August 23, 2021
The Vision Of Total Education
At the first combined parents meeting for 2021, fittingly held in the Vijayadev Yogendra Auditorium, Mrs Jan Gudkovs, Psychologist and School Governing Council member, spoke to the topic Sharing the Vision of Total Education. Here is a transcript of her address.
When I started to think about the vision of Total Education, the first question that arose in my mind was what is meant by ‘total’ education? Why did Vijay use this word to describe the process of education he had in mind? Is it presumptuous to assume that any education can be total? I must admit that I initially had thoughts such as these in the past when Vijay spoke about what he saw was needed. In my presentation, I will be using Vijay’s own words taken from the books he has written to highlight some of the factors he wrote about in explaining this concept of a total education.
Creating a more civilised person
Firstly, to understand Total Education it is helpful to know that Vijay’s work always had a broad focus on the welfare of humanity. He says:
I believe in human happiness and World Peace, and that each person has a God-given right to improve himself and share, participate and partake in human progress and evolution. To me, teachers and parents are fundamental to this progress in creating a better society.
While Vijay helped thousands of individuals with their personal problems, he also spent a great deal of time talking to people in positions of influence in society, bringing together people of goodwill and understanding to help create a basis for the betterment of society, and countering various trends he saw as detrimental to its progress. He saw education as key to this progress – he says:
When we consider the future of man and the fate of civilisation and look for a formula for progress, we cannot bypass the fact that good education is the basis.
However, he was critical of Western education which had become for many just a passport to financial security. After the second world war, material prosperity had become a dominant goal for a greater part of society. However, he felt that it was important that:
The aim of education should be to create a more civilised person,
but went on to ask:
Is our society civilised? The answer is my view is, “No”.
When he says that society is not civilized, he related this problem to distorted values involved in the pursuit of materialism and the failure of educational methodologies to offer an alternative. In fact, what most schools, parents and governments pursued then (and now) was academic success.
At the end of every educational formula in modern times lies the desire for academic success. Success is vital for jobs, earning money and supporting others. That is all we seemed concerned with. As long as our children are successful in this sense, we are happy. All our educational formulae are geared to creating spare parts for our social and economic machinery to fit our children into the success-orientated mainstream. We have to question whether this is civilising our children, or merely perpetuating a society which itself is far from civilised, a society that has displayed wanton greed, egoism and selfishness.
He related both emotional health and spiritual progress to the practice of values. However, the topic of values was not part of the discourse around education at the time, and Vijay devoted much time organizing many seminars, forums and symposia raising this issue with both parents and policy makers. What he saw was that people were suffering, that physical and mental health problems were increasing every year and that the “greed is good” mentality was gaining traction in society. As a result, he felt that:
Man cannot be considered more educated, knowledgeable or wise than his forbears since, despite his education, he remains selfish and with a profound incapacity to love, even to help himself. …. he is unhappy, restless, afraid, anxious, tense and angry, to a point where he is unable to guarantee his own development, even his survival.
Because education was focused on academic and technical skills, it failed to produce people of real knowledge who could really help society’s progress.
The current systems of education leave man with an intellectual comprehension of his problems and only vague suggestions as to the necessary solutions. Therefore, man has become more objective in coping with himself and the problems he has created rather than looking for the answers within himself.
Vijay felt that education should produce people who could be leaders in society, who had benevolence and compassion and could contribute to creating a peaceful world. However, he said:
Our educational philosophies and systems mass-produce people who have qualifications, who know the facts, who are able to manipulate words and sentences and manage a few gadgets, tools and machines, but who are not benevolent, compassionate, understanding and wise; and who have all lost the capacity to love or whose love has become blunted in the wear and tear of mechanical life.
This brings me to another expression of the underlying principles in Vijay’s vision of a more total education, which is the importance of personal growth; he says.
A great deal of work has to be done on man himself. Man has to evolve from what he is to become enlightened.
So what does this entail? He says elsewhere: “The basis of proper education is refinement, without which no civilisation is ever possible.” In speaking of this refinement, he explains:
A civilised man is one who is unselfish, pure in heart, sincere, loving, kind, compassionate and generous; not a man who robs others for his infatuations and idle greed, and who promotes his own self-interest.
These qualities are the result of a process of personal growth:
At one point he expressed this aim of the “civilized man” in terms of overcoming perhaps the single greatest factor which has led to so much violence, so many wars and so much human suffering:
This then is the goal of Total Education – that the anger which has been coming down the centuries in the hearts of people can be overcome or annihilated.
This might seem like a tremendous ask, but it speaks to what is truly needed for a society to live in peace. However, he acknowledged that this is not an overnight achievement. Rather,
This will take time and can start only if the roots and foundations are treated now. If the fundamentals are passed on to the younger generation then, in time, the results will be seen in the future development of mankind. Therefore, it is not difficult to relate love to education. I must stress here that education, in which love is not incorporated, or through which one is not aiming at generating love, is no education at all.
So, the vision of Total Education involves inspiring in the students a willingness to serve society by bringing out their personal qualities of both heart and mind:
In our schools we should make an attempt to train our children to become future citizens with a universal outlook, aware of their environment, their duties, responsibilities, and above all themselves. Through appropriate training, the child should become interested in developing himself so that he becomes a potent instrument for the growth of humanity.
Vijay provided training in personal growth for all teachers and parents because he said that the best example to generate enthusiasm for this in a child comes from the parents and the teachers.
To assist parents understanding the principles involved in raising children and in their own personal growth Vijay published Parenting for Everyone. He wrote this book after years spent organizing symposia and workshops highlighting the needs of children. He was deeply concerned about the welfare of children and saw education as the way of addressing the problems that he foresaw emerging from the materialistic approach to life that had become dominant, particularly after the Second World War.
Parenting for Everyone was written at a time when Vijay was involved in establishing the first Parent Education Centre in Brisbane and in training parent educators who could work in the community by running workshops and courses on parenting. At that time, university researchers were also developing parenting programs, most notably Triple P, based around behaviourist notions that rewards and punishments are key elements in shaping a child’s behaviour. Whilst some people, such as Professor Maurice Balson from Monash University, saw this is a limited approach, funding was provided to make these courses widely available in the community.
Vijay’s thinking differed markedly from this model in placing the parent’s relationship with the child at the centre of his approach to parenting, particularly emphasizing the importance of parents as role models for their children. But above all he spoke about love, and the parent’s ability to bring out a child’s innateness. This is a key concept in Vijay’s approach to education and to parenting, and one that has many layers of meaning.
The Child’s Innateness
The child who is brought up to express his or her inherent potential is one who gives others joy. Such a child naturally expresses a deep feeling of gratitude to the parents and others who have influenced his or her growth.
The more positive a child becomes, the happier the child feels within him- or her-self. Progress occurs. This progress stops when an expectancy not of his or her own making is imposed on the child. Reluctantly, the child submits. But the parent pays the price through the child’s misbehaviour and, at the same time, the child is robbed of future peace and happiness and society has lost yet another good citizen. Consequently, parents must study children thoroughly to understand their inherent direction. Then the children will do well, and the parents and their children will always share a warm and lasting relationship.
However, Vijay did acknowledge it is not always easy to do this:
Sometimes it can be hard to know how to give guidance and support without at the same time applying expectation and pressure, so we can be worried about talking to children for fear of creating expectancy. Where do we draw the line? The secret is to allow children to express their positive approaches and not to interfere while this is happening, but when negativity is expressed, it is reasonable to caution them that you do expect them to be positive.
Parents need to be in touch with their own innateness and intuition to be able to assess the capacity of their child. If parents are calm, quiet and relaxed within themselves, they are able to reach the point of knowing. But if they are frustrated and distracted, they are so busy trying to keep themselves afloat that their innateness is not available, much less intuition.
He also reassured parents that they don’t have to be perfect:
A child will often forgive a parent who may have messed him or her up in the early years. There have been cases where the parent was an alcoholic or had other problems and traumas, and as a result the child was afraid of what was going to happen in the future. Then the parent found some meaning in life and reformed him- or her-self. The child (then at fourteen or fifteen) senses it, and feels, “Forget about the past. I am absolutely happy at the way you are now. ” They can then have a good relationship with great communication and dialogue, and they can both grow and develop.
Perhaps it will take time, but as children grow, parents can also grow. When parents are ahead of their children in terms of their personal growth, they can sense the child’s next step. That is the talent that God gives. Then they can help them and manage them, and no matter what they have or have not done in the past, the parent can say, “Yes, I have three happy children, in spite of all the mistakes I have made.”
The School as a community of people
Vijay encourages teachers to view each child as their own. He also suggested the parents do the same. He says:
Parents must move away from being centred only on their own child….A parent should go even further and develop as much interest and concern for the other children as their own. This goes beyond not taking sides with your own child in all things, and should also mean a parent takes an active role in the bringing up of the other children.
This means that we need to be happy if a child confides in someone other than ourselves. Vijay felt that communication between a child and anyone from whom he or she can gain greater insight or understanding should be encouraged.
We must never feel we have a monopoly on a child’s education or growth. A child must be able to grow with the help and assistance of everyone who comes into contact with him or her. The important thing to remember is that it is the growth of the child that is important, not who contributes to that growth. If a child grows properly, consistent with the needs of society, then society at large benefits, even though this may not have been achieved directly or exclusively by the parents themselves. However, we can always take pride in feeling that we contributed in understanding and accommodating the needs of the child, rather than feeling that we were not the authors of all of the improvement. So, communication in the form of encouragement of the child to go and visit people from whom he or she is benefiting is very important.
So the community around the School has a vital contribution to make. Total Education then involves a deep, caring relationship between all of the parents, all of the teachers and all of the children.
It is my belief that we should be encouraging schools to run as educational bodies more deeply involved in the personal development of each child. The school can contribute to this development of children by providing a basis for personal growth. Programs fostering values can be created. More interaction between parents, teachers and children can be implemented to enable them to look at their own characters, values and attitudes as a community of people seeking peace and happiness. Thus, the school can fulfil an essential need in becoming a centre for self-development for all concerned.
Our role in creating a positive future
So Vijay’s vision of total education gives our own involvement in the school a deeper significance, where our efforts can be part of a broader vision of creating a better society.
Good parenting requires thoughtfulness – a concern for society and the world at large. How is our child is going to fit in, be contributive and creative, helpful rather than selfish, not greedy, but concerned to see that everybody shares, co-operates and has enough? All these are basic considerations upon which parenting should be based. However, today’s young are fired by their emotions and their imagination. They are allowed to reap success and fulfill ambition. It does not matter on whom they trample in the process or whom they hurt. This is not right, even though the majority may be participating in it. It is being sustained at the cost of the innocent and the helpless. What this process produces is an enormous amount of suffering.
There has to be a break away now to create an independent trend of growth that can lead to our children being healthier and happier, that can see our growth in a positive way – instead of wrecking, destroying and demolishing individuals. We must turn our attention to building and reconditioning the dignity of humanity. It is perhaps an impossible dream for society to achieve a condition where all children are good and positive, yet if each individual exercises a consistent and positive approach to life, the children he or she comes into contact with must benefit from the exposure. It is only on the basis of our efforts as parents in these individual relationships that our community as a whole can change and improve.
While parenting may seem a daunting task, we must realize that the most joyful part of parental life is in fact enjoying our children, sharing time with them and having a deep and lasting love for them.
One must never forget that the children of the future are important because they in turn can find more peace, happiness and joy for those who will be under their care. It is important and imperative that we, as parents, do our very best to ensure the joy and happiness of future children.
We could underline there ALL future children. I hope that is why you might find your involvement in the school deeply meaningful, and it can explain to you why so many of the original teachers and parents have made implementing total education their life’s work. I will leave the final words to Vijay:
If, then, we have a community of people who are interested in developing an educational principle that is total, they must take into account the development of the teacher, the development of the parent and the proper education of the child. With these three aspects working in conjunction with each other in a harmonious way, the product cannot be anything but a better citizen. It is here that one has to look at the future, and recognize that the challenge is there, that the future can be brighter, can be a much happier one. This should in some way be enticing us to want to leave for the future generations not buildings, bridges and highways but a capacity to find greater peace, happiness and refinement, so that they in turn can carry on this work for the generations to come.