We all know that visitors to our schools, professional or otherwise, go back with a feeling that here is an educational environment that is friendly, warm, inviting; that this is basically a happy community of teachers and students who go about their activities joyously and yet seriously. This is also one reason why parents are keen to place their children under our care. This respect for right relationship as being essential for creating the right atmosphere for learning is reinforced in the various contributions that have been made to both the previous and the present issue of the Journal.
Another widely prevalent experience that teachers shared lies in their commitment to more creative approaches to classroom teaching, approaches that promote processes of enquiry, investigation, discover and self-learning, often relating what is learnt in class to life around. There is also evident in the writings of an abiding concern for linking education to nature. We are happy that the Journal offers teachers a forum for articulating and sharing new insights.
Some questions emerge that need to be addressed. I presume that our aim in expecting students to wade through predominantly knowledge-based curriculum is not just to develop various intellectual powers such a logic, reasoning and so on but that it would result in a certain basic understanding of the essential concepts inherent in a field of knowledge. It is here that our assumptions may not be correct and much more work needs to be done. A review of Howard Gardner's book, The Unschooled Mind that appears in this issue raises relevant questions. Perceptive educators have always been concerned about 'the gap that might exist between what passes for understanding and genuine understanding'. It is necessary that some specific studies are undertaken at various levels in our schools to understand this phenomenon. In days of yore when an almost one-to-one communication was possible between teacher and pupil in an ashram-setting in India, and when the curriculum was life itself, the Guru watched with a keen eye to see if what had been 'learnt' was reflected in his pupil's behaviour. Today, our challenge is much more complex.
Then again, in our expositions of the philosophy of our schools we often refer to the 'other' dimension of learning, the non-accumulative, that which is drawn from the book of life itself as being a distinctive feature of the teachings. Here too there is a whole world to be explored in regard to education.
In the first instance, we are hampered by a self-created dilemma (all dilemmas are essentially self-created, aren't they?) in that we are prone to regard both these streams (the additive based on the pursuit of knowledge and the non-accumulative based on pure observation) as pure streams, different from each other. Necessary, perhaps, when articulating a new philosophy; yet any divisive approach to the two in actual practice in school could retard true understanding. It is not as if we embrace one kind of approach when dealing with academics and quite another during what we call 'K time' or 'Culture Classes'. The educational process must be regarded as one integral whole so that an artificial division does not take root in the mind. The more open and attentive we are to ourselves, to children and to our tasks at hand, the more we are able to see the movement of learning as one.
I am reminded of a conversation I had with Krishnaji in the very early days of my initiation into the K-world. I had taken responsibility for running one of our places and was beginning to feel my way into it. On one occasion I was happily describing to him our attempts at revamping the junior school curriculum for he always wanted to know everything that was happening. He listened carefully. Then he asked: 'What do you teach when you teach history, science or maths?' Several suggestions were offered. Neither accepting nor rejecting any, he pursued with his question: 'What do you teach when you teach a subject?' (I was to learn later that this was his way of challenging you to stretch your mind.) He questioned and probed till he helped you see the truth of a remarkable statement he made at the end: All you teach is attention! Is attention , then, the clue to the whole process of living and learning?
The articles in this issue reflect these and other concerns. We express our gratitude to all those who have contributed articles and to all those who worked behind the scenes to make this publication possible.