As part of Sri Aurobindo’s 150th birth anniversary celebrations, the Hyderabad-based Institute of Human Study and Sri Aurobindo International School organized Aurovidya Seminar, a 2-day seminar at Champak Hills, Jangaon near Hyderabad. The intensive seminar explored the integration of New Education Policy 2020 and Integral Education as envisaged by Sri Aurobindo and the Mother.
Dr. Beloo Mehra from AuroBharati was invited to present a 4-hour workshop in the area of Vital Education, focusing on the character development aspect of education. Dr. Mehra collaborated with an AuroBharati resource person, Ms. Jayashree Ashok, the founder-director of Creative School, Bengaluru to design and conduct the workshop titled “Cultivating Character and Inner Beauty through Arts in Education.”
About 150 teachers from several schools around Hyderabad and Janagoan area attended the seminar. For several participants this was their first introduction to Integral Education. The seminar included a few plenary sessions which gave the participants a brief introduction to Integral Education and also brought up a few key points from Sri Aurobindo’s insights on a thoughtful National Education for India. One of the plenary sessions also discussed how some of the guiding principles of NEP 2020 find their origin in the philosophy and practice of Integral Education.
Several parallel sessions were organised to cover various domains of Integral Education, with mental education having the most sessions covering language learning, reading and comprehension, evaluation and assessment, and science learning. Two ex-students of the Sri Aurobindo International Center for Education conducted the session on physical education, and Mr. Arul Dev from Chennai conducted the session on psychic education.
Dr. Mehra and Ms. Jayashree conducted the parallel session on Vital Education. Their two 2-hour-long sessions were conducted over two days of the seminar under the title “Cultivating Character and Inner Beauty through Arts in Education.” About 28-30 teachers were part of this parallel session.
After a brief relaxation exercise and silence to invoke the Divine presence, Dr. Mehra began the session by giving the participants a brief introduction to vital education and the role of arts in aesthetic and character development of the learners.
Highlighting the point about teachers being an important example and influence for the children, she mentioned that teachers must constantly work on developing a deeper self-awareness of their vital nature, its impulses and movements and practice greater self-control and aspire for self-mastery. This is the best way to inculcate in the learners an aspiration for controlling and mastering their vital nature.
It was suggested that the usual methods often used in value-education such as suppression, coercion, abstinence and lecture don’t work because they essentially dry up the vital part in the being. And for a whole-person development collaboration of the vital is essential since that is the source of dynamism and creative energy.
Bringing up the point that NEP 2020 speaks of arts integration and use of stories as possible methods for highlighting the character development role of education, Dr. Mehra added that one can gain some keen insights on how to go about doing this from Sri Aurobindo both concerning the selection of curricular material as well as pedagogical approach when working with these methods. She illustrated this through a short story-telling session and recitation of some lines of a poem by Sri Aurobindo. A few stories told by the Mother were also shared with the participants and they were encouraged to work with them in composing short dramas with their colleagues and students when they go back to their schools.
A brief outline was also shared with the participants about some of the key points made by Sri Aurobindo in his essay – National Value of Art. Suitable examples from Indian cultural traditions were given to illustrate the aesthetic, educative and spiritual purposes of art. Ms. Jayashree also highlighted the sacred nature of teaching-learning process and emphasised on creating a beautiful classroom environment in the class as a pre-requisite to where values of peace, compassion and harmony can be facilitated.
The sessions on both days included several arts-based experiential activities for teachers. These included designing nature mandalas, working with flowers, movement in silence, awareness games, colouring mandalas and patterns. The deeper reasoning behind these games was also explained to the participants.
A couple of short videos about some of the vital education practices – Peace Corners and Sacred Environment – which are developed and being effectively used at Creative School in Bengaluru were also shown. The sessions were kept interactive and engaging for the participants.
On the evening of March 12, a cultural event was held in which children from Sri Aurobindo International School and New Creation – A Free Progress School enthusiastically presented drama, dance, poetry recitation and storytelling sessions.
An interest was expressed at the end to conduct future workshops covering each of the domains of Integral Education in greater depth.