Monday, June 23, 2014

A report from Mirambika Free Progress School in India

I visited The Mirambika Free Progress School in Delhi, India for a day in May, 2014 in order to observe and ask about their educational approaches and teacher training program.
The Mirambika School is located in Sri Aurobindo Ashram campus in New Delhi. The school is connected with a concrete footpath from its main entrance to the main school buildings. Along the footpath is surrounded by an environment of green trees, flowers and plants. As I walked from the gate into the campus I saw a group of children doing their first dose of morning physical exercises under the shade of tall trees. Later I came to know that the school starts the day with one hour of morning physical exercises. After the exercises the students go to the shrine room for meditation practice--this is to connect the inner and the outer and to set the pace for the day, as said by the Principal, Mrs. Srila.
Mirambika School was started in 1981 as an experimental innovative school, and today it continues its tradition and ideas of research and philosophy of integral education as formulated by Sri Aurobindo and The Mother. Mrs. Srila explained ‘’the integral education means addressing the totality of the being.’’ She added ‘‘we seek to educate not only the body, the emotion and the intellect but also work towards making these instruments function in the light of our divine essence, the psychic.’’
The Mirambika’s core believe is that each of us carries something divine deep within us, something true, pure, eternal and very precious. It is this that makes life a supremely beautiful gift and inspires us to grow and to learn. They consider that it is there hidden, behind all our mental noise and emotional clamour:  something very simple, very warm, and very light and infinitely loving that they call it the psychic the divine presence in us. In this free progress education their whole endeavour is to keep the psychic flame burning in hearts and minds of the children, to allow their whole life to be entirely moulded by a growing psychic consciousness through creating an environment and conditions.At Mirambika, children learn more by doing, observing and reflecting than by didactic teaching. Project work forms a major tool of learning. This involves a lot of experimenting, searching, calculating, developing, inventing, exploring, creating, reading and writing and also including field trips. Through single projects, the child often trains the body, mind and intellect, awakens the psychic being, and also learns language, mathematics and science.
Mirambika does not have a pre-set curriculum or syllabus. They focus on the naturally evolving rhythm of learning, allowing each child to grow at their own pace. The brochure of the school reads ‘‘our curriculum remains open ended and flexible, always reflecting the dynamism of learning and growing. Yet, the children must learn the facts and figures that will equip them to enter what is called the ‘real world’. And these they must learn in a specific time frame. Hence, in spite of being open-ended and flexible, structure is not entirely missing from Mirambika curriculum.’’The aim and vision of the school is ‘‘to learn in order to know, to study in order to have the knowledge of the secrets of nature and of life, to educate and discipline oneself in order to be master of oneself, to overcome one's weakness, one's incapacity and ignorance, to prepare oneself in order to progress in life towards a goal that is nobler and vaster, more generous and more true... We are not here to do what the others do. We are here to do what the others cannot do because they do not have the idea that it can be done.”- The Mother, one of the founders.The principles of teaching which are followed at Mirambika free progress school are based on Sri Aurobindo's Three Principles of True Teaching: nothing can be taught, the mind has to be consulted in its own growth, and work from the near to far.Mrs. Srila said that ‘’Education to be complete must have five aspects: the physical, the vital, the mental, the psychic and the spiritual.’’ They believe that the Education is a living and dynamic process that involves the whole person’s development, including the head, the heart, the body as well as the spirit.Mr. Rajesh, a senior teacher in the school said ‘‘our school does not conduct conventional tests or exams.’’ He added, with a smile that ‘‘the child is perfectly graded by a God and sent as a human being. We need not have to grade them, instead we are responsible to guide them.’’  They think that children are soul beings that need sensitive assessments both by the parents and those working with the children so as to give meaningful and responsible feedback. The nature of the evaluation is always non-judgemental, descriptive, child centred, personalized and wholesome.When I asked about the teacher training program in the school, the principal said it is conducted for the duration of three years. During the first year the trainee teachers will basically discipline themselves; in the second year they will co-teach with other senior teachers; and in the final year they will teach independently. They also provide different courses ranging from principles of education to integral progress learning, development of skills, language and communication, theatre to music and art education to physical education.The education at Mirambika is borne out of a spiritual vision and understanding that it is the process of awakening and evoking the true being, the psychic presence within, and through that process, bringing about a progressive unfolding of the whole person. 


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