Monday, 26 November 2012

Towards a more sustainable education system

Learning by wrote seems to be the only way for our nation of aspiring youth.  Our schools since our British heritage have thought the vast majority of our children to learn their lessons by heart, to copy and regurgitate during exam time.  Our entire educational system is founded on the principle that success at exam is the only yardstick of achievement.  Prestigious colleges and higher education institutions perpetuate this notion with the requirement of passing ever more demanding entrance examinations, favouring and biasing the selection process towards the ability to learn by heart, to have a good memory and regurgitate that knowledge into a exam format answer.
Unfortunately, skills that demand innovation, creativity, entrepreneurship, problem solving and intuition are not best served by wrote learning.  The very skills that are in short supply in an increasingly competitive world, and which are needed to power our growing economy.  Furthermore, our educational system, in favouring memory skills is side-lining a whole range of rich resources that our country desperately needs.

  Inspiration from age old teaching

A recent article in the New Indian Express, by Sumati Mehrishi highlight an age old tradition of Guru-Shishya.  It is a format of teaching and learning that has its root in the Vedic traditions, imparting a wide spectrum of experience-learning with a holistic approach that encompasses the body mind and soul.  It is also based on a learning by wrote principle, but the goal isn't that of exam results but rather the learning in itself, the path that is threaded   The techniques involves repetitive practice of techniques to achieve perfection, but in doing so it encourages the shishya (student-disciple) to discover his own inner aspiration.  This journey of self-discovery, perpetual and with no end, is a labour of growth and evolution, whereby perfection of the art (knowledge) is not a question of technical exactness, but rather of expression through the technique.  The technique becomes a tool for expression of what is inside.  Perfection can be thus redefined as the eloquent use of the technique to give a voice to the soul.   It is ever evolving for the practitioner.  However, it becomes apparent that without mastery of the technique, the language spoken is a poor expression of the inner reality.

Towards a sustainable education

At the heart of the Guru-Shishya is a quest for knowledge, a thirst for comprehension.  The Guru disciplines the student into observing their own reality, and guides them to get an understanding through their own experience.
The teaching techniques employed in our schools is a corrupted version of this ancient tradition.  Our children are no longer guided to understand the world but rather to succeed at exams.  This is partly the fault of the system and partly the lack of inspiration shown by a new generation of teachers that are themselves products of this corrupted system of education.  There is a lot of unlearning to be done.  However, is it possible to source a new direction, can we find renewed inspiration in our ancient tradition?
Our schools need to teach technique rather than facts by wrote.  Learn how to learn so to speak, but unvail your own truths from your path.
Taking a page out of our Guru-Shishya tradiation, we can explore a sustainable education with the following ingredients:
  • Teachers need to inspire students
  • students should have a deep, heartfelt respect for the source of knowledge
  • emphasis on learning rather than facts
  • students should be encouraged to develop a sense of curiosity, self-sustained learning ability
  • encourage questioning and debating.
  • encourage synthesis of knowledge, so that the student expresses their understanding in their own words
  • emphasis on continuous assessment rather than final examination
In the words of the Shishya:
“Any intense, integrated and spiritual sadhana awakens and expands consciousness. The energy from such a practice suffuses the art. The guru gives the vision and the eye to performance and art.”