|OCT 2011 Theosophical Education at Golden Link College||» Articles Index|
Theosophical education from kindergarten to university
Based on the belief that individuals must discover the core values of their lives for themselves free from fear, coercion and prejudice, the Golden Link College is committed to education as a preparation for life and not just as a means to earn a better living. Through innovative teaching methods that respect and nurture the individuality and creativity of its students, it integrates the physical, emotional, intellectual and spiritual aspects of their growth in a well-rounded programme. Teaching students to embrace their common humanity and to recognise their place in the web of life, the college strives to honour many faiths. It holds the conviction that individuals who are at peace with themselves will ultimately create a world at peace.
Theosophical education, as we understand it, has two facets:
At nursery and primary levels, the Golden Link College focuses on the first aspect – the development of a wholesome character and inner faculties. For high school, collegiate level and faculty members, the school stresses both: character and knowledge of the ageless wisdom (in addition of course to the standard government-prescribed curriculum).
The Golden Link College offers now the following courses:
I. The development of wholesome character and inner faculties
The primary importance of the first facet mentioned above (the development of character and inner faculties) has been repeatedly stressed by H. P. Blavatsky and many theosophical leaders. Allow me to quote two of them. The first is from Madame Blavatsky:
The second is from N. Sri Ram, fifth President of the TS, in one of his On the Watch-Tower commentaries:
Many visitors, including foreign theosophists, who come to the Golden Link College campus have commented that they are struck first and foremost by the exceptionally loving atmosphere amongst students and teachers. This indeed, with all the school’s shortcomings, is what is intended. Many factors come into it, such as the absence of the use of fear as a motivation in the education of the children; the genuine care of many of the teachers; and the absence of competition in student activities and programmes. This is tough for most new teachers who are told as soon as they are hired that they cannot use intimidation, shouting, and fear to make the students do things; they get frustrated and cry in the first few weeks because the traditional methods are the only methods they know in teaching. But we think that this quality of drawing out the best in a child through a loving relationship is a very important element of a truly theosophical education. It is something that is very, very hard to implement in almost any school that does not have a deeper philosophy of human growth and development.
Character building is a complex art and science because human nature (including that of children and youth) is so complex. In facing many and varied situations, the teacher must respond from the heart and not from a discipline manual, from love and understanding rather than from counting of merits and demerits. These qualities take years to develop in young teachers, but they are the necessary ingredients in right education. Golden Link College makes use of insights from the self-transformation process, which is rooted in the theosophical philosophy, in the nurturing of these qualities in teachers.
Through the years, we have seen the results of such an approach. Despite the fact that we don’t use fear, intimidation or punishments (we use consequences, when necessary, such as paying for a broken chair), the students are remarkably (although not perfectly) well-behaved, respectful, helpful and happy. In fact, we don’t have what are called ‘problem students’ (if anything, we have problem parents!). This is so despite the fact that Golden Link College has been admitting students who have been expelled or not accepted in other schools due to their previously ‘unacceptable’ behaviours. Some of our students have been transferred from two or three schools before coming to Golden Link College. After they are admitted to Golden Link College, their behaviour and attitude change remarkably within six months. The reason, to my mind, is very evident and simple. Every child becomes a balanced child in an atmosphere of love, orderliness, respect and challenge. The motivation for destructive or anti-social behaviour disappears. Happy children tend to become good children. Virtues sprout easily and naturally in such an atmosphere and environment.
Golden Link College seems to have developed a reputation in the community for effectiveness in dealing with ‘problem’ children. This probably explains why we have an unusually high percentage of boys enrolled.
In reading this, please don’t think that Golden Link College has a utopian environment. It is as imperfect as the people who run it. New teachers will always carry with them their own past conditionings (e.g. irritability, a tendency to feel personally insulted by small offences, impatience, personal and family problems, etc.) as well as their old teaching methods (the use of denigration, measurement by exams and grades, wanting to finish the textbook, etc.). It takes years for them to unlearn these conditionings and methods. There are of course regular assessments (equivalent to examinations) but the purpose is mainly to determine the weaknesses of the students in specific subjects or what they have not understood. This guides the teachers in deciding whether to repeat a lesson, to modify the teaching approach, to have special enhancement classes, etc. It also helps the school to identify advanced students who are ready for more challenging tasks.
In the light of our different approach to education, it became necessary for the Golden Link College to set up its own Teacher Education programme, that is, Bachelor degrees in Elementary and Secondary Education. This started in June 2009. Thus Golden Link School became a college.
There are other things that are done naturally as part of this philosophy of education. For example, meditation is taught and the secondary students observe ten minutes of silence regularly during normal school days. Elementary students go through five to ten minutes of silence regularly depending upon the age bracket.
Children are treated as evolving souls. They are taught how to recognise negative emotions and handle them constructively. Teachers learn how to recognise tension and defuse it as soon as it develops.
There is no practice of a specific religion; instead, reverence for the divine in all and sensitivity to all forms of life are taught. Loving attention is drawn to the animal, insect life and plant life on campus: the fish, dragonflies, butterflies etc. The children are taught – and teach each other – never to harm an insect or animal in the garden. In fact one day a group of students ran up to the Administrator’s office on the second floor with the urgent news that a dragonfly had died!
All meals served in the College canteen are vegetarian, something quite rare in the Philippines but well accepted by our parents and children. We hope to have a small animal farm one day where students can feed and take care of rabbits, turtles, chicks, etc.
II. Teaching the theosophical philosophy
When is theosophy as a body of knowledge taught?
1. Secondary Students
2. Faculty and staff
The incorporation of elements of the theosophical philosophy and way of life into the curriculum and campus life has been done rather naturally, and not through systematic design and implementation. It is continually evolving and developing. In an important sense, the campus is something like a secular ashram, a centre for inner growth, not only for the students but for the entire faculty and staff.
Since it is evolving and developing, we would greatly welcome the comments, inputs and suggestions of readers on how it may be improved.
Top | Articles-index | Homepage