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March 2007 Vedanta in Child Education - Raja Subramaniyan - Nithya Kalyani A person known to the authors, started going

to school only from the third standard. She had not attended Pre KG, LKG, UKG, 1st standard and 2nd standard. Although she wasted the first five formative years of schooling by running around the house/ garden and spending time with the members of her extended family, she is now one of the top executives in a leading corporate company in Chennai. 40 or 50 years back it was not uncommon to send children to school only after they crossed their sixth or seventh birthday. Now it is a crime if the child is sitting at home after crossing 2 years. Besides the anxiety of making the child eligible for the economic rat race, parents themselves are busy beating the competition. As a result, the child is waiting to get pushed into a school from the time he is born. It is not being suggested that the child should stay at home until he becomes 5 years old. Times have changed. From a joint family environment, which nurtured and enjoyed the child, we have now moved to a nuclear family set up. From the tradition of having an average of 5-6 children per household, we are moving to single child family. In this changed scenario, it is necessary to send the child to school from a very young age. In the absence of siblings to play with, the child is better off in a school. Right education: The question is; are they going to the right school? The answer is NO, atleast for a majority of the children. India is the home of ancient Vedic wisdom. Unfortunately, most of the schools follow the British system of education, which is completely antivedantic. This article discusses the right method of education based on the wealth of knowledge available in Vedanta and compares it with the criminal practices that are followed in most of the schools. The terms crime and criminal are used liberally in this article for a specific reason. It is a crime not to pay income tax. One cannot claim ignorance of the Income Tax Act and escape punishment. Similarly, living as Hindus in India, one cannot claim ignorance of the basic tenets of Vedanta. Many crimes are being committed in the education sector since people are ignorant of the vedantic truths. The West may be excused for following a scientific education system because they are not aware of the vedantic wisdom. We in India should abandon the current popular education system and switch over to a Vedanta based education system. This article focuses on the right system of education for children in the age group of 2 to 6 years.

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March 2007 Conceptual difference: Modern Indian education, which is of British origin, differs from Vedanta in the basic understanding of the human being. According to Vedanta, human beings have been born countless times, learnt lots in each birth and have undergone varied experiences before coming into this world. The West does not believe in rebirth. They assume that the baby is a first time visitor to the earth and therefore has a blank mind. Vedanta declares that rebirth is a fact. In addition, it clearly states what is reborn. At the time of death, the physical body alone is discarded. The subtle body leaves the physical body (death) and takes a new physical body (birth). The subtle body consists of 17 components (Mind, Intelligence, 5 Pranas, 5 Sense organs and 5 Action organs). Unfortunately, the educational systems that are widely prevalent in India are not built on this foundation. However, it is heartening to note that Dr Maria Montessori designed a system of education, which is solidly built on this Vedantic truth. Skills and Knowledge are brought from previous birth: Conventional education system believes that the child is an empty vessel waiting to be stuffed with varied skill sets and knowledge. This is far from the truth as declared by Swami Vivekananda. The goal of mankind is knowledge ... Now this knowledge is inherent in man. No knowledge comes from outside: it is all inside. What we say a man 'knows', should, in strict psychological language, be what he 'discovers' or 'unveils'; what man 'learns' is really what he discovers by taking the cover off his own soul, which is a mine of infinite knowledge. The Montessori system is fully appreciative of this truth and the system is built accordingly. It recommends that the single best thing a parent or a teacher can do is to accept each child as he is. We must understand that each child has different qualities, different skills, and different competence levels Therefore, it is essential that the system should expose him to a varied environment and experience so that he can develop his personality and skills in keeping with the potentialities that lie dormant within him waiting to be aroused and developed. Inequality: According to Vedanta, life is a journey towards perfection (enlightenment). It is impossible for anyone to reach this level of perfection in one lifetime. Using the freewill, every one is making progress at different rates. As a result, each human being is unique and different from others.

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March 2007 At birth, each child is unique and unequal. Montessori system recognizes this truth and encourages each child to progress (towards perfection) according to his own ability to progress. For example, a child may be intrinsically good at math (due to his being good at it in earlier births) he will show interest in it (vasanas) and advance in math much faster than other children. There is nothing to be awed at a child reciting hundreds of Thirukurals when he is barely 10 years old. These are due to accumulated efforts of previous births. Exposure is essential to kindle the spark lying within. Further development will happen through the initiatives of the child. Art, music or athletic skills are not gained through efforts made in one birth. If it were so all students in an mridangam class should do equally well under the same teacher. Why does one student grasp the nuances faster and better? That is because he ALREADY KNOWS. He needed the exposure to bring back what was dormant within, waiting to be tapped. Conventional education system expects all the students to perform according to the set standards. Montessori system does not have any standard to measure the children. This is in line with the truth revealed by Vedanta that each child is unique and unequal. Role of Vasana: Whatever actions we do repeatedly tend to leave strong imprints in our mind. These imprints, which cannot be changed easily, are called Vasanas. These Vasanas determine our likes and dislikes. We carry our likes and dislikes to the next birth. The influence of vasanas plays a major role in shaping the personality of a child. For example, Shri Aurobindo was shielded from the influence of Hindu religion and even sent away to England so that he may forget his Hindu moorings and adopt Western ways. However, Shri Aurobindos strong spiritual vasanas dragged him into spirituality. Two children brought up by the same parents in the same environment may show very different traits. Within the same family, one child may have a good handwriting; the other may not. One child may be friendly; the other may like to keep to himself. The current education systems continuously attempt (and invariably fail) to produce perfect and uniform students. In the process, the child is forced to do to do things contrary to his nature or liking. This is a crime. The Montessori System allows each child to grow and develop following his inner directives. It believes that the environment, the way the child has been brought up or genetics have little or no influence in shaping the personality, traits and interests of the child. The skills, traits and interests of each child are HIS choice determined by HIS vasanas.

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March 2007 The link between thoughts, words and actions: Vedanta very clearly lays down the relationship between thoughts, words and actions. The conventional system depends heavily on verbal instruction. This is comparatively less effective than the Montessori Method, which is in line with Vedanta, namely, Activity Based Learning. Actions make more striking, long lasting impressions. Therefore, Montessori methods provide varied materials, which help the child to develop desirable thoughts (and knowledge). The child has to actively engage with the material and learn for himself. This is possible because the material is self-corrective too. Active exploration leads to revival and discoveries of knowledge. Within each activity, he discovers a new concept. This encourages him to look for more and thus he begins his voyage of discovery. Thus, in a Montessori environment learning happens through varied activities. This is far more effective since the child keeps repeating the activity of his own interest until consolidation happens. Role of freewill and fate: It is said that the child already knows and he is not an empty vessel to be filled up. It is also said that the child comes with a specific skill set and vasanas, which cannot be changed easily. Therefore, one may wonder what the role of education system is in shaping the future of the child. The secret lies in understanding the role of freewill in determining the fate of a child. Contrary to the popular belief, Vedanta is not a fatalistic philosophy. It links freewill with fate. Fate is nothing but the results of past actions of the individual, which he has done using his freewill. Therefore, Vedanta declares, that the man alone determines his future by using his freewill. One of the founding pillars of the Montessori system is to give complete freedom to the child, which develops the usage of the freewill. In conventional system do this and dont do that are popular commands. In Montessori system, these commands are forbidden. The child is completely free to do or not to do any activity. Surprisingly, in addition to the development of freewill, this freedom develops a sense of self-discipline in the child. The freedom the child has and the fact that he finds out everything by himself builds immense selfconfidence. Concentration and interest in work happen because the child chooses what he wants to do and the teacher does not interfere needlessly. Therefore a child educated in the Montessori system, has better chance of shaping his future than his counterparts from the popular systems.

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March 2007 Link between Will Discipline and Action: Power/ The basic dictum of the Montessori Method is Follow the child. Curiosity to try out what is available or what another child succeeds at ensures all round learning takes place. There is a mixed age group and older children serve as good role models for younger ones to take on greater challenges. In short, the Montessori environment is a perfect setting for divine manifestation, in other words, selflearning. Self-learning Children love learning, if they are allowed to learn by themselves. In the Montessori System, the tools are the means of development. The preparation of the environment (classroom is called environment in Montessori vocabulary) is of great importance. The teacher or facilitator as she is known shows how the tools are to be used. There is no direct instruction of concepts. The child learns everything unconsciously by merely using the tools. This way there is no mental fatigue. Learning is unconscious and joyful. Most adults like to believe that they know and the child does not know. The tendency is to keep interfering and correcting. Mistakes help us to know what not to do if we are to succeed. The child will use all his mistakes to his advantage. The teacher needs to guide only when the child asks for it.

Vedanta prescribes dedicating ones work as an offering to God. One should strive to reach perfection in whatever action one likes to get involved. Human beings are inherently active and they cannot keep quiet. This innate quality in the child is leveraged extensively in the Montessori system. It conserves and directs this energy to the advantage of the child. Children love challenges. The secret is to give them suitable constructive work in the form of small challenges. Completion of a task with no help from the adult gives him immense satisfaction boosts his self-esteem and motivates him to take up another task. Here we lay the foundation of will power and healthy personality development. Will power disciplines the mind. Divine manifestation: Every child that comes into the world is a manifestation of the divine force. This force will manifest itself automatically with or without the active participation by the environment. Swami Vivekananda says, Education is the manifestation of the perfection that is already in man Montessori recognizes this fact and does not attempt to educate or teach the child. The child has an innate urge to grow and manifest.

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March 2007 Inculcation of values: Conventional system forces the children to do the right things and punishes if they do something wrong. This results in forced correction in action and NO correction in the attitude of the child. The Montessori system simply shows them the right attitude. Even a mat is unrolled with care and devotion. The sanctity attached to every movement and every action forms strong impressions and becomes a habit. Children are intrinsically good and want to be good. Showing the right attitude, and being a good role model, helps to reinforce the good values in the child. There is no preaching, but rather a quiet revelation of the goodness within. If the child still chooses to be otherwise, one must still respect the child for what he is. The child should not be criticized or compared. He is not being bad intentionally. Swami Vivekananda says, Condemn none: if you can stretch out a helping hand, do so. If you cannot, fold your hands, bless your brothers, and let them go their own way. It is not possible to remove bad values and implant good values in anyone at our will. This process takes thousands of births. Our duty is to offer an environment with good values and allow the child to pick up as much as he can. Theory of Karma: One of the basic tenets of Vedanta is that every action will earn appropriate result. This relationship of action-result transcends the limitation of birth and death. We will invariably earn merits for our good action and suffer for our bad action in this birth or in our future births. Adi Sankara says, The result of your action will reach you as surely as a calf will find its mother amongst thousands of cows If we do good action, we will reap the benefit in the form of success in life. We will meet with failures if we do not have adequate accumulated positive results. Montessori recognizes the fact that there is no formula for success. We cannot create a winner. We must understand that everyone has different competence levels, which may or may not lead to success in life. Our duty is to help the child grow to his full potential.

There is no luck or chance Contrary to popular belief, there is no direct correlation between success and hard work/ intelligence. Not all those succeed in life are intelligent or hard working. Not every intelligent hard/smart worker succeeds in life. Some may talk about luck as essential requirement for success.

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March 2007 They will attribute success to the parentage, environment, situations and opportunities for some selected lucky people. This is due to the ignorance of theory of karma. There is no place for luck or chance in anyones life. These factors themselves are determined by the results of the past actions of the concerned lucky people. Success is the result of the cumulative effect of the good actions done by the individual in the present and the past births. Intelligence, hard work, being smart, multi skilled, well organized, striving for perfection, perseverance and such attributes are incidental to a successful man. Mere presence of any or all these attributes in anyone does not bring about success. Therefore, Montessori Method does not give undue importance to these attributes. If they are present in the child, the system encourages it; else, it does not make the child feel inadequate. Concept of swadharma: Vedanta emphasizes the importance of working in the area of personal liking. On the other hand, the popular education system expects the child to choose the profession that makes more money and brings in success in life! A successful man may not be happy. A simple man living in harmony with the world around him may be a happy man. Happiness lies in doing what one wants to do or to take it further liking what one does. Montessori system encourages the child to grow in his own chosen field of work (swadharma) in line with the prescription of Vedanta. The child has the inert power to develop and evolve himself to a stage of perfection. He will not stop until he understands the mystery of himself and the world around him. Happiness is his nature: Vedanta declares that the basic nature of the human being is happiness. All the suffering he undergoes is due to ignorance of this fact. A newborn child reveals this truth perfectly, by being happy without any external entertainment. Conventional educational system progressively kills this natural happiness and forces the child to think he is inadequate. This is proved by the fact that majority of the children do not want to go to school. For our ignorance of Vedanta, we are punishing the children by compelling them to get educated in the wrong environment. Montessori system on the other hand, offers the right environment for the child to be himself. It does not expect him to change at all, except what is natural of him. Be yourself. This is the greatest teaching of Vedanta and Montessori system follows it in its true spirit.

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March 2007 Checklist for right education: Parents of children in the age group of 2 to 6 can use this checklist to verify whether the education system that is offered in the school is Vedanta based educations system. Activity Based Learning Children should never be asked to sit in a row facing the black board. All learning should be activity based. Freedom: Whether at home or at school there should be no compulsion of any sort. Mixed Age group It is essential that the children be in a mixed age group. Ideally in a classroom children from 2 to 6 years should be together. The practice of segregating children based on their age (into LKG, UKG etc) is not in the best interest of the children. No books/ No Notebooks The child should not be asked to buy/ bring any books or notebooks. skills of a child with others. Each child is different and it is impossible to name any one trait or skill as the necessary or important trait/ skill. It is like comparing a turtle with a hare and call it as a slow runner OR make it win and brand the hare as a lazy overconfident creature. Either way it is wrong. No competition Whether in sports or in academics there should not be any competition. The system of encouraging the child by awarding prizes and certificates makes the 98% of the children feel wanting or inadequate Every child is perfect as he is and the system of selecting one or two based on some arbitrary parameters does great harm to the society. Punishment A child should not be punished at all. He should be controlled sternly if he attempts to hurt anyone, intends to cause damage to materials, or behaves violently. It is criminal to punish the child for not learning, not memorizing, not listening to the teacher and for not falling into the groove. It is the fault of the adult to expect the child to listen to the teacher. Conclusion Integrating Vedanta in the primary schools can come about only when the parents insist on Montessori System of education to their children.

No Homework: The child should not be given any homework at all. It is expected that the child does not carry anything other than food/water to school. It is essential that the family spend the time with the child to compensate for the hours spent away from home. No comparison There should not be any system of comparing the performance, traits or

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