Educational Process

Overview: Educational Process

Realising Shibumi’s intent as an educational process is an ongoing exploration. There are fundamental truths that are the basis of the whole movement of learning.

Fear cannot be the foundation of learning. Neither can competition and comparison; nor can reward and punishment.

Our concerns are:

  • To convey a sense of the richness and vastness of the whole movement of the world as well as the freshness of each day and the life around us.
  • To help the learner to have quietness and a meditative quality.
  • To see that the learner is in an environment of nurturing, care and love.
  • To convey a sense of freedom to every learner and make him/her understand the responsibility that goes with it.
  • All aspects of a learner’s growth are valuable and not just any one area.

It is essential that all learners should have skills. However, if acquiring skills is driven by the ambition of worldly success, then it becomes a hollow and limiting process. The acquisition of skills should follow and not precede the intelligence which comes from looking, listening, and observing, free of the directed activity of thought.

Adult-assisted self-learning ensures that each child progresses at the pace that is right for him/her. It also creates a sense of responsibility for one’s own learning from an early age.

Vertical grouping makes for healthier peer dynamics as well as help minimize comparison in the mind of the learner as well as the adult. Pressure to perform can have serious effects on the psychological growth of a child. The urge to discover, the ability to work hard, the capacity to question – these are the true milestones of a learner’s journey.

Group activities and other activities such as exposures, workshops, and apprenticeships form an important part of the programme. Each learner will be required to attend exposures and also take up projects of his or her interest. This is essential to allow for the growth of confidence in one’s own interest and skills and not in an external measure such as tests, marks, and examination results. However non-comparative evaluation of skills acquired is possible and essential to the learning process.

Dialogue between educators and children, parents and educators, and children and their parents, is an essential part of this educational process. We would like all we do at Shibumi to be linked harmoniously to the home, so that the learner, the parents and the educators can move together.

Physical fitness, taking care of the body and eating healthy food are a priority at Shibumi. Therefore dance, sports, and games, walks, and treks find an important place in the educational process. We offer healthy, simple vegetarian food.

Caring for the campus by doing the physical chores oneself brings about an awareness of the importance and dignity of physical labour. This removes the attitude of taking for granted that others are there to do the “dirty work”.

Excursions form an important part of the curriculum not only for cultural exposure but also to bring about a deep relationship with rivers, mountains, forests and the sea. Working with one’s hands and mind in doing art, craft and other practical activities is an essential part of the programme. A love for music is nurtured.

Contact with nature brings about a sensitivity which is not measurable but is essential for the coming upon a holistic quality of mind . These are times when there is an opportunity for the brain’s continual and inconsequential chatter to slow down and perhaps even end. Time to be alone and quiet is part of one’s daily life at Shibumi.

Educational Philosophy

From a letter to the schools by J. Krishnamurti

Teachers or educators are human beings. Their function is to help the student to learn not only this or that subject, but to understand the whole activity of learning; not only to gather information about various subjects, but primarily to be complete human beings. These schools are not merely centres of learning; they must be centres of goodness and bring about a religious mind.

All over the world, human beings are degenerating to a greater or lesser extent. When pleasure, personal or collective, becomes the dominant interest in life – the pleasure of sex, the pleasure of asserting one’s own will, the pleasure of excitement, the pleasure of self-interest, the pleasure of power and status, the insistent demand to have one’s own pleasure fulfilled – there is degeneration. When human relationships become casual, based on pleasure, there is degeneration. When responsibility has totally lost its meaning, when there is no care for another or for the earth and the things of the sea, this disregard of heaven and earth is another form of degeneration. When there is hypocrisy in high places, when there is dishonesty in commerce, when lies are part of everyday speech, when there is the tyranny of the few, when only things predominate, there is the betrayal of all life. Then killing becomes the only language of life. When love is taken as pleasure, then human beings have cut themselves off from beauty and the sacredness of life.

All this indicates, doesn’t it, that man, in spite of his vast knowledge and extraordinary capacities, his driving energy and aggressive action, is on the decline? This calculated self-centredness with its fears, pleasures and anxieties is evident throughout the world.

What, then, is the total responsibility of these schools? Surely they must be centres for learning a way of life that is not based on pleasure, on self-centred activities, but on the understanding of correct action, the depth and beauty of relationship, and the sacredness of life. When the life around us is so utterly destructive and without meaning, these schools, these centres, must become places of light and wisdom. It is responsibility of those who are in charge of these places to bring this about.

As this is urgent, excuses have no meaning, either the centres are like a rock round which the waters of destruction flow, or they go with the current of decay. These places exist for the enlightenment of humanity.

(p. 106, ‘The Whole Movement of Life is Learning’, J Krishnamurti’s Letters to His Schools)

Stages of learning

Age 6–11
Early years

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.

Age 11–15
Middle years

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.

Age 15-17
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.

Age 17–19
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.

Age 19
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.

Being a Resource Centre: Implications for School-leaving Certification

It must be emphasized that those who wish to have a certification have to take the responsibility to register as private candidates for the IGCSE/ GCE exams (Cambridge University) which are recognised in India and the world over. The association of Indian universities formally recognizes IGCSE and GCE (A levels) respectively as equivalent to the tenth and the twelfth standard examinations in India.

Frequently asked questions

Is this centre suitable for all children, or do some children need more structure?

We are committed to working with parents who are concerned with the total intent of Shibumi. It is not a question of ‘more’ or ‘less’ structure but of the appropriate structure for each child. Since the educational programme is individualised, keeping in mind each learner’s specific needs, the kind of structure would vary from person to person.

Does Shibumi welcome children with learning disabilities?

We may not have the skills to respond to specific learning disabilities adequately. However, provided the parent/s is interested in the total intent of Shibumi, we would not automatically reject such children. We shall try our best to see if, given our limitations, we can integrate them in Shibumi’s educational programme.

IGCSE Examinations: is the certificate recognised in India? In Indian institutions of higher education or for jobs, etc? How about the IITs and IIMs?

Yes. There is legally no bar against IGSCE/GCE in any school or college in India, and the larger, better known colleges (for example, St. Stephen’s or St. Joseph’s) recognise the Cambridge certificate. In other smaller colleges, a Cambridge board student would be completely eligible on producing an ‘Equivalence Certificate’. An Equivalence Certificate converts Cambridge grades into equivalent marks in the ISC system. Any student may ask for this certificate. This is as good as having an Indian exam certificate, so there is absolutely no problem. Of course, the subjects that the student chooses in school will have a bearing on the student’s eligibility for college courses.

At what age will learners start giving exams? How will children cope with exams if they haven’t done any earlier?

When the learner decides on a certification the first exam will be IGCSE which can be taken at 16.. However, learners can take exams at different ages depending on their skills and readiness. Training for examinations starts formally at age 15 of the child. There will be no exams before the IGSCE, but training the child to be able to give the exams confidently is our responsibility.

How will children be assessed? How do they move to the next level?

Our experience has shown that non-comparative and non-judgemental assessment is not a problem when the learner and the educator are co-operating. It happens naturally when the educator and learner are looking at the work done and making sure that there is clear understanding of the subject.