A New Global Education

Creating a Balance Between the Modern World, a Peaceful Future and Local Realities

Education & Social Transformation

Commentary

Education can be used as a tool to empower the individual. Through child centered learning, students are able to see their own role in transformation. Societal change comes from the collective transformation of the individuals within that society. Literacy allows people, particularly those who are marginalized and discriminated against in society, to acquire a “critical consciousness”.  Empowered individuals are better equipped to question and critique societal realities and assumptions and more enabled to change their situation. Empowering education approaches individual growth as an active, cooperative and social process because the self and the society create each other (Shor 1992).  Rather than being merely in the world, individuals can be taught that they are actually co-creators of their reality.  This is a simple, yet significant, shift in perspective – life does not just happen to us – we all have a role in the unfolding in our lives, no matter our circumstances.

In this section I’ve introduced the theories of a number of educational innovators in order to explore the relationship between the education of the individual and the transformation of the collective.

Freire

Paulo Freire (1921 - 1997), the Brazilian educationalist, has left a significant mark on thinking about progressive practice. The fundamentals of his ‘system’ point to an educational process that focuses on the students’ environment. Freire assumes that the learners must understand their own reality as part of their learning activity. In his well known work Pedagogy of the Oppressed, Paulo Freire refers to traditional rote-learning as a banking system, where students store deposits of knowledge made by the teacher.  Through liberation education he aims to narrow the gap between the teacher and the student thus increasing the student’s creative power (Freire 1993).  Central to this model is open communication and earnest dialogue between the student and the teacher.  This challenges the teacher to demonstrate their humanity and that they are not “above” the student.  In problem-posing education, people develop their power to perceive critically the way they exist in the world with which and in which they find themselves; they come to see the world not as at static reality, but as a reality in process, in transformation (Freire 1993). Freire’s philosophy may seem far from the current reality of most developing countries.  Yet this is exactly why his ideas were born: to help with the struggle for the social transformation of the post-colonial world in the interests of the liberation of subordinate populations and cultures from the structures and ideologies which dominate them (McLaren & Leonard 1993). Freire gives recognition and understanding of the depths of the struggle of decolonization and liberation.

Aurobindo

Sri Ghose Aurobindo (1872-1950) was an Indian born and Cambridge educated scholar, political leader and educator during India’s independence movement.  He aimed to bridge Western rational and scientific thought and Eastern spirituality, combining the best of both worlds into his own unique model.  His experiences as a professor in the British model prior to independence deeply affected his educational philosophies (Heehs 1989).  Aurobindo was aghast to see how bad the British system could be when transplanted in Indian soil (Heehs 1989).  Aurobindo commented that the students would “take down everything verbatim and mug it up by heart.  Such a thing would never have happened in England” (Heehs 1989). He noticed that his students were more concerned with getting the correct information in order to pass the university examinations rather than gain a full understanding and appreciation of the material (Heehs 1989).  This is not unlike what is happening today in developing countries. 

Aurobindo believed that with the transformation and growth of the individual, society would in turn transform and evolve.  While lesser known than Freire, he was considered a pioneer voice in political and global education.  His scheme of integral education rooted in ‘the developing soul of India, to her future need, to the greatness of her coming self creation, to her eternal spirit’ (UNESCO 1997). Aurobindo hoped to help create a new Indian society by teaching people how to learn for themselves and trust themselves and develop their own inherent potential. Accordingly, Aurobindo “conceived of education as an instrument for the real working of the spirit in the mind and body of the individual and the nation. He thought of education that for the individual will make its one central object the growth of the soul and its powers and possibilities, for the nation will keep first in view the preservation, strengthening and enrichment of the nation—soul and its Dharma (virtue) and raise both into powers of the life and ascending mind and soul of humanity. And at no time will it lose sight of man’s highest object, the awakening and development of his spiritual being” (UNESCO 1997).

Aurobindo’s educational model of Free Progress was very much born out of frustration with the British model in India and incorporated his ideas on how education could best suit students as learners.  The aim of Free Progress is to help the child to develop his intellectual, emotional, moral, spiritual and physical being out of their own capacities in a participatory manner and at their own pace (Aurobindo 2001). The role of the teacher here is to guide a student to learn for themselves.  The first principle of true teaching is that nothing can be taught. The teacher is not an instructor or task master; he is a helper and a guide. His business is to suggest and not to impose’. The second principle according to Aurobindo is that ‘the mind has to be consulted in its growth’ (UNESCO 1997). The teacher should be concerned not with what the student remembers, but what he understands (Heehs 1989).

Gandhi

Mahatma Gandhi’s (1869 – 1948) educational philosophies were also born out of India’s independence movement.  Truth, non-violence and passive resistance were successfully used as an instrument of social and political transformation. Gandhi’s educational views were twofold: On one hand, education was necessary to prepare Indians for self rule, the preservation of Indian culture and the service of humanity.   On the other hand education is seen as a method for self-realization and personal development and attainment of knowledge for learning’s sake. Gandhi believed that education can play an effective role in developing a wholesome human personality capable of resisting war, violence, injustice and oppression and building a social order wherein man can live in peace and harmony with others (Rajput 1998).

The beauty of Gandhi’s model is that the goal is for communities to be self sufficient and learn to make the best of what they have. To Gandhi, freedom of human beings does not lie in just a freedom from foreign political rule. Freedom of human beings lies in freedom from all types of exploitation and all types of dependence on others (Soni 1999).  The rationale he proposed was that schools must be self-supporting, as far as possible, for two reasons. One was purely financial: namely, that a poor society could not provide education to all its children unless schools could generate the physical and financial resources to run them. The other was political: that financial self-sufficiency alone could protect schools from dependence on the State and from interference by it (UNESCO 1997).

Gandhi developed the concept of Basic Education with the hope that it would become the basis of the national system (Kumar 1995).  Basic education did not refer simply to primary education.  Rather, it was seen as the base upon which the whole of an education, from beginning to end, was to be built (Rajghat 1996).  Basic Education aimed to improve the quality of life where one was born rather than encourage “brain drain”.  It aimed for the uplift of all, particularly women and girls.  Four basic principles characterize Basic Education: self reliance, language of instruction, handicraft skills and relevance of the curriculum.  His concept of Education for Life made no distinction between work and learning and taught skills that would transform a village to be self supporting.  This was done through teaching of handicraft skills and agriculture.

All knowledge given to children was to be relevant to the child’s reality.  Teachers of Basic schools were trained to develop their own daily curriculum of activities and their own material with minimal reliance on textbooks. Gandhi emphasized self-reliance in the individual – children were to be trained to be independent thinkers (Rajghat 1996).  Children were to be taught in their mother tongue not only to minimize the imperialistic nature of the British education system but also to facilitate greater understanding for the child.  Gandhi’s model in particular is important because it incorporates what is learned in school with what the child really needs to know to thrive in their environment.  Many educational systems, particularly in rural areas, have curriculums that are irrelevant to the child’s environment and Gandhi’s model strived to use education as a tool to enhance the child’s experience in any given situation.

Partnership Education

Diane Eisler (2005) suggests moving from a dominator model to a partnership model of education.  These models describe systems of belief and social structures that either nurture or support – or inhibit and undermine – equitable, democratic, nonviolent, and caring relations.  Through an understanding of the partnership and dominator cultural, social, and personal configurations, we can more effectively develop the educational methods, materials, and institutions that foster a less violent, more equitable, democratic and sustainable future (Eisler 2005).  Partnership Education grounds learning in an understanding of social, economic, and political structures. This makes it possible for students to see that neither personal choices nor social policies occur in a vacuum - that they are largely shaped by the constraints or opportunities of these structures.

Rigid dominator ways of structuring relations are still predominant in some cultures.  This can be seen in religious fundamentalist cultures with top-down control in the family and state or tribe, the rigid ranking of the male over the female, and the acceptance, idealization, and even sanctification of violence as a means of imposing and maintaining control.  Dominator model creates fear, pain and tension.

If we give a substantial number of today’s children the nurturance and education that enables them to live and work in the equitable, nonviolent, gender-fair, environmentally conscious, caring and creative ways that characterize partnership rather than dominator relations, they will be able to make enough changes in beliefs and institutions to support this way of relating in all spheres of life.  We will also be able to give our children the nurturance and education that we are today learning makes the difference between realizing or stunting our great human potentials (Eisler 2005: 53).

Positive childhood care that heavily relies on praise, caring touch, affection and lack of violence or threats releases the chemicals dopamine and serotonin into particular areas of the brain, promoting emotional stability and mental health.  By contrast, if children are subjected to negative, uncaring, fear, shame and threat-based treatment or other aversive experiences such as violence or sexual violation, they develop neurochemical responses appropriate for this kind of dominator environment, becoming tyrannical to themselves or others, abusive and aggressive or withdrawn and chronically depressed, defensive, hyper-vigilant and numb to their own pain as well as often to that of others (Perry et al.1996).


Links

bell hooks: http://www.infed.org/thinkers/hooks.htm

Introduction to bell hooks

Center for Dewey Studies

http://www.siu.edu/~deweyctr/

The Encyclopedia of Informal Ed

http://www.infed.org/

This comprehensive site provides a wealth of information related informal education.  Presented as an encyclopedia a huge array of thinkers, ideas and terms are examined.

Krishnamurti Foundation of America

http://www.kfa.org/index.php

Krishnamurti Foundation India

http://www.kfionline.org/index.asp

The Teachings of J. Krishnamurti

http://www.jkrishnamurti.org/


Partnership Education

http://www.partnershipway.org/html/pepmain.htm

Partnership education is the work of Riane Eisler who looks at dominator versus partnership models in society and education.


Paulo Freire Institute

http://www.paulofreire.org


Rudolf Steiner College

http://www.steinercollege.org/rs.html


Thinkers on Education

http://www.ibe.unesco.org/publications/thinkers.htm

In 1993 and 1994, UNESCO published a series of profiles of 100 famous educators (including philosophers, statesmen, politicians, journalists, psychologists, poets, men of religion) from around of the world.  Each profile is individually downloadable.

Resources

Dewey, J. (1916) Democracy and Education. An introduction to the philosophy of education (1966 edn.). New York: Free Press.

Dewey, J. (1938) Experience and Education. New York: Collier Books.

Eisler, Riane (2005). Tomorrow’s education: Education for a partnership world. In John Miller et al. (Eds.) Holistic learning and spirituality in education: Breaking new ground (pp. 47-67).  New York: SUNY Press.

hooks, bell (1994). Teaching to Transgress: Education as the Practice of Freedom. New York: Routledge Press.

Perry, B.D. et. al.  (1996). Childhood trauma, the neurobiology of adaptation, and “use dependent” development of the brain: how ”states” become ”traits.”  Infant Mental Health Journal, 16, 271 – 291.

McDermott, Robert, Ed. (1984).  The essential Steiner: Basic Writings of Rudolf Steiner.  San Francisco: Harper & Row.

Shor, Ira (1992).  Empowering Education: Critical Teaching for Social Change. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Thapan, Meenakshi (2001). J. Krishnamurti.  Prospects: the quarterly review of comparative education.  Paris: UNESCO

Vygotsky, L.S.  (1978). Mind in society: Development of Higher Psychological Processes.  Cambridge: Harvard University Press.

Freire

Freire, Paulo (1970).  Pedagogy of the Oppressed.  New York: Seabury Press

Freire, Paulo (1973).  Education for Critical Consciousness.  New York: Seabury Press.

McLaren, P. & Leonard, P.  (1993).  Paulo Freire: A Critical Encounter.  New York: Routledge.

Gandhi

Kumar, Krishna (1995).  Listening to Gandhi. Excerpt from seminar #496.

Rajghat (1996). Excerpts from Vinoba Bhave. Thoughts on Education. Varanasi: Sarva Seva Sangh Prakashan.

Rajput, J.S. ed. (1998). Gandhi on Education.  New Delhi: National Council for Teacher Education.

Soni, Sri Dayalchand (1999).  Education Today and Tomorrow In The Context Of Gandhian Basic Education. Udaipur.

Aurobindo

Heehs, Peter (1989).  Sri Aurobindo: A Brief Biography. Delhi: Oxford University Press

Sri Aurobindo, Ghose (2001). The Right Object of Education and India’s National Education.  Pondicherry: Sri Aurobindo Society.

A New Global Education