In order to do simultaneously the work of conscious personal evolution
in ourselves while endeavouring to carry the actuality of Auroville's
new way of living out into the villages, the Auroville Village Action
Group has focussed on what is called in development jargon "human
resource development". Our methodology is a broad and flexible
framework, based on Sri Aurobindo and Mother's teaching on education,
adapted to the situation as we are experiencing it.
We call the method "Life Education", and we apply it in most of our programmes. Its basic principles are:
We see that in the learning situation, it is most enriching if all the parties are learning -- the so-called teachers as well as the students. In a situation such as Auroville, many of the teachers and resource people are foreigners, or at least city-bred Indians, and they have a lot to learn about the conditions of life and attitudes toward living in the villages. The experienced social workers on the staff have to learn to be flexible and cooperative in their developmental approach. The trainees are learning to see their villages and all that they had been taking for granted with fresh eyes, while they are also learning to develop initiative and a positive active attitude towards change. The groups of village women learn about the common problems they all face, to trust each other, and how to work together to improve not only their own but the community situation.
2. Near to far
To teach effectively, start with what is familiar with the students, then move on to the new and strange. Life Education Method makes the village the object of study: the skills of counting, calculating, observing, recording, charting and mapping are learned while pertinent data about the villages are documented. Analysing the findings develops the skills of listening, expression, comparison, generalising, objectifying, imagination, etc.
3. Learn by doing
Most people best absorb new ideas through experience. Demonstrations which involve the learners in the new skill - actually conducting surveys, taking trips to meet other groups with similar experiences - all serve to open the minds of the learners, and also to create a bond of mutual experience among the learners, as well as with the teachers.
4. More than the sum of the parts
A group is a whole which, when it is working harmoniously, has a much richer imagination and much more powerful means of expression and manifestation than any one person on her or his own. Slowly, the group begins to notice the individual contributions of each of its members, and to appreciate how together they know a lot and can do a lot more. They learn how to enhance their cooperation for effectiveness, and then action for social improvement can take place.
5. The snake bites its tail
The interaction between the individual, the group and the community is mutually reinforcing. As the individuals grow in personal self-confidence and energy, and the group grows in trust and teamwork, they influence the community to become a better place in which to live, which in turn supports the fuller development of the individuals. People know this instinctively, because it is the basis of family life. This method is about making this innate knowledge conscious.
6. The spiral path
As the energies of the villages are redirected into self-regenerating rather than depleting cycles, the two-dimensional circle can rise into a three-dimensional spiral. On the basis of increased abilities of the groups and group members to concentrate attention, the topics of discussion and action, which at first are focussed primarily on solving material level problems, can shift to reflection on some of the customs and habits which are fundamental to these problems. As this analysis deepens into self-reflection at both a group and personal level, higher consciousness emerges, a continuous ascending on the spiral of evolution. This is, of course, as true for the development worker as it is for the villagers.
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