YOGA TO IMPROVE SCHOOL ENVIRONMENT

Today’s educational scenario in India is based on the old archaic system set by Lord Macaulay which was designed to produce clerks to run the British Administration efficiently in Ghulam India. Bookish knowledge, examination and job orientation were the prime factors in this system, and we see the onerous results even after 100 years. Today, only content information is doled out to the students without teaching them the art of living. Our present education consists in giving the students readymade things to think, without teaching them how to think, how to penetrate and explore. Holistic education is the need of the day in free India. Education has no meaning unless it helps in understanding the vast expanse of life with all its subtleties, with its extraordinary beauty, its joys and sorrows.

According to Herbert Read “Great changes in the destiny of mankind has always begun in the minds of little children.” The education they get today decides what they become tomorrow. Children are influenced by many things at home, schools and outside. The society is plagued by umpteen vices like greed, corruption, hatred, cut-throat competition, illiteracy, and poverty, which have a direct bearing on the child’s education. The children imbibe whatever they see and hear. In a school we get children coming from heterogeneous backgrounds like business community which though wealthy is not conscious of its interest in the pursuit of knowledge. We have children from service class which is enlightened but does not have a long purse. Often children come from a background where parents are too busy to find time for their wards’ welfare. Sometimes children hail from broken families or families where there is no ambience for study or from indigent families. Economic and literacy conditions of parents differ from school to school so also its environment, character and atmosphere. In such a scenario, the child finds it a tough task to adjust to the situation and they get completely lost.

No school can find an everlasting solution to these problems individually. Only when the parents, teachers, and the Principal work in tandem, these issues can successfully be addressed. Education is a formative process in which several agencies like the government, curriculum planners, the parents, teachers and management are involved. Teachers undoubtedly play the pivotal role, but equally important, or I would like to say more important, is the role played by the parents.

Parents should play not only the role of mentors but also motivators, infusing in the children, a sense of courage, confidence and love for knowledge. They should train children to accept success and failures with equanimity and that failures are not the end of life but valuable opportunities to do better. They should from the younger age of the children make them understand that besides becoming Doctors and Engineers, there are many vistas open to them, and guide them accordingly. They should be allowed to be in constant touch with the blue of the sky and the green of forest enjoying their childhood, rather than forcing them to pore over books always.

I would like to emphasize that family is the cradle of all creativity and virtues. What a child can do or can learn or the way he behaves – all come from the family. If the parents take interest in molding and grooming the children at a very young age they become stronger and invincible in future. Family is the primary agent of transmission of culture and human values where the children learn the fundamentals of sharing, caring, good behavior, and attitude. Parents should teach the children that the purpose of their lives is to give birth to the best within each one of them. They should also be taught how to remain calm in adversities and failures and above all they should be taught how to remain in touch with the Almighty not only when problems arise but always.

The emerging trends in education have totally replaced yesterday’s idea of education. Today’s students have access to computers, mobile phones, T.V. and other electronic and print media. The students absorb the contents of these whether they are positive or negative. Students have a tendency to learn what is negative and unhealthy and they learn it quite easily. As a result of this students behave, think, and talk, like adults. If the parents can keep a check on these undesirable activities of the students, their talents and energy can be channelized in the right direction.

According to Swami Vivekananda “Education is the manifestation of the perfection already in man and yoga accelerates the natural spontaneous process of evolution of man to divinity.” The mind of man is a mine of infinite knowledge, and Jesus says, “The Kingdom of God is within you.” (Luke 18:20). The educator has to help the child to dive into that Kingdom and search for the pearls of knowledge.

Yogic life helps the four valuable periods in one’s life - a time when changes take place. From four to five months in mother’s womb to seven years, seven to fourteen years, fourteen to twenty one years, and twenty two to twenty eight years, there is a systematic growth of human beings. First seven years are very crucial for a child’s development when real growth of the child begins and what he/she becomes in future depends on the yogic training he/she gets during that time. This has been proved by Swami Satyanand Saraswati of Bihar School of Yoga through his scientific researches he conducted in California and Scotland.

As the child grows beyond seven, sudden changes occur in his or her life. He/she becomes restless, naughty, lethargic, and the parents get surprised at the changes. These changes take place due to gradual degeneration of tiny penal gland that is situated just above the medulla oblongata and has connection with ajanachakra situated between the eyebrows. At this age if the child is taught some exercises, according to his/her age group, like Pranayama, meditation in sambhavi mudra, chanting of Om, the degeneration of the penal gland can be stopped, which will result in extended childhood. Thus he/she will get some more time to be innocent, calm, observant and happy. It is discovered that children belonging to this age group have high learning capacity, and if they get a good trainer or counselor, he/she will do wonders in his/her life.

After the age of seven, a child should undergo training in asanas, suryanamaskra, and pranayama. After the seventh year, the pituitary glands begin to secret hormones in the body. The child finds a total change in his/her life – the sexual organs become vital, and children become restless and inquisitive without understanding these changes. Parents and teachers unnecessarily misunderstand and punish the children for their behavior in the class, home or field. If suryanamaskara is taught to these children, they will become better and develop a positive attitude. In the third stage, from fourteen to twenty one, the child reaches adulthood, and after the fourth stage, i.e twenty one to twenty eight, it is very difficult to bring back a negative child on the track. This type of people live with whatever they have received from the family, teachers and become positive or negative. The educators have a great challenge, first to get themselves educated and then to follow the child’s growth right from the age of four months to twenty eight years and make him/her useful for family, society and the nation at large.

Children are not able to study not because of lack of brains. God has given everybody intelligence in abundance. The parents and teachers have an important role to ignite their intelligence, ideas etc,. If the parents and teachers fail to bring out the best in the children they become inactive and lethargic.

Years back when I was the Principal of St. Francis School, Hathras, I helped 35 students from various schools who had failed in different classes. The parents were very upset and the Principals did not want to keep them in their schools. The parents were totally devastated. I took up the challenge. I brought them to Hathras, provided them boarding and lodging, employed good teachers, taught them Yogic Asanas, Pranayama, Suryanamaskara etc., and to my surprise, believe me, they all did extremely well in both academic and co-curricular activities. Some of them outdid the intelligent students and are well placed today. In my 30 years of prolonged experience in the field of education, I have taken up such experiments and brought back the ‘lost’ child on the right track with the help of parents and teachers. This can happen only when we place our trust and confidence in the parents.

A similar experiment was carried out in St. John’s Senior Secondary School, Firozabad. I opened a boarding for girls where they were given lessons on yoga and special classes on academics. The result was wonderful with most of them doing extremely well in the exam.

In July, 2007 I was transferred to St. Peter’s College, Agra (U.P.) as the Principal. I found that around 20-25 students came everyday seeking leave to go home for some or the other medical problems like headache, sinusitis, stomachache etc., which was a daily routine. At least 20-25% of these boys were obese; some were with a hunch-back and did not know how to walk properly, some of them used to fall down during assembly due to fatigue. Then I thought of introducing yoga to the students to see if they could be provided with a better health to keep away from some of these diseases. I contacted my friend Dr. Daya Kishore Hazra and his team to investigate the health parameters of students including weight , height, hemoglobin level etc. After giving them continuous practice of pranayama and Suryanamaskara and yogic asanas we found that slowly and gradually their health began to improve.

I would also like to emphasize that the role of teacher is no longer merely transferring information to their students who are expected to memories and store information. Students are no more passive consumers of education. The teacher should teach them how to make connection between what they learn and their own lives. They are to be taught how to learn from others’ experience, form opinion and defend their own opinions. They should be taught communication and enquiry skills besides teaching them how to debate, reflect, negotiate, and that there will be no easy answers in a world of shrinking resources and growing population. This can be done only by a teacher with the attributes of understanding and forgiveness.

In St. Peter’s we have taken up many experiments. After I took over the reigns of St. Peter’s, we decided to promote all children and detain no one even in classes IX and XI. All our staff and the parents cooperated in this venture. We had several meeting with the parents, gave them tips how to help the children, conducted remedial classes and the bright students were asked to help the weaker ones along with a daily dose of asanas and meditation. The result was wonderful. We got a cent percent result both in ICSE & ISC in the year 2010. We received the ‘Prathibha Saman’ award instituted by the Hindustan daily newspaper for the best academic performance. This was possible because our teachers and parents worked together removing the difficulties of the students both at psychosocial and academic levels.

The need of the hour is thinking class rooms where students, teachers work together in small groups to solve the problems of the students with the support of parents. Only then the students will love to go to school, they will not consider the school a place of burden but a place of fun they look forward to. Education should focus more on learners’ needs. Today learning has a broader vision. It is not just the acquisition of knowledge but ability to use that knowledge in variety of real life situations, which needs continuous and comprehensive evaluation. This evaluation does not mean unit or term tests but observation of the child on a day-to-day basis. A teacher cannot teach a child well without getting to know him/her. Getting to know a child is the first step towards good education. Teachers can be friendly with students without becoming friends. If the teachers are supported by parents the learning becomes easy for children.

Many parents who are specialists in different fields of activity may be harnessed to render service to the school as and when needed. If the school needs the help of a music or a dance teacher or a teacher in any subject parents should come forward to help the school. A doctor parent should help in periodical medical checkup, and a parent interested in gardening can help in the maintenance of lawns and gardens. It is important for us to generate interest about the school in parents. Instead of putting before them suggestions, these should be sought from them, which will make them feel important as a member of the school. Parents should also be kept informed about the latest and modern methods of teaching and things that take place in the school from time-to-time.

In conclusion, we all know that the Principal, teachers, parents, and students are the integral part of school’s teaching and learning environment. In order to maintain this balance a good relationship among teachers, students and their families is very necessary. Only then true education can be imparted to the students – an education, according to J. Krishnamurthy, that helps the students to think and gives them space – space not in the form of larger bed room or a higher roof, but space for the mind to grow so that it is not bound by any belief or any fear.