The primary emphasis of the educational programme for younger learners (ages 6 to 11) is on awareness and observation. The emphasis is on order that comes through attention rather than through structure. When thought follows and does not precede perception, insight is possible. Our concern in education is to move from insight to insight and not from conclusion to conclusion. All skill building is only in the context of looking, listening, and observation. Therefore, the skill-set acquired is unique to each child and does not allow for comparison or measurement. The emphasis is not on books. We would like young learners to understand the world and themselves through direct contact and interaction, and not through the accumulation of knowledge. They are naturally curious, so questions are asked and explored in a gentle, spontaneous way. We provide the space for learners to look around and discover things on their own. Together we explore the world through long nature walks and visits to other places of interest. They are exposed to a variety of experiences that foster keen observation, interest and total involvement, and nurturing and keeping the senses alive. To an adult accustomed to equating learning with acquisition of knowledge, it might seem that no learning is happening. On the contrary, a “vacant” mind not preoccupied with the acquisition of skills and knowledge or anything else is in a profoundly creative state of learning.
In Shibumi, adults and children together take care of plants and animals, and clean and care for the spaces we work in. Some of the other activities are sketching, baking, reading, working with clay, making toys and measuring things. We do not separate learning from day-to-day living. Equal importance is given not only to observe the world around but also the reactions, conclusions, and patterns which may be forming in the child. This observation helps free the mind of patterns so that every perception is fresh and direct. There is alertness to the danger of choice, conformity, and casualness.
It is important to emphasise that the whole concern of education is the deepening and maturing of attention and sensitivity. It would be a mistake to assume that the primary years are for the maturing of attention and the later years for building on this. Throughout the programme, there has to be the concern with attention, in providing spaces for it to deepen into itself. That being understood, we can examine what is appropriate in the middle years.
Certainly the intellect is ready for a greater degree of conceptualization and abstraction and this is reflected in the expansion of the learning activities that the learner is exposed to. Each area of study has its particular discipline and a mode of enquiry which is relevant to intellectual development. The rigour of science is different from the rigour of history and both are necessary, though the degree of exposure may vary from learner to learner.
This is also the stage when there is a greater growth of autonomy in the learner. This has to be respected and made a part of the learning. The learner is encouraged to take greater responsibility for his/her academic work and other activities. The educator increasingly is a facilitator and co-ordinator rather than an initiator of activities. These are the years when the learner needs to get grounded in taking care of the body, exercising and stretching the limits of one’s own physical stamina and capacity. She begins the discovery of her particular talents, takes on responsibilities for tasks in the community, and learns to move around independently in the city and elsewhere.
Sexuality becomes an important aspect of the learner’s life. The learner must meet it factually and sensitively without letting it overrun into the psychological realm, creating complexities and confusion in identity and relationship. For some, physical desire can be a tremendous burden leading either to coarseness or suppression and feelings of guilt. The learner has to be helped to unravel the associations between the biological movement of sexuality and psychological movement of thoughts, with its creation of images and the obsessive seeking of pleasure. All this is the responsibility of the adult community.
Educator assisted individualized learning continues in vertical groups. The building of basic skills in the different disciplines becomes more formalized with the use of graded material. Projects and field work are part of the programme, as well as activities such as drama, music art and craft. Learners are introduced to a wide variety of reading material in the areas of science, literature, and the social sciences. Workshops and exposures form an important part of the educational programme.
Secondary school certification / IGCSE
Most learners start examination preparations when they turn 15. By this time s/he, in consultation with parents and educators, will have chosen the subjects for certification. The educators will guide and support a period of systematic study so that the learner feels confident and completely ready for the examination. This includes content coverage as well as preparation for the actual examination. This is the first examination for the learner and every care is taken that s/he meets it with confidence and performs at her highest capacity so that there is a feeling of confidence and wellbeing in the experience.
Though examination preparation forms an important activity in the learner’s life at this time, other activities continue to be given attention. These include taking care of the body, working at a skill of special interest, working for the community, participation in dialogues where fundamental issues are raised and discussed, and time for being alone and quiet.
Workshops and exposures continue for the learner, and apprenticeships start becoming an important part of the educational programme at this stage.
High School Certification/GCE A-Levels
The learner’s entry at this level is not automatic. We do wish to admit only those learners who have shown an interest in the deepest intent of the centre, its fundamental concerns and exploration in enquiry. It will be treated as a fresh application even for existing Shibumi learners based on discussions between teachers, learners and parents.
This is the period, beyond the first exam, when the learner begins to focus on activities which are of special interest to him/her and which lead on to higher studies and a vocation. The learner has one more set of examinations at the 12th grade (GCE/A levels) before schooling is formally over.
Apprenticeships form an important part of the educational programme at this stage.
A Post School Programme
For those learners who have become deeply interested in the dialogues and enquiries, which have formed an important part of their life, we offer a Post School programme. This will be an opportunity to explore the teachings of Krishnamurti more intensely and to discover how to earn a livelihood which is meaningful and which comes out of a sense of responsibility to all of mankind.