oneself whatever one wants to learn. So, reading, writing, calculating plus anything that the child has potentiality for, anything the child has already developed in the kindergarten to some extent — the rudiments have been already developed and you develop them further — that would be the curriculum for the last school.
There are three processes of learning. Learning by development, learning by demonstration and learning by exploration. All the three processes should be involved in this movement of last school. In fact, all these three processes are constant everywhere — in the kindergarten and here also. But here the emphasis will be largely upon development, not so much upon exploration and not so much upon demonstration. They should not be absent, they can be even large, but the largest time should be allotted to development.
Kireet has been reminded of the time limit...
After this comes after school 1 in which the emphasis will be a continuous process of demonstration. You demonstrate to children many things. Exploration is present, development also is present. You imagine a child coming home from the school. What does he want to do? He wants to relax, he wants to watch cricket on the television. Normally we do not do anything systematically but if we are a good teacher you will present lot of demonstrations. Demonstrations about laboratory work. For example how to produce water out of oxygen and hydrogen combined together. But a good teacher finds out many things which have to be demonstrated. And you give an intensive programme of demonstrations. It will be after school 1. Other processes are continuing, but there is less teaching, less feeding, more learning and developing by oneself, more demonstrations and also explorations. After two years in after school 1 you have more explorations, putting the child before the wall and obliging him to explore. A very special programme of explorations. You know that that the child after some demonstration and relaxation in the home wants to go out, to walk out, to wander about. This is the process of exploration. So, what child normally likes to do, you do it systematically, deliberately.
What I call development is a process of assimilation. You develop and assimilate... Assimilation is a constant process of learning, of all development.
After school 2 specialises in explorations. After school 3 emphasises development. It is a cycle. What has been emphasised in the last school repeats itself in a more prominent manner in the after school 3: development. After demonstration, after exploration once again there is a repetition of development. And here the process of assimilation becomes much more important than previously. Then comes super school. Here again it is a repetition of last school. Again schooling becomes important because now there is a transition from one stage of thought to a higher level of thought, from one stage of action to a higher level of action. Therefore the role of the teacher as a stimulator becomes very important. The schooling process becomes very intense at the level of super school but the other processes also should be there. Apart from schooling but schooling of a different kind and I don't want to go into it because the time is running out, so I just put myself forwards into the no school in which students and teachers are all one, they are all kindergarten children again. And they can learn whatever they want to learn on their own, there are no teachers available excepting consultancy. Some consultancy will be available; some kind of cooperative learning, everyone is a teacher and every one is a pupil. That kind of partnership. And then of course research. You advance further, you specialise in something and you go on into intensive research by yourself.
As I conceive it CIRHU is a place of no school and research. And this Resource Center of which you are speaking should be a Resource Center where all the processes of learning are available; where consultation is available, where schooling is available, where development is possible by your own effort, where explorations are possible, where demonstrations are possible. All facilities should be available. I think that if these ideas are kept in mind we can now organise the Resource Center.
Question: As these resources should be available to all the students from kindergarten to super school this implies that this Resource Center should be located in the same campus?
It should be not far. Because you know the whole process is one. Contiguity I have found in my experience to be extremely important. Contiguity is very important for some kind of concentration of atmosphere. Too much of a distance distracts therefore it should be as far as possible contiguous. Not one into the other but contiguous. The Resource Center should be something from which many stimulating ideas would emerge. And all teachers would like to consult and to come to the Resource Center for stimulation, for getting new ideas and so on. And this Resource Center should be, not only the Center for what we have discussed so much, the evolution of human species and the mutation and so on, not only for synthesis of knowledge and synthesis of culture, but also for everything that is relevant to the teaching/learning process.
Every teacher has to be an educational philosopher. Our programme of teacher training should have this understanding. One used to say I am a small teacher or a big teacher. No, everybody is a good teacher. Everybody has to be a teacher. And a real teacher who understands the real process of education quite well and therefore can apply any process which is valid for a given child or a given group at any given stage.