Some people have asked me why I don´t write in English more often. The truth is that I don´t have much time for my blog now that I am a responsable member of the community again, (am I?) so, when I have some spare time, I rather write in Spanish.
I would like, however, to please those who have asked me about that with this post in English. It is based on the final dissertation I wrote for my PGCE at the University of Plymouth, UK, about a different model for education (yes: I said for and not “of”)
The great Indian educationist and philosopher J. Krinamurti
First of all, my experience of the British educational system is that it is failing as a whole (both FE, HE and all the posible combinations you can make with “E” and another letters from the alfabet).
Our students are not taught to develop a critical mind and to question the world they are living. They are “imbued” with bodies of knowledge, sets of principles, rules, procedures… and force, like horses in a restless race, to pass tests, GSCE exams, A levels, degrees… Competition is the key word in a more an more dehumanized educational system, where teachers themselves have very little to say, since the moment that decisions come from management positions, with limited contact with the reality of classrooms.
But teachers are not the ones to blame. British teachers are often underpaid and overloaded with extra burocratic work. The teaching profession is losing professional status in the UK.
There is, however, another way of understanding education, a way that defies the so praised educational theories of our Western universitites and that some alternative educational movements have successfully implemented.
My first model for an alternative education is Ghadi´s own view for a new educational system in India, known as “Nai Talim” (New Education).
Ghandi rejected the British education that, according to him, had made young Indians mere imitators. For Gandhi, education should not be alien to the culture of the society that aims to educate. This is an interested point if we consider how keenly British educationalists adopt American trends in education. Nai Talim is described by Ghandi “as a beautiful blend” of craft, art, health and education. Students are not trained for fulfilling employment’s criteria, but to serve society with their “art of living”. For that purpose, according to their natural inclinations, students are guided to develop skills in:
· Crafts, which comprises handicraft, industry and manual labour.
· Art, equivalent to the Western “humanities”.
· Health, comprising both the Western medicine and the Ayurvedic tradition.
Mahatma Ghandi In Ghandi´s system, manual labour is as relevant as intellectual work. “Our children should not be taught as to despise labour “, wrote Ghandi. He removed the distinction between training for manual work and teaching for ruling positions. Indeed, he encouraged all students, no matter the academic disciplines, to do manual work.
My second influence is the contemporary Indian thinker J. Krishnamurti. Maybe it is worth mentioning here that both Ghandi and Krisnahmurti were not “levitating” gurus, who indoctrinated their disciples with esoteric, bizarre teachings. They both were highly cultivated pragmatic Indians, who received a British education and who established their own educational theories as a result of the mistakes spotted in the British system.
Ghandi was killed before he could see his Nai Talim in effect. Yet, Krishnamurti lived a long live, and when he died in 1989, he had written more than seventy books and founded thousands of “educational centres” (as he liked to call schools) all over the world. Indeed, one of the first centres was located in Brockwood Park, near North London, here in the UK.
Krishnamurti´s view about education is expounded in his book “Education as a service” (1912). Krishnamurti stated that “the purpose of education is to bring about freedom, love, the flowering of goodness and the complete transformation of society” (Krishanmurti, quoted in Forbes, 1997). For achievement this inner transformation, the mission of teachers and educators is to guide students to discover what the love to do, their individual vocation, how they can contribute to society.
This one of the key factors in which our educational system fails. When I started my solo teaching practice in FE, I asked my young students to write in a paper why they wanted to study IT, and how they wanted to focus their career. In a class of 13 youngsters (aged between 16-21 years old), none of them seemed to know how they wanted to focus their future. There were answers such as “I don´t know”, “I haven’t decided yet”. Those who seemed to be more assertive told me that, the Careers Advice Service in the College had advised them to do a foundation course and enroll the University.
It is debatable to whom benefits this last advice, as FE Colleges tend to keep their students on seats because of the funding. In any case, their answers made me realize that students in mainstream education do not receive any integral guidance about their vocation. A student who does not know what he loves to do, and where his place in society is, becomes a frustrated adult.
Krishnamurti´s theory distinguishes between mind and brain. The brain is the material centre of the nervous system, the organ of cognition. It is therefore responsible for co-ordination of the senses and intellectual knowledge. The mind is not material and is related to insight (non-visual perception), compassion, and, what Krishnamurti called, “the profound intelligence”, the third kind of knowledge that has been suppressed in Western education. In Krishnamurti´s opinion, our educational system aims to educate the brain by imbuing it with academic knowledge, yet disregards the mind. Krishnamurti did not deny the importance of brain, but highlighted the supremacy of the mind over the brain.
The mind is infinitive, and the quality of goodness lies in it. On the contrary, the brain is limited and fragmentary, and the function of education should be free the brain from its conditioning. To nurture the mind and free the brain from its conditioning, it is crucial to develop faculties such as sensitivity, creativity and compassion in pupils. Likewise, students can only explore those faculties in a free atmosphere. That is why Krishnamurti rejected the use of discipline or authority in education. For him, freedom is native to education. He encouraged pupils to look themselves for answers and not to trust blindly in their teachers´ opinions. He also encouraged students not to imitate others, but to be themselves all the time. In Krisnahmurti centres, there are no hierarchies. Both students and teachers are “in the same boat”, they are both learners and therefore equals (Forbes, 1997). Finally, Krisnahmurti emphasised the importance of building the centres in beautiful places, usually in the countryside and surrounded by nature. Aesthetic is regarded as important to develop sensibility in young students. Like Keats, whose poetry he greatly admired, Krishnamurti felt that beauty was related to truth. The contact with nature is likewise crucial to “drawn out” what is good and pure in human beings, the Rousseaun myth of the “good savage”.
Krisnahmurti´s centres are boarding centres and, following Krisnahmurti´s instructions, they have designated areas for those who want to remain in silence. Despite what detractors may think, Krisnahmurti´s centres are not faith-based schools, neither they follow any dogma nor religious practice. Krisnahmurti simply emphasized the importance of silent environment so that students could watch and explore their thoughts and emotions.