The School of Total Education, Warwick, Queensland, Australia


photo: Richard Waters

Often as I am reading educational articles and opinion pieces about how education can be improved, I am struck by the fashionable but somewhat slavish attachment to what are called “evidence-based approaches”.

Research is clearly based on evidence and it is good to have a factual basis to what we do, but it’s a bit like the Bible and Old Testament scholars who debate endlessly with different viewpoints rigorously referenced to texts from the Bible and yet they cannot come to agreement. So, while evidence is important and a rational approach is valuable, I can’t help feeling that there’s something missing.

What’s missing is the use of intuition, the application of wisdom and the voice of experience. Education is an art more than a science. It is a field crucial to human growth and development and deals with those unpredictable mysterious and wonderful people called children. Education and the development of teachers in particular needs to have a human dimension, it needs to have the application of love and care as well as intellectual knowledge and evidence-based approaches.

Total Education focuses on these non-rational (not irrational) elements in its perspective on understanding and improving education.

We welcome your feedback or reflections on what you read here via email at

Richard Waters


Valuing Stillness

Richard Waters recently addressed SOTE parents on the topic of Valuing Stillness which is a key part of Total Education. “For children it’s not always easy to make the transition from activity to stillness. Some children even find quietness threatening, as if they find it difficult to be in their own company. In this case, children need something to focus on rather than just quietness or nothing. This is where music can really help because it gives the mind something to focus on, and yet the music chosen can be such that it is a settling kind of music … At home, parents need to find opportunities for children to be more settled or quiet. Turn off the TV. Turn off the computer. Go outside. Do something that involves getting into nature.” Read more…

Building Resilience in Children and Young People

Psychologist Mark Carey spoke on the subject “Building Resilience in Children and Young People” at a Parents Meeting at The School of Total Education in July 2010. “Resilience is the ability to manage life’s vicissitudes and bounce back. You could call it ‘Bounceability’… Resilience starts early. Little things in the early years can be very important later. The form which a parent’s love and care takes can be crucial in imparting the necessary life skills and resilience a young person has. Their sense of security and safety shapes the way they view and handle the world.” Read more…

From the Archives: The Stress of Teaching and its Management

Dr Richard Griffith, was a Consultant Psychiatrist based in Melbourne who took a particular interest in the School of Total Education during its early years. This article is based on an address by Dr Griffith at the “Mind-Made Health” conference in 1982. In it he notes that teaching is one of the most exacting professions and he goes on to speak about some ways in which teachers can continue to enjoy and find fulfilment in their work instead of disillusionment. “Yet there are some teachers whose joy of teaching survives and grows. Despite disappointments, lack of appreciation and opposition, they are able to continue to share their ideals with the children and often, unknown to them, when the children grow up the memory of the teacher provides a continuing inspiration in their lives.” Read more…

Interviews currently available:

Michael Funder — Reflections of a SOTE Teacher

Satish Kumar — Small Schools and Nurturing the Spirit in Education

Click here to read more and download the interviews.


SOTE Principal Richard Waters to Retire

After thirty years as Principal at SOTE, Richard Waters has announced he will be retiring at the end of 2011. Richard was amongst the first group of teachers at The School of Total Education when it opened its doors in Melbourne in 1977. He and his family relocated to Warwick in 1981 to help establish the Warwick school. At the 2011 Graduation, Richard expressed his gratitude to the school’s founder, Vijayadev Yogendra, and spoke about how privileged he feels to have participated in establishing and guiding the school for so many years. Next year, Richard plans to focus his energies on establishing the Institute of Total Education — more news about this in the New Year.

image: Shane Power and Richard Waters photo

Next year will see Shane Power taking over the role of Principal at SOTE. Shane has been a long time member of the School Governing Council as well as being a parent at the school. Shane firmly believes in the principles of Total Education and the potential of the School to positively influence the lives of students, teachers and parents.

Stillness in Schools

While valuing stillness has long been a core principle at SOTE, it’s an idea that’s gradually gaining more widespread acceptance. The UK-based magazine Resurgence features an article on “Stillness in Schools” in the November/December 2011 issue which has the theme “Wellbeing — Happy People, Happy Planet”. The article by educator Anthony Seldon begins with this powerful statement: “Learning how to be still should be at the heart of every child’s education.” He goes on to say “Young people are crying out for peace and more time in their lives… The greatest possible benefit of learning about stillness while at school is that it gives adolescents a skill that will endure for the rest of their lives. Stillness and meditation must no longer be a privilege for the very few: they should be the right of each and every child at school”. You can read the article here.

Some of the available books on our website

Books Available On Our Website

A range of books on Total Education and related topics can be purchased from the SOTE website. Click here to find out more.