What is the true purpose of education? Is it the acquisition of skills necessary to earn a living? The development of social awareness for better citizenship? The nurturing of intelligence and character? Or, to embark upon the path of self-discovery? Intuitively, we believe it is all of the above.
Current education systems are incapable of developing human potential. This article postulates a new framework for true education.
The new education model
The new education model comprises 5 key pillars:
- Holistic & integral
- Wisdom & intuition-oriented
Consider each in turn:
- Holistic & integral education –the current pace of global development renders insufficient the 3Rs (Reading, wRiting, aRithmetic) and the 3Hs, (Head, Hands & Heart). Spirituality is absent. Through ancient Indian philosophy, we uncover the 3As: Adhibhoota (relating to physical, matter, and skills of the hands), Adhidaiva (the mental and emotional faculties of head and heart), and Adhyathma (dealing with the soul, consciousness, and spirituality). There is an urgent need to include spirituality and studies of consciousness in education. This encourages an appreciation of the interconnectedness of the individual with others and the world in a way that transcends the merely physical, emotional, and mental.
- Contextual education – context is defined by nearness in space, time, and experience of the surrounding environment. Contextual space is a student’s actual environment. Time relates to the prevailing thinking or global world view, which, today, is ‘scientific-technological.’ Experience encompasses native language and indigenous wisdom. Curricula relating to the student’s context catalyzes their ability to abstract knowledge and apply it to other contexts.
- Experiential learning – Humans utilize the environment around them to learn and grow. The ancient Gurukuls imparted teaching in the open, which grounded their deep philosophical metaphors about nature inexperience. This method simplified complex ideas and deepened the learning experience. The New Education model advocates classroom learning to be both experiential and application-oriented.
- Going beyond bloom: developing higher order wisdom & intuition – using Bloom’s Taxonomy, our attention should move beyond both Lower Order, (Remember, Understand, Apply), and Higher Order thinking skills, (Analyse, Evaluate, Create).
The evolution of education in India paralleled this taxonomy. Remember & Understand correspond to Citta: passive and active memory. Apply & Analyse correspond to Manas: the sense-mind that evaluates data. Evaluate & Create correspond to Buddhi: wisdom.
Transcending this taxonomy allows one to develop and harness Nidhyāna, Intuition, through tapping into the mind’s higher levels. Similarly, we must go deeper into the heart and develop empathy and a feeling of oneness with the cosmos and everything within it.
Developments in Artificial Intelligence (AI) have significant potential to remove Lower Order skill jobs. Educators must, therefore, accelerate the development and application of Higher Order skills, preparing students to ascend into their dormant intuition.
5. Trans-Disciplinary Approach – neither nature nor the human body distinguishes between physics, chemistry, and biology. Our pedagogy too should transcend ‘subjects’ and instead impart knowledge through composite ‘themes’, which include:
Who am I? – Studying physical, emotional, mental, spiritual, value systems, rights and responsibilities, sociology, and self-actualization.
The natural world around me – Exploring natural sciences combined with culture, tradition, and literature.
How does the natural world work? – Examining perceptions of our world, purification of the senses, pure sciences, inventions, and discoveries.
How is the man-made world organized? – Considering frameworks of organizations like economics, politics, civics, law, governance, international relations; food, agriculture, clothing, shelter; man-made services like banking, healthcare, and education.
How do I express myself? – Delving into human expressions including writing, public speaking, story-telling, innovation, the performing arts, fine art, sport.
Big ideas that changed the world – Probing world-changing ideas like the French Revolution, Democracy, etc. to develop solutions to current societal issues.
The 5-Pillar Framework in Practice
At Himalayan Institute of Alternatives, we apply these 5 pillars to all our courses. For instance, at the School of Applied Ecology, we rehabilitate abandoned villages where water streams have dried, and villagers have migrated. This utilizes a confluence of disciplines including (i) hydrology and glaciology, to make artificial reservoirs of water, (ii) agriculture and plantation, to make greenhouses, plant trees, and set-up drip irrigation, and (iii) eco-responsive architecture to develop solar homes that keep homes at 20 degrees when it is minus 20 outside. To do this, our students and faculty use innovative thinking that blends indigenous wisdom with modern technology. Education for Tomorrow: An Integral Approach ‘Education for Tomorrow: An Integral Approach,’ is a comprehensive and holistic paradigm that elevates current thinking and offers pragmatic solutions to today’s educational shortcomings. It comprises a child-centric framework, which likens the child to a flower to be nurtured. The teacher is a facilitator, not a dictator. Along this journey, all aspects of the child are developed through these philosophical principles:
Education for tomorrow: An integral approach, is a comprehensive and holistic paradigm that elevates current thinking and offers pragmatic solutions to today’s educational shortcomings.
It comprises a child-centric framework, which likens the child to a flower to be nurtured. The teacher is a facilitator, not a dictator. Along this journey, all aspects of the child are developed through these philosophical principles:
Adhidaiva, awareness of mental and emotional faculties, is enhanced through knowledge of the collective. These are accessed through “Man-made World” and “Ideas that Changed the World”. Higher Order thinking facilitates this journey, leading to social transformation.
Adhyatma, knowledge of one’s inner potential, is enhanced through Experiential Education and exploring “Who am I”. Endeavors in the arts, the sciences, and literature, lead to personal transformation, or Sanatana Dharma, man’s sublime, true and highest purpose on earth!
This Article is part of our 60th anniversary series. It is written by Gitanjali J B. Gitanjali, the Founding CEO of the Himalayan Institute of Alternatives, Ladakh (HIAL). HIAL aims to reform the model of higher education by developing responsible citizens as well as encouraging the direct application of knowledge to solve community challenges. More Information on HIAL’s activities can be found here.