A Modern day at the Gurukul for the MIT Students
India has been known as the land of holistic learning since time immemorial. All-round value-based education has been the hallmark of ancient India, which was also one of the economically, culturally, environmentally and spiritually richest countries in the world. Education played a vital role in this success story and stalwart teachers like Vishwamitra, Dronacharya, Sandipani, Chanakya, Vidyaranya Swami, Ramdas Swami and Ramakrishna Paramhansa have been churning out student jewels that shaped India’s glorious narrative from time to time. The forest-based Gurukuls of the rishi-scientists and the ancient universities like Takshashila and Nalanda helped create history in all walks of life. This rich Guru-Shishya tradition declined in the chaotic medieval period; but did not vanish and the resurgent India of the 21 st century shows signs of the revival of this classical education system.
The VishwashantiGurukul Schools (VGS) set up by MAEER’s MIT Group of Institutions, across Maharashtra are an excellent example of modern day holistic learning. Its unique style of functioning combines practical learning with classroom learning and ancient knowledge (including Yoga and Vedic chanting) with modern science (including robotics).
Excellence through Experiential Learning
The ancient Gurukuls use to sow the seeds of higher learning with a practical approach at the school level itself. For instance, such students used to successfully study plant taxonomy on the field under Ayurved, or administrative and governance related skills through case studies as per Arthashastra. Similarly, VGS follows a curriculum that covers both, classroom learning and hands-on experiences and field visits.
Shakespeare Literary Club for honing language skills, art and craft activities like Rakhi making, Environmental Club for connecting with nature and understanding scientific concepts through the Einstein House are some examples of the same. Students are given assignments of movie reviews and book reviews, at least once in a term. Short films that are age appropriate for screening are picked up for this purpose. For overall personality development, students have access to facilities for swimming, sports and boating. Activities like drama, dance, discussions, campaigns, street plays and lectures by guest speakers are organized. Visits to orphanages, old age homes, and clean and green programs are an integral part.
In order to help students excel academically in various subjects, Xseed curriculum is followed, which is: 1) Scientific (based on aims, activities, analysis, application and assessment); 2) Activity centric (focussing on application and writing skills, and developing questioning skills); 3) With books and videos that are very useful, primarily for laying a solid complex understanding.
With technology evolving at such a rapid pace and finding applications in all spheres of life, it is very essential to train the young minds both, in its usage as well as building scientific temper for future. State-of-the-art robotics labs are available, while the annual Junior Robocon event offers a platform for students to showcase their knowledge and creativity. Core subjects such as social studies, mathematics and English are taught using digital labs. Modern infrastructure in the form of laboratories enables experiential learning in science, language, mathematics, ICT and robotics. This also promotes critical thinking and skills such as problem solving and application.
Students are assessed from grades 1 to 10 against international benchmarks in core subjects, viz. English, mathematics and sciences; using tools developed by Australian Council for Educational Research (ACER) and other competitive examinations.
The very concept of blending ancient knowledge with modern disciplines results in an education system, which fosters excellence along with ethics. The inclusion of Yoga plays an important role towards this end. This is because Yoga does not just mean the physical Asanas, but an entire lifestyle prescription that advocates balance in every endeavour for all age groups. Yoga (derived from Samskrit word Yuja - to join the self with the cosmos) and value-based education (VBE) are thus related. Yoga in its entire form covers all aspects related to the body, mind, intellect and soul, by way of Asthanga Yoga with its 8 limbs - Yama, Niyama, Asana, Pranayam, Pratyahar, Dharana, Dhyan and Samadhi. Yoga supports in developing self-awareness and inner peace, and multiplying the inner potential that leads to spiritual evolution, while excelling in studies and career.
Initiating the students into the vast knowledge bank that is Yoga, at an early age, will create a firm grounding about the dos and don'ts of an ideal lifestyle and help in achieving the objectives of VBE. As a stepping stone, the unique World Peace Prayer, Vedic chants, Pranayam, Surya Namaskar, Asanas, learning of Bhagavad Gita and meditation are some of the yogic practices that are conducted periodically in VGS for this purpose. These are practiced in the residential schools and customized versions have been introduced for the day schools, based on the time available with students. One-to-one sessions with teachers (Gurus) are also conducted.
All this helps in implementing the value education curriculum that addresses the needs of the present times by developing innate human values among the youngsters, such as truth, love, peace, right conduct and non–violence. This enables the young minds to appreciate themselves and others, and to take greater responsibility for their actions and for the world around them. This program also helps to tackle classroom issues such as bullying and anti-social behaviour, and provides a foundation for better citizenship. Towards this end, Bhagavan Sri SatyaSai Education in Human Values (SSEHV) curriculum is implemented across all grades from 1 st to 10 th throughout the year.
Women empowerment has still a long way to go in many sections of the society. VGS equips girls to progress economically, while appreciating their unique role in the family/society, through workshops on gender sensitivity, personality, health and careers.
Faculty Enrichment and Audits
Students emulate and learn from their teachers. Keeping this basic fact in mind, faculty enrichment programs are conducted on a regular basis using modern teaching methods and teacher manuals in order to develop appropriate skills.
To ensure continuing quality, periodic reviews are very important. Academic audits, both external and internal, are undertaken to monitor and support the staff so as to maintain and raise the quality of learning. Continuous internal audits are conducted using standard observation tools and external audits are conducted twice in a year.