Friday, March 23, 2012

David Brooks of The New York Times writes about The New American Acadamy in his column today. The founder of this unique school in Brooklyn, Shimon Waronker, says, "The American education model was actually copied from the 18th-century Prussian model designed to create docile subjects and factory workers." Waronaker wants schools to operate more like the networked collaborative world of today. Bring on the Project Based Learning! Some days it really feels like there is a groundswell of progressive education alternatives and I feel optimistic.

Read more here

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Introducing Pawan Gupta

One wonderful outcome of my attending the Samvaad conference last month is that I had an opportunity to invite Pawan Gutpa of the Society for Integrated Development of the Himalayas (SIDH) to join us in Paro for the Curriculum Development Workshop to lead the teachers in developing relevant history lessons with a focus on cultural awareness and pride of place. I am very happy to report that he accepted our invitation. Pawan-ji has written and lectured extensively on the subject of education and his name was brought to my attention around the time of the 2010 Educating for GNH conference here in Bhutan. It was through his words that I first came to know him two years ago. Our paths have crossed several times since at various conferences and I have always found his views very much in harmony with what we are trying to accomplish with the LME curricula.

He's already generously sent forty copies of his excellent book Understanding History: A Guidebook for Teachers for us to distribute and use during the workshop in July. This handbook for teachers helps connect history to our own lives by illustrating in simple terms how change is a part of nature and how through a process of change we have come from the past to the present state. Pawan has published many other books which are available here.

Here is one quote from Pawan-ji:
In many ways, contemporary education has trapped us all in a set of assumptions, which has led to frustration and unhappiness. In the world-view that is now dominant, there are only narrow definitions for 'development,' 'progress,' 'education, 'science' and 'modern'...We feel it is important to challenge these assumptions and definitions. Notions about who is 'civilised', who is 'backward' or what is 'scientific' need to be viewed afresh. It is only then that we can have a drishti, a true perspective, of our society and its knowledge systems.

Our education system is a legacy of the colonial rule, and its overall framework has remained the same even 60 years after independence. This system impels the students to unthinkingly and unquestioningly accept the dominant world-view. It makes the youth dependent on the "other" for information, ideas, knowledge, understanding and decisions…NGOs have a critical role to play in challenging dominant mindsets. There are many people, thinkers and activists who are trying to bring about fundamental changes in the education system.

As we begin to structure the workshop, it's clear that Pawan will have an important role to play. Each of the pilot groups will be developing integrated units using the LME themes as a backbone then creatively filling out the lessons using their existing curricula and local environments as reference, and our resource materials and people for support. In the end they will have in hand a unique, highly-personalized curriculum that promotes true GNH thinking. Pawan can meet with each group independently and assess where history and traditional wisdom can be reflected and highlighted throughout.

We see it as a great alliance to be partnering with Pawan and SIDH. Our team of good people is expanding and for that we rejoice. Help sponsor the workshop with a tax-deductible contribution through The Bhutan Foundation or by participating in our book drive on Amazon.

The Society for Integrated Development of Himalayas (SIDH) is based in Kempty, outside of Mussoorie in the Central Himalayas. SIDH is committed to providing meaningful, relevant, and holistic education to local children and youth. SIDH’s primary mission is to use education as a tool for social change and to encourage a more meaningful exploration and dialogue, not only in the social and political spheres but also within individual mindsets. Currently SIDH operates 11 schools from the pre-primary level through high school and serves nearly 500 children in 40 villages of the Aglar Valley in Jaunpur. SIDH has expanded to include youth courses, teacher training, educational research, advocacy, and publication units, thus reaching out to all those concerned with quality in education.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Our Story & How You Can Support Us

Our Partner, The Bhutan Foundation, is now accepting contributions on behalf of Lho Mon Society and its two projects, Lho Mon Education and the Samdrup Jongkhar Initiative. If you would like to support the LME Curriculum Design Workshop (July 1-14, 2012), please follow this link, and be sure to specify in the notes that it is for LME. The Bhutan Foundation is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization registered in the US, therefore all US contributions will be fully tax-deductible. 

We still need to raise another $10K in order to host the event, which will be serving all 6 of our partner organizations.

So, how did we get here? In December 2009, the Honourable Prime Minister of Bhutan, in collaboration with the Ministry of Education, launched an initiative to bring the principles, values, and practices of Gross National Happiness into the country’s educational system. Educational experts from 16 countries held a week-long workshop with top Bhutanese educators to discuss how principles of holistic, sustainability, and contemplative education as well as indigenous knowledge and ancient wisdom traditions could be integrated into regular curricula.

Shortly thereafter, Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche offered his monastery, Chokyi Gyatso Institute, as an experimental “laboratory” for developing GNH-based educational curricula as part of his newly-formed Samdrup Jonkghar Initiative (SJI). While supporting innovation in education reform, Rinpoche also wanted to help his monastery keep in step with a fast changing society. CGI is poised to become the first monastery in Bhutan to introduce a full secular curriculum in math, language, science and other key subjects, that will be taught in tandem with its existing curriculum of classical philosophy and ritual.

Designing this curriculum has taken more than a year and in the process Lho Mon Education branched off of SJI's activities so that it could address education needs outside of the Samdrup Jongkhar region. The curriculum design will get its final push in July at our CDW workshop in Paro. We decided to share the wealth of our resource people and invite other organizations to participate in this process. Now, based on LME's initial framework, five respected Bhudantese educational institutions have joined in setting up their own pilot projects. We hope that the new GNH-based curriculum being implemented at CGI and the other five environments will be relevant and useful to schools throughout Bhutan.

Through the Lho Mon Education Initiative, new strides are being taken in transcending conventional secular-sacred boundaries, integrating spiritual values into daily life, and demonstrating the relevance of Bhutan’s ancient wisdom traditions to the modern world. In these ways, the new curricula developed through Lho Mon Education have important implications for education throughout Bhutan, and can make a significant contribution in integrating secular and spiritual endeavours.

While Lho Mon remains a grassroots civil society initiative, it now has the support of Bhutan’s Prime Minister, the Secretary of the GNH Commission, the Minister and Secretary of Agriculture, the Samdrup Jongkhar governor, the Samdrup Jongkhar District Education and Agriculture Officers and Agriculture Extension Officers, the Ministry of Education, and local village leaders. 

The visionary behind LME is Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche, a Bhutanese meditation master from a great line of masters and yogis, a teacher of Buddhist philosophy, and one of the most progressive lamas teaching today. He has taught at institutions around the world including Yale University and Oxford University and oversees numerous religious and secular nonprofit organizations. 

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Our Wish List

Lho Mon Education is compiling a wish list of books, films, and classroom supplies on Amazon that will be used during out July Curriculum Development Workshop. Anyone who likes to make wishes come true can scan the list and make a contribution towards the purchase of any item. We are also very open to suggestions of materials that have not made it on the list. For example, we are looking for books on practical green living. For the BAoWE pilot, we will be training domestic helpers on green cleaning (in addition to addressing issues of dignity of labor, urban rural migration, mindfulness, self respect, human rights, etc). Since domestic helpers are the ones who do most of the cooking, cleaning, shopping, and childcare, their sensitivity to environmental issues will impact the entire household. So what's the best resource book we can provide for them? We'll add it to our wish list and hope that one of our generous friends sponsors it.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Some Great Links

My friend Bill in New York City sent me some very interesting links: 
(March 15, 2012) Preparing Teachers and Developing School Leaders
Education is recognized around the globe as a driver of economic growth and social change, and it is high-quality teaching that enables students to acquire the skills and knowledge they need to succeed in the 21st century. At the 2012 Summit, participants will examine how to improve teacher preparation and the development of school leaders to better address the needs and expectations of today's and tomorrow's learning environments. This year's theme, Preparing Teachers and Developing School Leaders, was chosen based on feedback from many of last year's participants and will build upon the conversation that was started in 2011. 
What enables some countries' education systems to succeed in the global knowledge economy? Vivien Stewart, senior advisor to Asia Society, offers advice to districts and states based on the lessons in her new book, A World-Class Education: Lessons from International Models of Excellence and Innovation
An essay that explores ways in which the American undergraduate college can provide students with opportunities for understanding, appreciating, and practicing the meditative and contemplative disciplines.
We always love to hear about what's happening in the world of education and welcome your input.

I don't know who took this photo in Africa but I wish
I could give them credit for sharing such a wonderful image.

Tsoknyi Rinpoche on Educating the Heart

I have several updates but it's been a busy time with our founder Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche in town for the cremation ceremonies for his father, the great Dungse Thinley Norbu Rinpoche. It's been a time to reflect on the important things and I was grateful to have a few moments of Rinpoche's time to review LME's goals and aspirations. Meme Lama and all twenty of the Dewathang monks were also here and we managed to have a few quick but essential discussions about moving forward. I was able to hand off a stack of the Nonformal Education Programmes new English Language books to be used by Debbie during the language intensive that has started at the monastery to prepare for implementation of the LME curriculum that will begin in 2013.

In the meantime, here are some interesting ideas from Tsoknyi Rinpoche (Listen Here)
Photo of Tsoknyi Rinpoche by Ani-Konchok
from the Pundakara web site.

"I think we have to bring a new teaching into education to change the perception of reality," he says.

"I don't think right now in school they're teaching about love, compassion, and tolerance. All religions talk about that. And that is human nature - we have that. We have to change some of the education system. We have to bring some more heart teaching, loving teaching.

We have science, we have mathematics, art, history. But it's good to take thirty minutes, everyone close their eyes and see feelings, mood, thoughts, when you're angry - how it happened, how to release. Just to
give some time to your mind, what you can call your heart.

If you have more love, it's better. If you have healthy love, even better. If you have compassion, it's better for you, better for others. If you have insight that when your conflict comes inside of you, you know how to let it go, how to solve your problem - that's also a good thing. This is very important eduction. If Americans can do that, they'll save a lot of money. And those healthy people can help the country and help the rest of the world."