|Price: Rs 950|
Dimensions (in cms): 21x21
|Publisher: Sri Aurobindo International Institute of Educational Research and Fabrice Dini|
An Integral Education for Growth and Blossoming lays out a program for linking child psychology and education through a series of activities that are geared towards helping a child learn, change, and grow in a healthy environment. This impressive work is full of treasures and precious initiatives that catalyse the process of an integral education. The activities, which contribute to a child’s overall development by imparting nuggets of academic knowledge, by fostering fundamental values, and by building up emotional intelligence, are simple to execute and easy to absorb. Importantly, they are also fun: Dini believes that we should let children be children and tap into their youthful enthusiasm and energy in order to teach.
As a mother and teacher of children across several age groups myself, I was pleased to discover this like-minded view on encouraging games, laughter, and reflection rather than suppressing them in a classroom context. Dini focuses on hands-on projects and creative work that bridge the divide between academic disciplines and spiritual and psychological growth. For example: “Study the evolution of a quality across the centuries or through historical characters, explore what qualities were present at different times of the evolution of humans or the country”. These types of lessons have the potential to cultivate multiple aspects of a child’s spirit and mind, rather than forcing the acquisition of empty facts and figures at the expense of real critical thinking skills, emotional intelligence, and self-awareness. And this is what makes the book so interesting—the child’s natural curiosity and playfulness are channelled and transformed into extraordinary instruments of education: wonder becomes knowledge, as the author so beautifully puts it. I am keen to implement these sorts of lessons in my own classroom.
Crucially, Dini’s holistic approach to education seeks to bring out the different forms of intelligence inherent in all children. He stresses his firm conviction that every child is naturally gifted, each in his or her own way. Each child has “the potential to flourish while offering the world the best in her/him, and becoming an enlightened, supportive, caring, and dynamic human being, thus contributing to the well-being of all”. At the core of Dini’s theory of education and his slate of developmental activities is the notion that children are vibrant beings whose potential is waiting to be realised, as opposed to immature participants in a system that instructs, admonishes, and tests.
Another idea that is convincingly conveyed in Dini’s research on integral education is the importance of soft skills, such as the sense of communication, the ability to work in a team, leadership, integrity and ethics, the ability to learn new things, creativity, and the capacity to reason and problem solve. Soft skills are important—in the classroom and later in life. During group meetings, when an observation about a certain subject is brought up, often the immediate reactions that burst forth are criticisms and judgmental viewpoints. Such responses speak to an absence of teamwork and communication. In the ensuing chaos, positive change and progress are often shunted aside. Without the ability to adopt a global approach to problems and to listen effectively to one another, we fail to advance or manoeuvre improvement. Today’s students are tomorrow’s teachers, leaders, and global actors, and if we can consciously get away from this “academics only” perception and focus knowingly on these soft skills that Dini mentions, we will certainly create a better place in which to live and work.
Dini also refers to recent studies indicating the negative impact of performance ratings on the motivation of staff in multinational companies. These researches show that competence-based examinations do not work. He concludes: “It is therefore surprising that we impose upon children a system that is ineffective and too violent for adults!” Dini adds that “although evaluations are useful for students to become aware of their progress, in no case do they define the value of an individual”, suggesting a need to drastically reconfigure the way our modern, mainstream system of education measures a child’s intellectual or social capacity.
In 1962, the Mother had already spoken about this deeper dimension regarding tests, a discernment that we have to understand as teachers and parents:
Tests may be useful in giving you the academic worth of a child, but not his real worth. As for the real worth of a child, something else is to be found, but that will be for later on, and will be of a different nature. I am not opposing real worth to academic worth; they can coexist in the same individual, but it is a rather rare phenomenon which produces exceptional types of people. [CWM vol. 12, p. 324]
She further explained in July 1967:
Naturally the teacher has to test the student to know if he or she has learnt something and has made progress. But this test must be individual and adapted to each student, not the same mechanical test for all of them. It must be a spontaneous and unexpected test leaving no room for pretence and insincerity. Naturally, this is much more difficult for the teacher but so much more living and interesting also. [Ibid. 201]
Two concepts that I have always perceived as priorities in early education are very well illustrated and explained in this thoughtful work, namely transmission of human values in a natural manner, and reinforcement of constant generosity and understanding. This book will prove its worth to educators time and again.
Shoma completed her Higher Studies at SAICE, and a Masters in French Literature and an Executive Masters in Political Science in France, where she worked in policy implementation. In 2014, she relocated to Pondicherry and rejoined SAICE as a teacher.