July 01, 2007

To encourage the children to know themselves and to choose their own destiny

Students' Prayer
"Make of us the hero warriors we aspire to become. May we fight successfully the great battle of the future that is to be born, against the past that seeks to endure; so that the new things may manifest and we may be ready and receive them."
To learn for the sake of knowledge, to study in order to know the secrets of Nature and life, to educate oneself in order to grow in consciousness, to discipline oneself in order to become master of oneself, to overcome one's weaknesses, incapacities and ignorance, to prepare oneself to advance in life towards a goal that is nobler and vaster, more generous and more true....
Sri Aurobindo International Centre of Education is an integral part of Sri Aurobindo Ashram and it serves as a field for new experiment and research in education. Sri Aurobindo considered the formation of an Education Centre as one of the best means of realizing that end. It was, therefore, in order to give a concrete shape to his vision that the Mother opened a school for children on December 2, 1943.
At present, the Centre of Education has provision for education from the Kindergarten to higher and advanced levels of study. It has the Faculties of Humanities, Languages, Sciences, Engineering Technology, and Physical Education. There are also facilities for learning Drawing and Painting, Music and Dancing (Indian and Western), Dramatics, and Arts and Crafts. In addition, facilities are provided for practical and manual work. There are also several sectional libraries and laboratories.
As the name itself suggests, the Centre is international in character. It aspires to represent here the cultures of the different regions of the world in such a way as to be accessible to all. The ideal is that every nation with its distinctive culture should have a contribution of its own to make so that it would find a practical and concrete interest in a cultural synthesis.
So far as Physical Education is concerned, it occupies a very important place in the life of the Ashram and hence in the Centre of Education. For, "A divine life in a divine body is the formula of the ideal that we envisage".
"The basic programme", the Mother spells out, "will be to build a body, beautiful in form, harmonious in posture, supple and agile in its movements, powerful in its activities and resistant in its health and organic function."
A rational and well-conducted programme that includes athletics, gymnastics, exercises, combatives, aquatics and field games has been chalked out and the students participate in these activities every evening.
Contests and tournaments are spread over the year, helping to keep up the competitive spirit and give to push to the urge for progress. Individual attention is paid to each student and steps are taken to inculcate an aspiration in him not only to have a healthy body but also to acquire grace and beauty, strength and endurance, and to move towards the goal of physical perfection.
After all, the child is essentially a soul with a body, life-energy and mind to be harmoniously and integrally developed. The education is therefore so organised as to secure:
the fullest possible development of the physique;
a fruitful channelisation of the life-energy in pursuits that contribute to the growth of the personality;
a sufficient training of the mental faculties in the fields of various Humanities and Sciences; and
the requisite help, through a powerful spiritual atmosphere, for the soul to come forward and gradually begin to govern the rest of the being.
Thus it may be noted that the aim of education as followed at the Centre is not to prepare the individual student to "succeed" in life and society but to increase his perfectibility to the utmost.
In keeping with these aims and ideals, the Centre of Education awards no degrees or diplomas, one of its objectives being to provide an atmosphere where knowledge is sought for the sake of knowledge, for the building up of the character, and above all for the joy of learning.
All education aims at the progress of the individual.
But the basic question is: What is Progress? For the word `progress' can and does have many meanings and implications widely differing in their content and scope.
We, at the Centre, take the view that progress is essentially a growth of consciousness, discovery and increasing awareness of an inner power and principle of guidance, which holds in it the light and truth of the development, harmony and perfection of our body, life and mind. It could be said that true progress is an ever-open step towards a total evolution of our entire being and consciousness so as to transcend and transform all the limitations to which man as an evolutionary being is at present subject. And this can only be done by a constant living contact with man's true self, the soul.
And once we accept this view, it would then be irrational to set a standard of progress which is uniform for all. It would be wiser, although more difficult, to consider each individual as a special centre having his own unique rhythms and modes of progress and thus to assess each individual's progress by standards appropriate to him. Moreover, "If the individual can progress at his maximum, the group will necessarily benefit by it. If the individual is submitted to the possibility and capacity of the group, he loses his chance of total progress," says the Mother.
On this basis, education would become a process of free growth and not a rigid system. For, if man is not the last term of evolution, if Reason is not the true or highest governor of life, if the aim of human life is to discover one's inmost and highest principles and to transform by their light and power the entire mode of one's present embodied mental life, and if the specific aim of each individual is to be a special or unique centre of a higher action, then education must be a process of free progress so organised :

to give to each one the possibility to discover his own line of development in accordance with his inner truth of being:for, the one thing that needs to be done assiduously is, as the Mother has emphasised, to encourage the children to know themselves and to choose their own destiny;
to create the possibilities of progressing at one's own pace of progress; and
ultimately, to enable him to take charge of his own development.

As for the aim and necessity of free progress, we may simply say that man has in him infinite possibilities of which he is not normally aware and the aim of education is to make him progressively aware of these possibilities so as to develop them to the utmost.
As Sri Aurobindo remarked in his Preface on National Education: "...the acquiring of various kinds of information is only one and not the chief of the means and necessities of education: its central aim is the building of the powers of the human mind and spirit, it is the formation or, as I would prefer to view it, the evoking of knowledge and will and of the power to use knowledge, character, culture, -that at least if no more."
The necessity of free progress in education lies in the perception that man is an evolutionary being and education fulfils itself when through it man consciously seeks to collaborate with evolving Nature in order to exceed himself, to break the limitations of the past and to open to the exploration of new future possibilities.
This is the truth of education underlying the free progress approach as adopted at the Centre of Education. It is free because it is not prefabricated; it is free because it is not imposed on any individual; and finally, it is free because it is guided, not from without, but by oneself, by one's inner self, one's inner soul. In the words of the Mother:
"Free Progress is progress guided by the souland not subjected to habits, conventions and preconceived ideas."

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