A Model Framework of Teaching-Learning for the Contemporary Teacher
There is a conceivable and realizable model framework of education, which is both flexible and stable, and which would meet the varied contemporary needs that are imperatively demanded.
If we want education for peace and education for development; if we want our students to have not only intellectual development but an integral development of personality; if we want to underline the value of physical education and manual labour as also that of the moral and spiritual austerity and discipline; and if we want each student to discover his own inner law of development and real vocation of life; if we want these things, then we need to have a framework of education that is quite different from the one that we have at present.
It is not intended to present here a model of the required framework as the model, but as a tentative and experimental model that could be utilized, with necessary modifications, for innovative experiments.
The new model will be so flexible that it can accommodate or adjust itself with the various programmes of education of varying durations. In particular, this model will aim at providing the necessary structure and organization so as to permit the art of self-learning and integral development of personality as well as various combinations of programmes of agricultural, technical, vocational, artistic and academic education.
It will also facilitate the creation of the atmosphere and stimulation needed for dynamic methods. Besides, it will also meet the needs of multipoint entry system, non-formal education, part-time education, and of weaving the examination system into the learning process itself.
I. Grouping of Students
For each major stage of studies (lower primary, higher primary, etc.) there could normally be sections or groups of about 100 students. The differences of levels of capacities should not count very much in the formation of these large groupings, which would be valid and useful for those areas of studies which yield easily to cooperative work, mass media or to the means of environmental influence.
These would include works of productive labour, large portions of language-learning, as well as introductory or panoramic portions of a number of subjects where demonstrations, exhibitions or stimulating and interesting lectures are suitable means of communication. These would also be relevant to what may be regarded as peripheral areas of studies, where the imparting of general information is intended. Areas of general explanations, general knowledge and general instructions are also appropriate to these large groupings.
In the general working of the organization, it is better not to have any fixed time-table for the work of these large groupings; or if it is found necessary for some reason to have a regular fixed timing, it is better not to have it for the main work but confine it to what may be termed ‘time for supplementary work.’
In any case, the fixed timings of various programmes of education should be so arranged that the hours of fresh study and labour which can be done by individual self-learning are not affected in any way. (The major portion of the daily work should be available to the students for their individual self-learning.)
For purposes of individual self-learning, there will be no groupings since each individual will be free to choose his own area of work and pursue it at his own pace.
(A) Each teacher will have a number of students who will come to him more or less regularly for consultation on the subject of his competence. These students would, in a sense, constitute a kind of a natural group for the teacher. For, although these students will mostly come individually for consultations, they might also come in the form of a group from time to time.
(B) There will be, however, another kind of grouping or break-up of the large group, depending upon the mode of learning that a given topic imposes or upon the mode of learning chosen by the student. There are topics or areas which need to be pursued regularly, systematically, step by step, with rigour, measure and regulated or accelerated speed. Those who choose such topics or such a mode of learning will form a kind of group, even though each student may do his work mostly by himself. There are other areas or topics, which may permit a leisurely and free pursuit. Those who choose such topics or such a mode of learning will form another group. These groupings will, however, not be tight and inflexible. The same student may belong to one group for a few topics and to another group for other topics; or, with regard to the same topic, he may offer to do both these kinds of work appropriate to both these groups. Thus, he will belong to both the groups.
It may be noted that the groupings mentioned above under (A) and (B) will be, more or less, temporary, meant for some specific purpose or project and therefore dissoluble with the purpose in view. These groups will normally tend to be homogeneous from the point of view of capacities, or interests, but there will be no rigidity in this respect. They will often need to have group classes, and sometimes, even a fixed time-table for short or long periods. Normally, time-tables should be fixed for a month or two, renewable for a longer period, if necessary.
Individual consultations with teachers will also tend towards prior fixation of timings for each student. There are obvious advantages in this, but care should be taken that teachers always keep one or two hours unfixed daily, so that students have the opportunity to come to them without any prior engagement.
From time to time, there emerge spontaneously, extremely small groups of students who have common feelings and high aspirations, some common character or trait of personality, even though they may differ in capacities. Their homogeneity is by virtue of character or personality rather than capacities. Such groups are very valuable. They should be recognized, and given all the help needed, individually or collectively. Such groups become, if properly encouraged, transmitters of enthusiasm, dedication and devotion to studies, work and ideals. In regard to this system of grouping, there are three obvious advantages:
• There has recently been a strong plea for multi-point entry system, particularly in relation the solution suggested for implementation of the programme for the universalization of elementary education. This idea is extremely valuable as it will provide a favourable setting for ‘unit’ studies and a new system of tests can easily operate in the proposed structure and become a part of the natural rhythm of the process of learning.
• It would be possible in this flexible organization to ensure facilities for individual attention which is indispensable, particularly in the field of moral and spiritual education.
• Works of productive labour can flourish in this setting with a naturalness that is so essential to the joy of work. These works need not be given as tasks. Students can be encouraged by means of nourishment of interests, environmental needs and influences, and through hobbies. Even specialization of vocational training can be initiated at early stages. General education, diversification of courses and vocationalization—all can blend harmoniously.
The role of teachers in this new organization is crucial.
1. The teachers should not only have competence with regard to their subjects but also the necessary spirit and zeal. The teacher’s main occupation will be to observe his students, their inclinations and capacities, so as to be able to help them with deep sympathy and understanding. The teacher will not be a mere lecturer—rather he will be an animator. He will inspire much more than instruct; he will guide by example and influence.
To aid students in awakening inner will to grow and progress— this will be the constant endeavour of teachers.
To evolve a programme of education for each student in accordance with the needs of his growth; to watch the students with deep sympathy, understanding and patience, ready to intervene and guide when necessary; to stimulate the students with interesting projects and programmes, striking words, ideas, questions and stories—this will be the main work of teachers.
To radiate an inner calm and a cheerful dynamism so as to create an atmosphere conducive to the development of the higher faculties of inner knowledge and intuition—that will be regarded as the very heart of the work of teachers.
2. In the initial stages, students will need to learn how to organize their freedom; teachers should, therefore, help students in this regard.
3. For every unit of 100 students, there should be a coordinator or a ‘First Teacher’ whose functions will be as follows:
• He will be available to students for guidance in organizing their work and in learning the art of self-learning as well as other ways of learning.
• He may, by personal contact, provide motivation to the students for various works, topics or subjects, according to the needs and circumstances.
• He will ensure that all the material needs of studies and work are provided for.
• He will keep an overall record of the work of every student in the unit, and he will see that the students get the necessary guidance from him or from the other teachers, or else from the environment.
• He will also ensure that the entire organization runs smoothly and harmoniously.
• He will work as a brother among brothers and will consult all concerned before arriving at decisions; and
• He will also give the necessary help in framing time-tables, particularly, in view of the fact that, since there will be no time-tables fixed in advance for the whole year, there will be need to frame ad hoc time-tables for short or long durations in consultation with students and teachers for various subjects and for various purposes.
4. In addition to the First Teachers, it seems practicable that, for each major subject, a full-time competent teacher could take charge of about 30–40 students. (This number may vary according to the special needs of a given subject and also the age and capacity of the students).
These teachers may form themselves into a small committee to help the Coordinator, and maintain a personal contact with the students in the Unit.
5. Problems of irregularity, indiscipline and misuse of facilities will primarily be dealt with by the Coordinator and his Committee. Some of the best students of the Unit may be nominated to this Committee.
6. All administrative problems should be handled carefully so that all points of view are given their due weight, and decisions emerge out of consultations.
7. All work should be carried out by utmost goodwill and cooperative action, rather than by any arbitrary authority.
8. There should be no place for gossip, politics, canvassing, maneuvering, ugliness and untidiness. There should be an atmosphere of self-control and utmost inner discipline.
9. A full-fledged working of this model will pre-suppose new educational material in the form of booklets, work-sheets, charts, maps, pictures, albums, tapes, slides, film-strips, magazines, journals, exhibits, tools, equipment and apparatus. New curricula and syllabi will have to be worked out, particularly in regard to interdisciplinary studies and interweaving of work and knowledge. Teachers will have to make their own contribution in these tasks.
10. The very disposition and arrangement of the classes would be such that the students will have facilities to work on their own and to consult the teachers according to the needs of their progress.
Teachers, instead of being at the head of the class, will be found at convenient places so that they are readily available to those who need help, guidance and consultation.
III. Organization of the Work
In the proposed organization, a special emphasis will fall upon ‘individual work’. ‘Individual work’ may be pursued in several different ways:
• By individual consultation or interviews with teachers
• By doing works such as carpentry, knitting, embroidery, decoration, etc
• By working on work-sheets
• By studying books or relevant portions of books
• By quiet reflection or meditation
• By carrying out experiments
• By writing compositions; or
• By drawing, designing, painting, etc
There can be several situations in which group work is desirable or necessary. There are a number of projects in which there can be a division of labour; there can be educational games of team work; and there can be joint experimentation, joint pursuit of the subject or collective discussion. It may, however, be noted that collective work often tends to become mechanical and this tendency should be discouraged.
Freedom to choose a work or a subject is a necessary element of training in the art of self-learning. It is, therefore, necessary that this free choice should be given to the students, but it should be aided by proper guidance of the teacher so that freedom is not misused. The aim should be that the student’s choice should reflect his real and serious quest.
To facilitate the freedom of choice, students may be invited to indicate what lines of work or study they would like to undertake. Teachers may present students with a suggestive but detailed
list of suitable works and topics. They may also give a few talks to students to explain the main outline of the subject in order to stimulate their interest. Each work or topic selected by the student will constitute a short or a long project, depending upon its nature. In exploring each project, students will take the help of the teacher, as and when needed.
Teachers, on their part, will endeavour to relate the explanation of the project to the inner needs of the students. They will be expected to help students widen and intensify the areas of exploration so as to avoid narrow specialization or a mere idle superficiality.
Each student’s programme of studies will be flexible, supple and evolutionary. The student will be encouraged to progress at his own pace; and will also be encouraged to correlate various topics of study around a given area of productive labour, as well as to synthesize, more and more progressively, science, fine arts, humanities and technology. Tests will be given to the students where necessary, to provide them occasions for exercise, revision, comprehension, encouragement and self-evaluation.
At the end of every two or three months each student will submit a report on his work in regard to each topic, subject or work under study to the Coordinator. This report will give details of the progress he has made in regard to what he has read or written or the reflections and conclusions he has arrived at. (Younger students will not be capable of giving this kind of report, and in their case teachers themselves will prepare reports for them.) The quality of work will be considered more important than the quantity of work, although the latter should not be meager, but commensurate with high standards.
IV. The Lecture, Syllabus and the Examination Systems
In this organisation, the lecture system will no longer be given the central place. Lectures will be used mainly for
• Introducing a subject
• Stimulating interest in a subject
• Presenting a panoramic view of the subject
• Explaining general difficulties or hurdles which are commonly met by a large number of students in their work or studies
• Creating a collective atmosphere with regard to certain pervasive ideas; and
• Initiating rapid and massive programmes of ‘training’
Similarly, the syllabus system will also undergo a radical change. A syllabus as a general panoramic view in the vision of the teacher and as a guideline for the student has a legitimate function, and this has to be preserved. But in the actual operation of the educational processes, there have to be ‘evolutionary syllabi’ which grow according to the needs of the inner growth of the student; the student should be free to develop and weave the various elements of his work and studies into a complex harmonious whole. In this setting of ‘evolutionary syllabi’ we can truly fulfill the needs of a multi-point entry system. Also, we could have flexible programmes of work and studies suitable to different categories of students, and thus we can have a flexible pattern of education in a general framework, which can cater to the needs not merely of a small percentage of students who may be ready and fit to reach the higher levels of academic education, but also of a large number of students who may remain in the educational system only for 4 years, 7 years or a little more.
The central point is that the educational programme, whatever its duration, should aim at providing students a real base for three things:
• The art of self-learning and continuing education,
• The art of noble life, and
• The art of work
Finally, in the proposed organization, the examination system will also undergo a radical change. Tests will be used mainly for:
• Providing opportunities to students to think clearly and formulate ideas adequately,
• Achieving precision, exactness and mastery of details,
• Arriving at a global view of the subjects or works in question,
• Self-evaluation, and
• Gaining self-confidence
Tests will be woven into the learning process, the central thrust of which will be to develop noble qualities among the students, such as truthfulness, sincerity, cheerfulness, benevolence, right judgment, sacrifice, cooperation and friendship.
Tests for placement in the employment market should be conducted by a National Testing Service, and they should be open to anyone. These tests should be related to specific jobs or employment opportunities or certain specific pursuits of study and disciplines of knowledge and skill.
V. What Should we Expect of Students?
• To learn the secret of self-education and to work hard so as to remain steadily on the road to self-perfection—this will be the student’s constant endeavour.
• To study and work widely and intensely, to study and work with joy and application, to study and work to grow and remain perpetually youthful—this will be the content of the student’s main work.
• To become a fearless hero-warrior in the quest of Truth, Harmony and Liberty, and also to surpass the limitations of his nature by an inner change and transformation— this will be regarded as the very heart of a student’s work.