Auroville the city of Humana unity. Translating children's literature in a context of a multicultural community
Auroville Education System, the Integral Education
According to the aurovillian Sraddhalu Ranade, the present system of education, as widely practiced all over the world and in India, ignores the child’s individuality, suppresses creativity and discourages independent thought. In his work “Introduction to Integral Education” he affirms:
“The industrial mindset designs schools to be mass-processing factories that take children as their raw material and churn out certified professionals to fit the needs of mechanistic society. Its dehumanizing values have suffused modern pedagogy.”
In his opinion, all over the world, there is an urgent and growing need to approach education on new lines, to rebuild the foundations of education on the deeper psychological insights innate to the Indian civilization.
Nowadays, the actual formal education is intended as a learning process that leads students to achieve some knowledge and ability in order to pass examinations, other aspects of the mental development of children, such as imagination and creativeness are not given importance.
The scholar Nikhil Chandwani in his article “The importance of the Gurukul system and why Indian education needs it”, stresses the fact that in the present education the Gurukul learning system has disappeared and the modern system of education brought to India in the years 1835 by Lord Macauley is all about rat race to be ahead of others, it means that there is a total absence of personal development, creation of moral conscience and ethical training. He argues:
“One of the biggest flaws of modern education is that it is more commercial in nature rather than an institutional concept that should impart holistic learning to the students. It devotes very little time for physical activity and the development of other skill sets that can assist a student to become a better human being. Even if many people may consider the Gurukul system to be quite unstructured and a bizarre concept, because of features such as living with a teacher, the absence of a curriculum or a set routine can make people wonder how exactly will a child learn anything? The modern-day educationalist has taken a backward look and realized that there are many teaching approaches from the Gurukul system that can be inculcated in the present-day educational system, for example, practical knowledge, applied knowledge that prepared students in all fields of life.”
In the present times, this can be done by creating a perfect combination of academics and extracurricular activities along with teaching in the area of mindfulness and spiritual awareness to make the students better individuals; today, students are judged only by their academic performance, the application of the gurukul system instead works on a value-based system where focus can be given on the uniqueness of child so that they can excel in their area of interest, promoting a holistic education. According to the Scholars Vengopal and Kumari, a concrete example of this kind of approach towards the child is represented by the educational system present in Auroville, which aims to the building of a good character far away from fierce competition and increased stress levels, where teacher and student share a friendly relation and respect. Both the gurukul system and Auroville educational system assist children in understanding the concept of a balanced life. In their article “Auroville School and Holistic Education”, appeared on the journal Encounter: Education for Meaning and Social Justice, they argue:
“At Auroville, there is a genuine sense of community among students, teachers, and parents. Students and adults care about each other and work toward mutual goals. Communication is open and honest and differences between people are respected and appreciated. Auroville provides a learning environment that offers periods of respite from constant noise, competitive materialism, and distraction by providing time and space for centring activities like nature walks, solitude, and meditation”
“Learning at Auroville is not reduced to academic memorizing, linear thinking, or materialistic training. Instead, learning is related to the total awareness and experience of the child. It is about making meaning by discovering and experiencing. The children express themselves freely through various media, such as, clay and sand, paints and colours, leaves, trees and flowers, stories and poems, sounds and music, movement, dance and theatre, while experiencing awe and wonder at creation and the universe, at beauty and harmony, and the quietude and rhythm within, and transcendence. In Auroville’s schools, each child maintains a reflective diary, “Know Myself,” which reveals that everyone is a constellation of experiences, feelings, ideas, dreams, fears, and hopes. Auroville teachers believe that the reflective diaries are fundamental to healthy self-respect and self-esteem. The child is able to realize that he/she is not only a body and a mind but also a soul within a human frame that aspires to know its real nature. Children learn to inquire about processes, events, concepts, and effects. They learn to care about how their actions affect others and the universe at large. They learn communally and experience connectedness. They learn about relationships as they share joys and sorrows and discover that relationships are their greatest source of happiness, misery, and strength. They learn emotional literacy as they work collaboratively to be patient and accommodating, and when they agree to disagree and ventilate positively. They learn aesthetics as they appreciate beauty and harmony in the universe and their own creations. They learn resilience as they face challenges and difficulties.”
In the general context of the actual childhood education, the Auroville educational system aims to teach students a more profound inner development, which regards the improvement of their personality and spiritual and emotional growth, providing for material wealth and mental peace. Apart from the academic concepts, the individuals need to possess adequate knowledge in terms of morals, ethics, standards, and principles and be appropriate in their conduct.
This kind of educational system was developed by Sri Aurobindo and he named it Integral Education because it integrates the material and spiritual dimensions of the human personality, on the contrary, western education regards knowledge and acquaintance, rejecting the psychophysical development of the child. In the prevalent system of education, teachers try to impose data and information to children, under the pretext of knowledge mostly ignoring the individuality of the child. According to Vengopal and Priya, Integral Education represents a new kind of educational approach, a new attitude towards the child, an attitude of patience, love and respect where children are helped to develop the capacity to think for themselves, taking up responsibilities beginning from their personal school programs. In this regard, a unique feature of the Integral Education and, consequently, of the Auroville School curriculum, is that each activity is studied and developed for students, ad personam, it means that every child can choose his subjects following his interest, and teachers called ‘facilitators’ or simply guides, arrange specific activities encouraging their pupils to achieve the goals they have established for themselves.
“The system of integral education provides scope to equip children with all requisite life skills and to polish their capabilities.”
According to the philosophy of Sri Aurobindo the teacher is not a taskmaster, he is a helper and a guide, his work is not to impose on the mind of the student, but to suggest and to help him to show the knowledge that is already within him. The Aurovillian education aims to a harmonious development achieved not by a moral or mental or religious idea, but by a stress on an inner seeking and discovery.
This educational approach aims to prepare its students for the development of their personalities thanks to a self-discovery of their capacities and their limitations, in order to find through the help of educators a way to go beyond those limits.
Heidi Watts, a Scottish Professor emerita from the Antioch University New England, who works in collaboration with teachers in the international community, describes the aurovillian scholar system as the bearer of ideologies such as the Montessori Method and the Progressive Method of teaching that focus the attention of students on experience rather than formal learning.
Through her work ‘What is special about Auroville’s kindergarten?’, she helps us to understand the teaching method for children in Auroville, describing the three teaching approaches that inspired the actual childhood education in Auroville’s Schools.
The first one is the Montessori Approach that gives a lot of importance to the educational environment in which children have the opportunity to develop their own sensory awareness. According to Montessori, the role of teachers is essential but at the same time it has to be discreet, they are considered as observers and coaches organizing classroom activities by helping pupils in the development of an active role in exploration and expression.
Auroville kindergartens are also inspired by Waldorf School teaching method where teachers follow their students from the first to the last class, in this way classrooms are like families, and teachers have the opportunity to appreciate the development of their little students along their formative years. If with the Montessori approach, children learn numbers using specific tools such as sand or wooden rods, in Waldorf Schools great importance is given to rhythm and music, math, for example, is taught through songs and movement, moreover a lot of theatrical representation take place all over the scholastic year, trying to enhance children’s fantasy.
Another source of inspiration for Auroville’s schools is the Progressive method of education, student-centred, where children are free to learn and grow from the interaction within the environment, which stimulates their critical approach, in this case, for example, teachers sit with children, not in front of them, in order to stimulate their answers and their participation to each lesson.
In brief, Auroville’s scholastic system wants to be an exemplification of all these approaches. In Auroville schools, children acquire some knowledge ‘by doing’ not ‘by being taught’, as Sri Aurobindo affirmed in his writings about the educational system. Every day, Heide Watts describes, begins with a ritual in which children sitting on the floor, light a candle, close their eyes and meditate quietly for one minute, this unique aurovillian practice is called ‘concentration’, it is used to start or to conclude a meeting or a class and having a calming effect on children. Moreover, during daily lessons children are encouraged to take part to each activity following always their natural inclination, there is time to play, to swim, to take care of the children garden, to take part to some circus activities, such as stretching, ribbon dance, floor exercises, climbing, in order to take awareness of their body. Activities such as painting and drama encourage the development of the imagination, children learn to appreciate and respect nature thanks to many trips they do to farms, gardens, and beaches in and around Auroville where they can easily meet elephants, snakes and turtles, a close encounter with all these animals leads children to learn, appreciate and respect biodiversity exorcising at the same time the sense of fear for such animals.
Like in Waldorf School, teachers have the opportunity to interact with all the children, it helps to create a sense of community, the whole school, despite the division in classes, becomes a true family. The attention to the internal environment and the use of simple conceived equipment such as blocks to teach forms, colours, and numbers remind to the Montessori approach. An instruction focused on the child where the teacher being part of the learning community acts like a mentor and not as an oppressive figure, reminds of the Progressive Method.
All three methods organize activities that allow children to develop their natural active engagement with the environment, guaranteeing the development of physical, mental, social, and emotional abilities, through activities that stimulate a critical observation, a development of sensory, body awareness and language progresses.
Moreover, one of the main feature of kindergartens in Auroville is that they reflect inevitably the multicultural environment of the city, in fact, here children come from all over the world and also if the official communitarian language during lessons is English, the cohabitation becomes inevitably an incentive to learn and to appreciate a new language because children are naturally exposed to four languages at minimum, such as English, the medium of instruction, Tamil, French, and Sanskrit in which they learn simple songs, but also Italian, Dutch and German. Teachers are very important as well for the linguistic enrichment of children, they come from France, Germany, Italy and India, they invite children to be conscious of themselves and the world around them.
The most important aspect of Auroville system of education is that it is not a mere system, it is an environment that helps children to evolve their natural attitude of inquiry, knowing and enjoying. Each scholastic building has to ensure an environment that allows children to enhance their inner qualities, it is the duty of teachers to provide a such pleasant atmosphere of love, security, cheerfulness, and mutual respect, an essential condition for a perfect mental education.
After attending the kindergarten, children attend primary and middle schools where they are involved in the establishment of their programs in collaboration with their teachers. Even in this case, the organization and the variety of activities have nothing to envy to Western education, they involve the learning and a practical use of foreign languages, literature classes, maths, and science. A particular attention is given to the development of manual activities such as painting, cooking, gardening, needlework, music, which promote their creative expression and also a sense of community. The essential aim of Auroville Schools is to encourage and stimulate the students to find genuine interest and joy in work, where the teacher acts like a helper and a guide, suggesting not imposing, helping children to develop their potential.
The school in Auroville is an antithesis of the imposed uniformity of prescribed courses of the traditional scholastic system, in this regard, an innovative example is represented by the Learning Community of Auroville, an experimental school where children and adults live, work and study together developing a major awareness of their inner being. The Learning Community is an elementary and middle school which opens its door to the participation of the aurovillian community considering parents and adults as a source of help and inspiration for children. Here, each community member is considered as a potential teacher and the whole community becomes a context for learning. In this atmosphere, children plan activities for their parents, parents have the possibility to experience what children do and children end up showing and explaining their work to their parents. This mixed-age environment allows children to help and learn from each other, working together and inspiring each other; moreover, this communitarian learning place enables the youngest to see from the oldest what they will be able to do in the future. The whole community becomes a context for learning, and community members act as resources and partners in facilitation.
Another innovative form of instruction in Auroville is represented by its university. The Human Unity University is an innovative genre of Academy, always connected with the world through free online lessons and virtual classrooms; today, it offers a restricted area of courses about Sanskrit grammar, eco-sustainability, and philosophy, it organizes also workshops and seminars which take place in Auroville. It is a work in progress reality still, but it aims to become a platform for exploration and discovery in all areas of human knowledge. It is far from being a traditional University, it is free of fees and certifications, anyone can access and take part in the activities by logging the online platform which offers a personal portal, study groups, research, and topic-specific forums.
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Auroville the city of Humana unity. Translating children's literature in a context of a multicultural community
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|Tipo:||Laurea II ciclo (magistrale o specialistica)|
|Università:||Università degli Studi di Bari|
|Facoltà:||Lingue e Letterature Straniere Moderne|
|Corso:||Lingue e letterature moderne euroamericane|
|Relatore:||Mary Eileen Mulligan|
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