Educating the Character ~ Part 1

Since the dawn of civilization in human life, the primary goal of imparting knowledge was to guide the new generations towards the betterment of society and educate them with the necessary qualities required to achieve that goal. They learned through Smaranam (Listening), Mananam (Reflection), Nidhidhyasanam (Meditation). Listening itself was through being near the Guru (Teacher) and was the beginning of Upanishad. There are many Upanishads ~ more than 100, some say or claim it to be a number close to 108. About 1500 years ago, Shankaracharya, chose to comment upon 12 of them and today those twelve Upanishads are studied by those, who wish to sincerely learn about ‘Vedanta’ ~ The end of all knowledge. At Victorious Kidss Educares, we couple these principles and as was advised by Swami Vivekananda ~ towards education for the children of 21 Century ~ to couple Western Education of IB coupled with Vedanta. The stress and importance is towards, first building a good loyal, committed, truthful character ~ who has developed the will power, concentration ~ to learn and be able to apply in the real world?

In the ancient Indian era of the Aryans, the Gurukulam, or Gurukul was established as the core education system of South Asia, where the Shishya (the Students), for the entire duration of their learning process (education), be it a year or a decade, would live with and close to the Guru (the Teacher). When the Guru accepted someone as his Shishya, he would ask them to complete one task and the Shishya, after doing so, had to inform his Guru of how exactly they completed the task and what they learned during the process. The student could be a girl or a boy and the task could be anything, either studying the complex and challenging ancient texts, realizing it, becoming aware of it ~ like eating a mango and realizing, ‘what is a Mango?’ The task could be anything to do with sweeping the front yard, cooking, washing, weapon training or may be a simple household chore? Until the given task was completed and the Guru was convinced that his Shishya has learned the intended lesson and inculcated its knowledge in real life, the next task would not be initiated. This system, no matter how time-consuming it may have seemed, was sincerely doctrine and became yet more effective.

The goal was not to just provide information but utilizing it to improve the self-esteem, inquiry, stick ability, loyalty towards completion of a given task ~ and which in turn builds the Character. This system of education was considered prominent for centuries to come. Until, the Great War, which took the lives of millions, but ironically is also considered as the virtual pioneer of the great Industrial Revolution and the modern education system. The sheer necessity of manpower to refill the armies and military support during British Colonisation sowed the seeds of the British Education System in the land of various Commonwealth Nations which gradually devalued the traditional pedagogy as religion-driven and superstitious. And then mushroomed, a different Centre and State Board system of education. We were, as a process, made to write ten pages every day to improve our hand writings and in case there were any spelling mistakes, they were noticed, and our teachers asked us to write hundred times. Obediently, we did and in the bargain, even though we had learned how to write, we developed a frame of mind of hating the very processes of writing. The whole country dwindled?

Hence, by the eve of the Second World War, which was the early Nineteenth century, countries were flooded with English schools where students were commanded to attend at least Eight hours of lectures with nothing but a blackboard and bag full of books to impart multidimensional knowledge. The schools were also given an infrastructure of chapels. Wherein the children were indoctrinated to understand the Christianity, and many converted their ancestral religion. The children were made to belief that their own processes, be it living standards, or clothes or culture were inferior and learned to copy the Western ways of living. Our educators did not reflect that the European, Western civilisations were only about 1800 years old. Where as India ~ Bharat had prevailed for thousands (Nearest estimations were of 4000 years, some say of more than 6000) years of age?

As we entered this traditional system of education, hoping to find our true Purpose of life, we realized that here, to be accredited as “Educated”, you had to climb up an academic ladder of grades and graduations for over a decade only to discover that everything you learned seldom had any usages, in real life. And when you did face an unknown problem, all you could do was to solve it and you would have to undertake another series of courses to be credited as “Qualified”. Then tackle the herd of other such qualified people to get a job to become “Professional”, then repeat the same routine job for several number of years to be considered as “Experienced”, and by the time you were taken aback by your ageing body, you came to a realization that you spent the better part of your life making as much money as you could but your Purpose was nowhere to be found so you just held on to the “Default” purpose which society prescribed for all. And then spend the same money to regain your health back through hospitalisations or treatments?

All of it to only train you as a good employee of the society but not as a good Citizen. The conflicts and negations existing in our society are quite evident of the ‘Moral Crisis’ we face today. We have more passed out graduates than job openings and still, the country is suffering from a lack of ‘Qualitative Labor’. As per the latest statement of our Prime Minister Narendra Modi, “There are more than 600 million youths, who do not know, what their choices for the future employment be and are confused? Modernisation has accelerated to such a pace that today, for a student taking a ‘Three-Year’ Graduation course, the content s/he learns during his ‘First Year’ will, unfortunately, be outdated by the time s/he reaches the ‘Second Year’. This student will have the knowledge to solve a given problem but will lack the skills and confidence to solve the counter-problems created by his own outdated solutions. Everything therefore, can be boiled down to, not only to lack in the rate of Evolution of Academics but also to the lack of attention towards Mental, Physical and Spiritual development of a child which could also be described as ‘Character Building’.

Knowledge primarily comes from two sources, first, which is learned through Graphical sources like books and videos, and second, which is gained through experiencing the concepts via workshops and service learning. Skills can be developed through consistent actions willfully performed over a period of time. Values, on the other hand, are moral codes, beliefs, ethics, and concepts, which have been experimented since human civilization and accepted to be true for maintaining peace while evolving as a society. Character Education can be described as developing a relationship of ‘knowledge’, ‘skills’ and ‘values’ necessary for maintaining one’s moral while achieving any goal in life.

In the initial years of the 20th Century, ‘Character Education’ was adopted as an Umbrella term consisting Six Basic Pillars of attributes which are Mindfulness, Curiosity, Courage, Resilience, Fairness, and Leadership.

The rising tides of this Learning Revolution led to the creation of the most articulate and one of a kind teaching and learning pedagogy which is designed to help children inevitably inculcate those basic moral codes along with other essential human capacities to build not only National but Global Citizens which came to be known as ‘International Baccalaureate’ or simply ‘IB’. The curriculum is creatively assembled with Ten (10) key abilities for developing core personality of a child. These attributes combined can create learners of the world who are prepared to approach the worldly issues with an optimistic perspective with a challenge in their heart as well as with asking a lot of question (Inquiry)? Now, all these characteristics are catered to develop a child’s body-mind complex. But, when all is said and done, there is one other underlying factor which indirectly affects the Character through the mind and its body. If you observe, the ancient Gurukul system, in addition to providing worldly experience, the Guru also focused on developing the spiritual character of his pupils with a significant reason behind it.

A great amount of attention was attributed to ‘Inner Self’ with an aim to teach our children that truth and success is within you and not out there? India has always doctrine and Swami Vivekananda was the first Messenger, from India to carry that message to the World, in Chicago, USA, on 11 Sep ~ 1893 ~ “You are the children of Immortal Bliss”. The world shook and clapped for a monk from India! The ancient doctrines of Indian Vedas suggested that to develop our ‘Self’, as a complete being, we need to consider ourselves as not just a body-mind complex, but a body-mind-self complex. Here, the ‘Self’ refers to the ‘consciousness’ part of a human, which is independent of the body and mind and is responsible for the life force which in English is often termed as the ‘Soul’. Simply put, this self is the underlying Character which constantly learns and enables the physical and mental Character of a human to develop and reflect in their personality.

Hence, in 1997, Victorious Kidss Educares was founded with an intention to create ‘an ideal learning environment ~ as was foretold by the ancient Masters and guided by Swami Vivekananda ~ where the knowledge of this character building pedagogy of IB is catalyzed with the ancient wisdom of the Vedanta. The goal is to combine the Western Philosophy of Teaching & Learning’ ~ (which may educate the material aspects of a child’s character with the Eastern Knowledge and can educate the spiritual aspects of a child’s Character.

Continued in Part 2…

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