by Shraddhalu Ranade
Based on a series of teacher-training workshops conducted across India, this book aims to introduce and orient parents and teachers to integral education: a new approach to learning and teaching, a new attitude and mindset that focuses on responding to each child?s unique needs and learning style. Chapters are organised first to reveal the foundations of this new approach, then to provide strategies to help move from the old ways of teaching to the new, followed by practical classroom projects and techniques, and finally an examination of the kinds of changes teachers and parents must undergo to become the inspirational guides their students and children need.
Introduction to Integral Education: An Inspirational Guide by Sraddhalu Ranade shows how the guiding principles of Integral Education can be utilized in the classroom to make the education of both younger and older children interesting, enlivening, and effective. The author is a scientist, educationist, and scholar at the Sri Aurobindo Ashram in Pondicherry, as well as a highly regarded and well-known speaker on Sri Aurobindo’s and the Mother’s spiritual teachings. He has conducted intensive teacher-training workshops in Integral Education and value-based education all over India and abroad. The book is based on the transcripts of a series of such workshops led by the author; although the first half of the book was revised for publication the latter chapters were retained in their original format to maintain their informal, interactive flavor. There also is available separately as a companion to the book a set of six audio CDs or a single MP3 CD. While the book is based on a series of workshops, it is a well-organized and integrated exposition, and the writing is clear and concise. Adding to the book’s appeal and cohesiveness is the fact that it is beautifully illustrated with drawings that depict in clever and charming ways many of its key ideas.
Integral Education is an approach to education based on principles and guidelines laid out by Sri Aurobindo and the Mother and which form the basis of the Ashram’s school, the Sri Aurobindo International Centre of Education, where the author was educated. It is based on an entirely different view of the human being and of the educational process than that held by traditional schools and educators, and as a result it involves an entire restructuring of assumptions, attitudes, approaches, and methods together with the creation and development of new ones. For example, there is a basic shift from the communication and inculcation of information to one of the training and development of faculties such as observation, comparison, formation of associations, abstract thought, creativity, concentration, memory, emotional refinement, aesthetic sensitivity, enthusiasm, will-power, fine-motor skills, and others. It also is based on a view of the child as a soul that takes birth in this world in order to develop its innate capacities, in life after life, until it can freely and fully manifest the pure divine Bliss which is its origin. As such, the integral approach is much more one of awakening and bringing into perfect expression capacities which are seen as lying undeveloped or partially developed rather than one of imposing or transmitting new knowledge or skills. It also appreciates more fully than traditional approaches the differences in temperament, capacities, interests, and the natural speed and directions of development in individual learners, and aims to work in harmony with these natural variations. The book examines these fundamentals and explores their specific implications for classroom activities.
The author begins by contrasting the foundations of traditional education and Integral Education in a way that illuminates the revolutionary, paradigmatic shift that the latter represents, enabling the reader to identify and enter into the essential spirit of the new approach. Throughout the book, the author continually keeps his eye on the basic principles of Integral Education as he shows in concrete and specific ways how they can guide and inspire learning activities and instructor-student interactions. While introductory in nature, the book has a comprehensive feel to it because of this constant flow from basic principles to concrete methods in the classroom, its frequent contrasts between traditional and the Integral methods, and because of its treatment of the broad array of facets comprising Integral Education that deal with the many parts of the individual such as the physical, vital, emotional, logical, creative, motivational, psychic, and spiritual. It also examines the application of integral methods in a wide range of individual subjects. And it does not confine itself to examining even this rich and complex set of phenomena, but covers a variety of other important considerations such as the practical problems of integrating the new methods in an existing traditional structure, dealing with problems of discipline, developing methods of self-development for the teacher, and special considerations in the light of India’s historical development and future possibilities. While the book illustrates how the spirit and approaches of Integral Education can be expressed in the classroom in many concrete ways and methods, we realize that these are only selected examples and that the possibilities for the enrichment of the educational process through the creative application of integral principles are endless.
While there is a stress on the foundations of Integral Education and how they can be given form in the classroom, there is also a more personal and experience-based flavor to the book. We feel we are in the presence of someone who has thought deeply about the issues of Integral Education and who has seriously worked at trying to embody them in the classroom-and has learned and grown from this experience. To illustrate a principle or point, the author often uses an example from his own experience with one of his students, and sometimes from his own experience as a student with one of his teachers. He shares the wisdom he has gained and the experiences he has encountered interacting with various exceptional teachers and school principals in his visits to schools throughout the country. He also brings in analogies and vivid examples to help convey abstract ideas more tangibly. We see the author himself, learning and developing on the multiple levels of being from the physical to the spiritual while trying to foster a similar growth in others, teachers and students alike. We sense a wisdom that is based on a perceptive understanding and integration of many diverse strands of knowledge, experience, and growth in education and other fields.
Introduction to Integral Education: An Inspirational Guide is an important contribution to the growing body of literature on the subject, and will be appreciated by student and beginning teachers as well as by veterans. It would make an enriching adjunct for value-education teacher-training workshops. While primarily useful for classroom teachers of children, it should also be helpful to parents who would like to better understand their children and the possibilities of an integral approach to their development and education, and to others concerned with the subject of education. And for those who have a broader interest in the teachings and work of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother, it illustrates an important application of their spiritual insights into human development relevant to the world at large and its future progress.
– Larry Seidlitz
Larry was formerly a research psychologist in the U.S.A.; he now works at the Sri Aurobindo Centre for Advanced Research in Pondicherry facilitating online courses on Sri Aurobindo’s teachings.
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