Jiddu Krishnamurti was one of the greatest philosophers and thinkers of the 20th century. His revolutionary ideas on education are influencing educational reforms and policy the world over. For Krishnamurti, education is hollow and shallow and meaningless without learning how to live properly. All good schools and colleges, the world over, are now including Life Skills and Social Emotional Learning (SEL) as a part of curriculum. We attempt here to understand what exactly Krishnamurti (addressed as K) says about various aspects of education.
On Aims and Objectives
Why to educate? What is the purpose of education? Traditionally, education has a simple role- to discipline children and to prepare them for some vocation/ profession. But, the conditions on the ground now compel us to rethink about this aim. On the one hand we see great technological advancement around us. On the other hand we see floundering relationships, growing fragmentation in society and growing unhappiness, anxiety and stress in individuals. It is now felt that, in addition to focusing on traditional curriculum, schools will have to take the additional responsibility of teaching children some new skills. Schools will have to teach how to cope up with stress, how to regulate anger, how to improve relationships, how to think healthily. Says K in “Education and the Significance of Life”:
“The function of education is to create human beings who are integrated and therefore intelligent. Intelligence has nothing to do with books and information and college degrees. One who has not studied at all may be more intelligent than the learned. Intelligence is the capacity to perceive the reality, the essential, the “what is”. To awaken this capacity, in oneself and in others, is education. Though Knowledge and efficiency are necessary, but to lay chief emphasis on them only leads to conflict and confusion. There is an efficiency inspired by love which goes far beyond and is much greater than the efficiency of ambition and competition.”
For K, right education means the development of integrated individuals who are intelligent, healthy (both physically and mentally) and fearless- individuals who can live together harmoniously with nature and with others.
For most of us, teaching is just another profession, another common job. Many females prefer this profession because it is considered safe and less troublesome- easy to handle alongside other family responsibilities. A large number of people become teachers when they don’t get some “superior”, “prestigious”, high profile jobs. But, the fact is that real development of a society or nation depends largely on the quality of its teachers. For K, teaching is not just a means of livelihood into which one may simply drift. For him it not a technique, but it is his way of life, it is creative work, a work of art.
One should not join teaching unless one has love and compassion in the heart and a burning desire to learn deeply about the complex process of right teaching. K’s insistence on these qualities and attributes makes teaching one of the most difficult and arguably the highest human endeavour. K considered training of teachers as the most important feature of education:
“The right kind of education begins with the educator, who must understand himself and be free from established pattern of thought; for what he is, that he imparts. The problem, therefore, is not the child, but the teacher; problem is to educate the educator. To educate the educator- that is, to have him understand himself- is one of the most difficult undertakings. Most of us are crystallized within a system of thought or a pattern of action; we have already given ourselves to some ideology, to a religion, or to a particular standard of conduct. We then teach the child WHAT to think not HOW to think. If children are to be free from fear, educator himself must have no fear. A good teacher must always be alert, intensely aware of his own thoughts and feelings, aware of his conditionings, of his responses. From this watchfulness, comes intelligence and right teaching.”
For K, a true teacher is inwardly rich and therefore is not after money. He is not ambitious and seeks no power in any form. He does not use teaching as a means of acquiring position or authority and therefore he is free from the compulsions of society and control of governments.
History shows that the present school system was introduced in the 19th century to meet the demands of industrialization. Says eminent thinker and futurologist Alvin Toffler in “The Third Wave”:
“Built on the factory model, the covert curriculum in mass instruction schools was punctuality, obedience and rote, repetitive work. These schools machined generations after generations of young people into a pliable, regimented work force which was prepared to slave away in offices and factories without questioning the authority.”
K rejected this system completely and started challenging it towards the middle of 20th century. For K, right kind of education is not possible en masse with large class strength as we see in our schools today. He said that it is not possible to observe each child’s aptitude, tendencies, temperament, difficulties etc when the teacher has to handle and teach 40-50 children together. He said: “A large and flourishing institution with imposing buildings in which hundreds of children are educated together can turn out clerks, super-salesmen, industrialists and commissars- superficial people.” A good school, according to K, must essentially have small class size, highly intelligent and sensitive teachers and warm and caring environment. According to K, a good school is one in which teachers and students move together as co-learners- learning and discovering about the world, about the self and about healthy relationships.
We all have a sense about discipline- efforts to bring order and to ensure that prescribed rules regarding conduct are followed- through strict control by some external authority. K says that root of the word “discipline” is disciple and disciples are to be treated with love, care and respect and not crushed. Says K in “Commentaries on Living”:
“If development of integrated individual is the purpose of education, then we must be clear as to whether individual exists for society or whether society exists for individual.
Is not strict discipline in the sense of conformity, resistance, threats, conflict one of the factors of disintegration? Discipline implies compulsion, subtle or brutal and where there is compulsion, there is fear. And fear is the biggest factor of human disintegration”
This does not mean that K advocated indiscipline and disorder. On the contrary, his teachings were basically directed at orderly and healthy living. He wanted children to learn order and discipline by observing and seeing for themselves the consequences of bad behavior. He advocated healthy discussion and persuasion- agreeing on some right behavior through mutual consultations, as the preferred ways of disciplining children.
For Krishnamurti, philosophy, ideas and concepts are irrelevant if they are not validated by actual life experiences- if they are not found to be right when put into actual practice.
Therefore, he founded some experimental schools where his philosophy was put into practice- one each in UK and USA and five in India. The oldest Krishnamurti School- Rishi Valley School in Andhra Pradesh, is regarded as one of finest schools of the world. Equipped with modern technology and teachers of the highest caliber, this residential Gurukul style school, is a place for pilgrimage for seekers/ learners interested in “right” education.