This article examines the general orientation in the field of education and advocates for the introduction of “Self Knowledge” and Self-Perfection in the learning process. It will also point out various practices which have been adopted in the pedagogical process to promote self reflection and self awareness. When we look at the educational practices in […]
Listening is an important skill. Listening involves many subtle functions such as listening to the tone, words, their meaning, emotions expressed, thoughts expressed, gestures, moods and feelings. It also involves recognition and association of sound with particular source and coming to a particular conclusion. Without proper listening a child can not reproduce certain words or sentences accurately. It is observed that small children many a times repeat what adults speak to them to understand. Sometimes they repeat it to themselves to make sense of what is spoken.
So it is necessary that we build some activities to sharpen the listening ability in the children and through listening we must engage thinking and feeling aspects. Exposing the child to silence also is very crucial at this stage as this makes him/her aware of the fact that all the sounds arise and subside in the silence. This helps him to develop the capacity of pure listening where there is no interference from the feelings and thoughts in the form of excitement.
Some suggested activities: 1. Nature walk: – listen to the sounds coming from the nearest source, listen to the sound coming from little farther, listen to the sounds coming from farthest sources, try to reproduce them by making sounds. 2. Listen to the animal sounds and imitate them. 3. Listen to the birds sound and imitate them. 4. Listen to the sound of birds and animals at different time morning and evening, at the time of seeking, in panic and danger, in protecting etc. 5. Listen by closing the eyes and figure out the direction of the source of the sound. 6. Listening to the rustling sound 7. Listen to the higher and lower pitch 7. Reproduce the same 8. Listen to the different sound simultaneously and pick up each one to reproduce. 9. Listen to the different musical instrument and recognize them from their sound only. 10. Listen to the rhythm of any sound and imitate it by clapping. 11. Listen to the Sanskrit alphabets and reproduce them. Here children need to be shown each part of the mouth producing particular kind of sound so that they can reproduce. 12. Listen to the tongue twisters and reproduce them.
Reading and writing are most important life skills that a child gradually acquires proficiency. Most of the schools spend their energy in structured drill such as repeating a rhyme for many times, joining the dots, writing an alphabet many a times so on and so forth. However, in the process we forget one important fact that speaking can not develop without proper listening ability and writing will not come about without proper seeing ability. This leads us to the question of sense development during the early childhood days. When a child engages in an activity S-he develops the senses involved in those activities. However, most of us do not use all the five senses consciously. It has been seen that most of the children spend their time watching television and other electronic gadgets. It only involves seeing and listening. There is hardly any scope for imagination and for any other sense organs. Prolonged exposure to electronic gadgets stunts the growth of senses and damages the development of the brain. Children go to a semi hypnotic state and seek for constant excitement and enjoyment. It also affects their focus and attention span. Earlier in the joint family system child used listen to stories from the scriptures and other sources from their grand parents which helped them to hone their imagination and listening abilities. Casual interaction with the story teller used to tickle their brain and sharpen their questioning and thinking abilities.
So question is can there be a space where child can use all the senses with lot of scope for thinking and imagination? Can the schools create such an ambience without spending much on fancy items? A shift in this direction will facilitate proper growth and save the child from getting his/her childhood stolen.
Pre school kids are exposed to various kinds of activities, mostly playful in nature and they are expected to pick up important life skills while doing them. However, most of the time activities are random in nature and they are picked up according to the availability of the space, resource person and materials. Very little thought is given keeping in mind the developmental process that is taking place in the child. Nursery to kindergarten kids are expected to learn reading and writing skills at the end of the course in India. The emotional and mental difficulties which kids face while coming for the first time to school also plays a crucial role in molding the child into a pre designed shape. However, many kids still survive this assault because of inherent innocence and energy.
In this article I am going to discuss on the preparatory steps that need to be taken before embarking upon building up the reading and writing skills.
1. A child of 2 years 6 months to 3 years and 6 months generally gets admitted to Nursery class. There s-he learns to socialize, play, sing and do some activities. Except Montessori system one seldom comes across a well graded, planned activity which helps in the physical, emotional and mental growth of the child. Take the case of developing the fine motor skills in a child. It’s a well known fact in physiology that fine motor skills develop optimally when the gross motor skills are perfected. This does not mean that both cannot develop concurrently. However, in practice we notice that schools spend very little time in building gross motor skills and they push the child towards fine motor skill activities i.e. writing, coloring, painting and building or constructing. With the coming of electronic gadgets into our homes children are more and more exposed to T.V, multi media and mobile phones. Children find it exciting to use and gradually they get addicted to it. Shifts takes place in their attention span and focus which moves from real world to the virtual world. Less physical activities restrict the development of the gross motor skills in he process fine motor skills also do not develop properly. When child is forced to write in such a condition it affects his/her psychological make up and leaves a scar in his/her psyche. The number of kids showing the symptoms of ADD, dysgraphia and dyslexia is also attributed to mindless practices in the school by some psychologists. According to the Swiss Psychologist Jean piaget child first enters the concrete operational stage in the developmental process. In this stage s-he must be exposed to lot of physical manipulation of objects. Child should spend lots of time with water, sand, soil or nature. S-he should be spending more time in unstructured and structured play which must be challenging and funny.
As an educator we thrive on three basic capacities with which the child comes to the class room. These three capacities or qualities are 1. Inherent interest or curiosity in the child to unravel the mystery which tickles his/her mind and appeals to his/her heart. 2. The capacity to pay attention – a state of mind which remains alert and aware for a sustained period of time. 3. The capacity to concentrate – a state of mind to focus the dispersed thoughts on a given point for a given period of time without distraction. Learning happens when these capacities enables the learner to gather information and manipulate the situation in one’s surrounding.
Interest: Interest in an area in a child is primarily determined by the three elements i.e. nature, nurture and the inherent samskaras (subtle impressions in the psyche) with which the child is born. Interest in an area is shaped by the hereditary and genetic factors (nature) with which the child is born. Whereas the nurture part includes the surrounding, environment and cultural inputs that a child is exposed in his/her early childhood. However, at times the inherent samskaras take a precedent and guides the child to take advantage of the situation in which he/she is born and the so called road blocks are manipulated and used for one’s advantage or growth. We see these phenomena in the life of many great personalities who had used the so called road blocks in their life to their advantage.
As an educator one has to take into consideration all the three factors in order to guide the child for his/her flowering. In the growing up process the child requires food for his/her body, emotions and mind. If the child gets adequate food (physical, emotional and mental) which can be called as growth need, then he/she grows up naturally. In case there is a deficiency at the time of growing up then the child comes to the school with the deficiency need. The educator’s responsibility is to identify the needs and create an environment which will provide and sustain the child’s food for growth in a healthy manner.
A growing up child exhibits gradual development in the capacity of sustained attention in various kind of play. Play remains the most important activity along with listening to the stories. Playing in the sand pit, with water, with colors absorbs the child and helps him/her to develop the capacity to enhance the attention span in a natural way.
In order to support the child in his/her growth we must first understand what is attention and concentration.
What is attention? Is it a process of mind where mind is not focused on any particular concept, ideas or thought yet remains aware of what is happening or not happening? Does it involve registering, recording and recognizing process? What role does this faculty of mind play in the process of learning? Is it passive in nature or active? What are the qualities of the mind which operates from an attentive state? These are the important questions for an educator and people engaged in learning. One can learn about this by observing one’s own mind.
Similarly, what is concentration? Is it just the opposite of the process mentioned in the questions related to attention? What is the importance of this faculty in the learning process? Is it a faculty which complements the faculty mentioned above or it inhibits it? Why distraction must be avoided in a concentrated state? How does it affect the flow of energy?
How do the aforementioned two faculties affect our thinking and decision making abilities in our daily life?
All our senses function optimally when our mind is either attentive or concentrated. In a class room situation a child learns more effectively if she/he is attentive and concentrated. If the child is interested on the concerned topic then one notices certain degree of absorption in the topic.
This capacity to gather one’s attention on one particular topic enables the learner to learn but all this capacity develops first in the home environment. With the introduction of electronic gadgets, (TV, mobile, laptop etc) the capacity to remain attentive and focused getting adversely affected. The general attention span among the young children and young adults appears to be quite short. Schools with higher teacher student ratio are not in a position to help each and every child according his/her needs and capacity to develop attention span is left to chance. So it is quite crucial for the parents to nurture these ability at home in the early phases of growth through planned manner. At times parents need to play a negative role of preventing the disturbing factors from affecting the child’s concentration and attention capacities. An environment of peace, calm and stillness can be of help in the early days which can be consciously created by choosing appropriate activities. A space for silence, prayer, puja, music and painting, chanting, walk in the nature by paying attention to the details helps a great deal. Chattering of the thoughts usually gets suspended when the mind encounters something surprising or when one develops a sense of wonder. Children generally have this sense of wonder yet while growing up this ability to relate with the environment through a newness of mind gets pushed back by mechanical approach. In our modern world this capacity is diminishing quite early among the kids and we see a bored lot who demand to be entertained at the sensory level out of a compulsive habit.
Breaking an old pattern, introducing an element of surprise and moving beyond the appearance we can consciously bring into our interaction some freshness so that our relationship with the child remains in a state of steady alertness and attentiveness.
This article examines the general orientation in the field of education and advocates for the introduction of “Self Knowledge” and Self-Perfection in the learning process. It will also point out various practices which have been adopted in the pedagogical process to promote self reflection and self awareness. When we look at the educational practices in our country; except for the few exceptions, we find that an unexamined assumption is at work beneath the educational process. The assumption is that by joining a good school and completing a syllabus any child can develop self knowledge which will enable and empower him/her to lead a wise life. Usually our teaching approach is content centric. Completing the syllabus is the primary goal in a school. Curriculum though envisages a holistic and integral growth of the child it does not reflect in the practice. The child’s role in learning is more or less passive. Joining a school is decided by the parents, Text books are prefixed by the schools, teaching is usually teacher centered and evaluation process reflects only a tiny part of the child’s competencies and speaks volumes about the failures. We assume that by completing a syllabus a child will automatically develop insight into the inner dynamics and would be able to make right decisions in life. A recent initiative to introduce more activities in the classrooms and help the child to learn any topic in an experiential way is a positive development. It has helped the students by taking away the boredom of lecture method and proved to be beneficial to the kinesthetic learners in particular. The teaching learning process has become more interactive. However, though the whole process has become more entertaining, lively and engaging it does not make the child more aware about himself or herself. The energies engaged in the learning process, get caught in rushing through the activities and in keeping a record; not in helping the child to grow up in maturity and sensitivity through self enquiry. The awakening of the intelligence is incidental and not a conscious outcome of a pedagogical process. A school going child learns everything around him/her except about himself/herself. Self knowledge is not the main focal point in the process of education, it is still gathering of the information and reproducing it faithfully that matters the most. As the child does not get any insight about his/her samskaras, propensities, inclinations, drives, desires and aspirations, nature and temperament he/she grows up remaining ignorant about the hidden processes which shapes the child from within. Building up the character always takes the back seat. Learning a subject well and getting a livelihood becomes the foremost thing. In case we give space to the child to learn and grow up according to his/ her likes and dislikes then he/she grows up in a self centered manner and fails to realize the right relationship between the individual and the collective. It has been well recorded in history that so called educated people easily got influenced by the propaganda machine and sided with the barbarian act when the challenges posed before them to choose between right and wrong action. Sticking out one’s neck for right cause has not been the forte of the well schooled people. It has been documented that educated people are more capable of perpetuating evil and affect the catastrophe in the global level more effectively. So the present education system is not a guarantee against ill doing. The question that arises in the mind is that why an educated person is incapable of making the right decision? Why can’t one stop oneself from siding with the evil even if one has the highest academic degree? How is it that people who were not taught in the educational institutions put up high moral and spiritual stand during the time of crisis? Where did they get their conviction and insight to stand alone for a cause? Can those qualities and values be nurtured in a school environment? Teachers or educators are not given training in self reflection and self awareness for which reason when it comes to inner dynamics of desires, drives and fear they themselves find equally clueless to work out the issues. So helping pupils in the area is a farfetched affair. During the Gurukula system a student used to experience the inner dynamics while staying with the Guru. In consultation with the child Guru used to chalk out a path following which child used to evolve in the line of his/her swadharma and swabhaba. Practice of Yoga along with the learning of the relevant subjects was part of the integral training programme. Different faculties of the child was consciously trained and developed. But now we see only emphasis on the memory and to some extent mastering few skills only. Character building hardly gets enough space in the transaction. Gathering of information is far more important than coming in contact with the truth. Practicing “Hots” and “Lots” make the intellect cleaver in solving the problem but solving of one problem gives birth to many other problems like mythical Hydra due to short sightedness and use of a fragmented lens. Over emphasis on logical faculty strengthens binary approach and keeps the world and worldview divided. 21st century has seen the world becoming smaller due to the technological advancement. Information gathering has become quite easy. People across the globe know about each other like never before. The new ideas travel rapidly across the world creating new styles and fads. The quickening of the info transmission and concerning processes have created many challenges for Education in the 21st century. The issue is “What is the aim of Education?”Is it to create a more technologically advanced society which becomes more and more capable of exploiting the nature effectively, thus, endangering all life forms on the earth? Is it to enhance the competencies in humans to gratify their aggrandized desires at the cost of the all others? Is it to promote a monoculture right across the world with the help of advanced technologies, hence destroying eco systems, curbing diversity and freedom? If education does not ensure a transformed society and a sane living then something is not right. The paradox is on one hand we are becoming universal in our reach yet our consciousness is glued to pettiness. We are experiencing a pressure to think and act globally in the context of our economic issues, ecological issues, social and political issues yet on the other hand we are experiencing more and more fragmentation and narrowing down of our perception while taking a decision. The threat is to preserve one’s uniqueness and rich diversity of the nature which is at stake due to the promotion of sameness in the name of education, globalization and western universalism. This is quite apparent in the field of education. How the education of 21st century is to address this crisis in consciousness is the issue that we have to address. The future ready schools need to act as bridges connecting the individual with the collective, joining the dots through the net working and making the interdependence as an imperative need in the daily functioning of the schools. But will it be possible without self knowledge? The observable patterns of the Future Ready Schools The future ready schools will move away from the readymade approach to education and make a shift towards tailor made approach. In the present educational scenario we do not see the Indian genius being consulted in framing the curriculum. The schools must adopt the sutras or clues from India’s yogic traditions and Guru Shishya parampara to understand the Swadharma and the Swabhava of the child and the Teachers. Accordingly the teaching and learning process need to be modified, redesigned or altered so that the innate potential can get an opportunity to awaken and unfold in an environment of understanding. If we accept the karma theory of Indian Darshanas then we can draw a conclusion that we are all evolving according to our action. So the right education should support the evolution of the individual to evolve further in right direction through right action. Education has to draw out the necessary attitude, skills, knowledge, faculties, quality, quantity and values in the learner so that one can consciously accelerate the process of one’s own evolution. In other words the educational process must make the learner more and more aware and conscious for discovering the purpose of life and equip him/her with necessary tools to actualize it. All the activities those are part of the curriculum in a school may be directed towards this end i.e. to make the student more and more aware. Certain types of reflective practices-in the beginning of an activity and at the end, authentic feedback mechanisms and evaluation methods may be of help to promote sensitivity and maturity. The future ready schools will be making a move towards smaller teacher-student ratio. The smaller the number better will be the understanding of the nature of each pupil and teacher involved in the learning process. Sri Dharmpal in his book “The Beautiful Tree” quotes the British authorities to testify that there were 1 lakh primary schools in Bengal and Bihar alone (page 284). This proves that primary schools were plenty in number and teacher student ratio was quite low and individualized attention was of utmost value. After independence we still do not have similar healthy student teacher ratio in the country and numbers of primary schools are quite inappropriate as per the need. So, establishing more number of pre primary and primary schools (One school in a village of 50-60 children) where all the subjects should be taught in an integrated manner. Future ready schools will not put students rigidly into one or other categories on the basis of age or proficiency in a particular task. Children can be in the same age group or mixed age group according to the need of the hour Future ready schools will consciously make an attempt at widening, deepening and heightening of the awareness. Some space in the school curriculum can be kept aside for developing this capacity and leave it not to chance. This does not mean that Dhyana or meditation can be cultivated through some training or practices but an environment can be created where the child and adult can gather his/her energies and be calm and relaxed for some time. This will generate a space within and without which is not tainted by the utilitarian pursuit. In that space one can enquire playfully, reflect, question, dialogue and go beyond the thoughts. Future ready schools will approach the curriculum differently. All the knowledge, theory related to the child’s education would not interfere in building up a living relationship with the child. Teaching will be given less importance in comparison to learning. According to the need of the evolving self the curriculum will evolve. Curriculum will be fluid and support the flow of life in the school environment. As a result teacher and child will be passionate about their learning and it will facilitate further evolution. The identification of the intrinsic motivation and propensities will be the crucial first step. The second step will be to facilitate an environment where an organic curriculum will evolve for the people involved in the learning environment so that the learning becomes challenging and engaging. The third step is to help the learner get a feedback based on his/her response so that further refinement in the response can be obtained. The evaluation mechanism needs to incorporate both the subjective and objective element based on facts so that bias and preconceived notions can be avoided. Evaluation mechanism would be practical and pragmatic so that the learner is able to perceive his/her requirements for the next level and the limitations of the current level. The feedback need to move gradually from concrete to abstract level. Scope for innovation, challenging the existing frame work and space for appreciating beauty must be the guiding factor for evaluating the learner’s performance. Merely taking a writing test on a given subject does not say much about child’s true capacity. It’s a positive step taken by the CBSE to introduce CCE in the school level though more fine tuning and ground work is still required. We need not do hundred different things, we should do things differently.