From 'Last' school to 'No' school
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One finds few specific directions in relation to Auroville education in Mother's remarks and messages for Auroville. Yet it remains one of the core areas of the Auroville experience. The very Charter of Auroville states clearly: "Auroville will be a place of unending education, constant progress and a youth that never ages."
The educational experiment that was started in the Sri Aurobindo Ashram under her inspiration and guidance ought to be continued, even taken further in Auroville. Certainly her remarks in the text entitled A Dream are deeply applicable to Auroville: "-- In this place, children would be able to grow and develop integrally without losing contact with their souls; education would be given not for passing examinations or obtaining certificates and posts but to enrich existing faculties and bring forth new ones. --"
It is in this context that the somewhat mysterious list of names given by her for the Auroville schools assumes significance:
For many years, this list was understood largely in its physical dimension - as a list of names of buildings in the school campus at Aspiration, the construction of which was started in 1971. (In fact it is still the name of one of the buildings, and the whole campus is still known as the Last School Campus).
It is only recently, with its physical base more or less secured, that Auroville as a collectivity has begun to consciously explore some of its deeper psychological dimensions. Thus the paramount question of an education, not imitative but rather built upon the spirit of Auroville, is more and more coming to the forefront of the collective consciousness. These names given by Mother begin to acquire a great significance. And we discover the complete and unique educational programme that can be built around them. It is immediately clear that each name is linked in a necessary progression to the next, and from the first school - which is significantly called Last School - to the final No School one discerns a pattern of psychological development, the clues to which are contained in the names themselves. We thus find that what we have here is a programme, a formula, and not a mere list. We thus find, that what we have here is a Sutra* -not a mere list - and the moment is ripe to explore its meaning.
(* Sutra - a sort of aphorism; something that requires analysis or commentary to explore the hidden layers of its meaning.)
The education that Mother envisioned was called by her 'Free Progress' -in itself a term pregnant with meaning-, the accent being on the word 'progress', with 'free' as the adjective that defines the method by which one progresses. Much can be written on the term, but here is one answer Mother gave to define what she meant by Free Progress: "A progress guided by the soul and not subjected to habits, conventions or preconceived ideas."
The first School in Mother's list is called 'Last School', and this clearly suggests that it is the last school. But as it begins the list, it must correspond to the point where schooling actually commences, which is necessarily post-Kindergarten. Thus the first years, when the child is learning and being trained to read and write languages and make calculations, are the years of last school. The teacher is there to train, to develop further and to awaken innate faculties, so that as quickly as possible the child may learn how to learn independently.
Subsequently, we enter into the years of After School, which has three phases according to Mother's list. These can be understood literally to refer initially to the period when the youth consolidates and develops the knowledge and skills gained in the Last School phase. It is when this has been achieved that he automatically tries to experiment and apply the knowledge learned, through a process of repeated experimentation and demonstration. Finally, ready to move further, the youth enters a period of further exploration in which he widens his horizons and discovers newer vistas and worlds to learn and know about.
In these three phases, which can be defined broadly
as stages of: Development, Demonstration and Exploration, the teacher's
role, guided by keen observation and deep understanding, is more and
more that of friend, guide and helper. And he/she uses the triple method
of suggestion; influence and example - never of imposition- to work
with the developing personality of the youth.
We then come, in Mother's list, to the term Super School. This term seems to suggest a certain amount of intensity i.e., super schooling again. But, as the youth has learned to progress on his own by this time, it must imply a wholly different sort of schooling. Thus it must be schooling at a higher level or dimension. This can be conceived of as the stage when the youth comes into contact with great movements of world thought and action; where he can summarise in his awakened thought all the vast ideas as also the fields of human endeavour. Yet the orientation of his/her being must remain turned towards the future. A teacher or a guide becomes essential at this stage to help accelerate the process of learning. The aim is integral personality development, and someone is needed who can help to indicate the essence of each domain. Schooling is intensive, but of another order. This is also the phase of apprenticeships and the acquisition of skills and/or professional training.
It is Super School that prepares the being to enter into the stage of No School, which can be conceived of as the moment when the awakened consciousness needs no other guide than the one within. Mother conceived of Auroville as a learning society, and each unit necessarily should be a learning environment. In the future we can envision that possibilities for apprenticeships and professional/skills training will be available in all units. Everyone will be then a teacher and learner simultaneously, and Auroville will indeed be the place of an unending education, constant progress and a youth that never ages.
Growing into it..
But till then the 'schools' and the society have a work to do in growing into the dimensions indicated in Mother's programme for Auroville education. Such are the ideas arrived at as of now, but obviously more will be discovered and developed as the underlying truth of Auroville grows and manifests. Much of what has developed so far can be viewed through the perspective created by Mother's list of names. A certain conscious analysis and rationalisation still needs to be undertaken, but already each of these stages exists in practice. Auroville's most recent initiative has been the establishment two years ago of Super School, based upon the lines indicated earlier.
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