Creating laboratories of learning!


Schools have a moral undertaking: they are not just for imparting knowledge to students. They have to care and be responsible for the development of children in a complex democratic society. In fact, we need to create laboratories of learning. Let’s see how.

The school, home and community are a melting pot of emotions, desires, attitudes and aspirations. The energies that reside in these places are positive because learning, values and education are an integral part of all of them. However a great deal lies at a subconscious level within the collective humanity that inhabits these places. Thoughts of religious intolerance, stress disorder, child neglect, caste and community feelings, environmental insensitivity and personal competition – all create an atmosphere of discord. The mind is a garden that contains seeds of understanding, forgiveness and love along with seeds of ignorance, fear and hatred that make us violent or peaceful, understanding or intolerant.

Renu Vashishtha
Renu Vashishtha

An enriched nurturing environment will help to water the positive seeds and weed out the negative ones. A thinking school can create a learning environment filled with compassion and communication.

An enlightened educator would look dispassionately at her own personal vision and mastery before the shared vision process begins. How do we communicate? What pressures are we under? How do we respond? Do we give enough of our time? Are we mindful of the vision, goals and feelings of children we interact with? Are we watering the right seeds?

Teaching is a moral undertaking: it is not just a set of technical skills for imparting knowledge to students. It involves caring for children and for being responsible for their development in a complex democratic society. Teachers need to think not just about the “means” by which they teach but the ‘ends’ they are teaching for. And that places a heavy obligation on those who teach.
Recognition is perhaps the most important aspect of nurturing. ‘I see you’ is the ability to recognize each other’s identity and value. Among the tribes of northern Natal in South Africa, the most common greeting equivalent to hello in English is the expression: Sawu bona. It is literally means, ‘I see you.’ If you are a member of the tribe, you might reply by saying Sikhona, ‘I am here. The order of the exchange is important. Until you see me, I do not exist. It’s as if, when you see me you bring me into existence. It’s the same with children, if we don’t bring them into existence, they will remain invisible, irrespective of their nature.

There is no guidebook that can automatically sort out ethical dilemmas for us in a world where interpretations are ambiguous and awareness is incomplete. The greatest teachers whether the Buddha, Christ, Ramakrishna or Nanak, never taught in classrooms. They had no blackboards or charts. They used no subject outlines, kept no records, and gave no grades. Their students were often poor and their methods were the same for all who came to hear and learn. They opened eyes, ears and heart with faith, truth and love. They won no honour for their wisdom or expertise. And yet, these quiet teachers fulfilled the hopes and changed the lives of millions.

The concept of education has differed greatly from its context. Every human’s conceptual value is bilateral like love, growth and harmony and contextual aspects are unilateral like hate, injustice and violence. Learning has no place for exclusives. We have to continually create an environment whereby our schools and home become laboratories of learning, compassion, pre-emptive justice, empathetic listening, reflective thinking and a concern for rural, national and global issues.

Renu Vashishtha is Managing Trustee of Prasang Vashistha Charitable Trust and Founder Director of Bakhal Pre School Curriculum Developers. She wants to spread happiness via Be PRASANG Be Joyous Emotional Well Being Movement. She also helps the underprivileged section of the society for their children’s education, health and hygiene etc.