Isha Foundation is a fruit of one man’s experiences and efforts to drive the world towards achieving inner peace and harmony. Through various means, the foundation helps people explore their inner souls while also guiding them towards making a better world for everyone to live in. One such initiative was the Innovating India’s Schooling Conference, held on the 5th of November 2016 in Coimbatore – the aim of which was solely to find out ways in which the future of education in this country can be molded so as to carve out a bright future for the nation.
Isha foundation was a spiritual experience. It resonated and stirred the soul. Being in education for over three decades and doing some innovative work, I was left with a sense of awe and a feeling that one had so much more to learn and achieve and do something even more meaningful.
Education should be meaningful and develop or nurture a human being who can relate to his or her true potential and contribute to the growth of the human race. While our system is based on the IQ and content quotient, Isha’s homeschool and Samskriti are a reflection of what we should do to our children, so that the future of this planet is safe. Education is not for the university, but for the universe is what Sadguru (a mystic and the founder of the Isha Foundation) says.
The Isha Foundation has three models of schooling -:
The first model is Isha Vidhya:
Isha Vidhya is a regular school for the underprivileged children. The school follows the regular school schedule and is based on a simple model with basic facilities. Yet the uniqueness of the school is the energy of the volunteer teachers who teach with a high level of energy and purpose and this is reflected through the way the children interact with strangers. The pride, confidence and the awareness of their surroundings is visible when they walk you through the school.
Isha Homeschool is another model:
Homeschool is a beautiful concept that highlights the best of the home – the emotional nurturer and school- the Gyan nurturer. The children are away from home in a home yet achieving the nutrients that a home can give. The pedagogy of the homeschool is simple but effective. At the primary level, the children are put in groups of twenty with the home teachers who take care of the needs of the children completely. The classroom is actually a large hall divided into various corners with low stools and rugs and children work in groups accordingly to their ability. The walls have the group work displayed and each one is at a level that the groups have worked on. There are no grades, but ability grouping depending on which level the child is at the skill being taught. All of them have to do yoga and various co-curricular activities in the large areas allocated for each of the activities.
The middle school follows a similar concept, but have grades and do all subjects through various projects and activities through an integrated method. Grade 8th upwards the school has the most stimulated and exciting environment in which to bloom and grow. Sadguru is the master architect with an excellent aesthetic sense and the school has a charm of the old blended with the new to bridge the gap between preserving the old culture and progressing into the future. The school infra has 8 courtyards and each is a block by itself, though independent yet joined in a flowing manner. Each block represents a particular culture or philosophy and each block highlights a particular department along with a group of students from different grades. The environment is relaxed when you see the courtyard with a large tree in the middle with different sitting areas. The school exudes stability when you see stone artifacts with symbols from Hindu mythology and you can experience peace when you sense the serenity in the air. Yet this peace is not about contentment, this peace is about a thirst and curiosity to learn more when you see different kinds of artifacts from different parts of the world hung on walls or at some corner. Though the school links to an educational board there seems to be no hurry to finish the “syllabus” but to reconstruct by applying the concept and internalizing it.
Another model of schooling is the Samskriti school:
Samskriti school is the Gurukul method of imparting knowledge. Here children dedicate their life for the art and skill that is their calling and passion. They join the school at the age of 8 to 10 years and for four years have to take on various subjects – basic math, English and science with the emphasis on yoga, music, dance, and kaliapatti. At the end of four years, they need to choose any two subjects that they are good at and specialize in it till they are 22 years of age. The infrastructure is basic with mud barracks made for classrooms and at every mud barrack which are next to each other, a particular art is being performed. The leaner’s daily schedule is rigorous and is under the tutelage of experts who are in-house or come to the ashram for short duration to teach. The older students teach the younger students depending on what they are skilled at. The environment oozes with culture and vibrancy of each child competing with the other yet synchronizing their music, raga, step or movement with the other. The course is rigorous and imbibes discipline and students spend more than 8 hours a day perfecting an art they have dedicated their lives to. Like Sadguru says they have no concern about making a livelihood but are there to fulfill their life. Each art and discipline are a spiritual experience and the process makes these children stable, confident and serene because they have witnessed joy while learning and they also glow with the knowledge of being in the midst of finding their true calling.
Each of these school models is unique and there is a place in our lives for such systems. We want our children to be democratic in their way of living, but have regimented our schools into chained walls of the tyranny of what to learn and to learn at a certain pace and at a certain time and have imposed the do’s and dont’s which allows for complete rigidity of choice for our children. We are afraid to unshackle this undemocratic way of learning and live in these iron walls. Our children should be allowed to choose what they want to learn and at the pace, they want to learn and at the level, they want to learn without standardizing every child in the same manner. Our educational policy should be to democratize education and allow for innovation to happen in various ways. Only then will blooming of our children happen and only then will true education happen. Allowing for the freedom to grow and allowing for expression to nurture is what education is all about. And we have a role model as Isha to learn from.