Part 2 – Why Does the World Need Holistic Education
This is part two of the five-part series – Why I chose Imara’s Holistic Education for my Child which illustrates one parent’s journey through understanding and embracing Imara’s holistic education (commonly referred as alternative education) system, and its impact on her child as well as the broader society. This part talks about Imara’s unique approach to alternative schooling, and how it fits in the world we live in today.
Go back to: Part One: The Role of Facilitators at Imara | Introduction
Whenever I think about the work that Imara does, and the impact it has on children, facilitators, volunteers, and parents associated with it – I am filled with an unexplainable force that urges me to contribute to supporting the working of this unique system of holistic education.
Since the past five years, I have witnessed first-hand the transformation that Imara has brought in my children and their classmates. They have somehow evolved into these confident, self-aware, and most of all – happy individuals who love going to school and continue exploring the world through various projects and activities designed to nurture their potential.
While they still have a long way ahead of them, the aura of this environment has not just impacted my children. I have felt an enormous change happen in myself – as a parent but also as a human. From being a stressful parent, pushing my children into the competitive conventional education to empowering them to unfurl their natural potential has been a radically transformative journey for me – a change that has made my life more beautiful and complete! I myself am now more eager to have unbridled fun exploring new subjects and having deeper conversations about the outer as well as inner world. The depth of their understanding, and their willingness to look within never ceases to amaze me. At times like these, I thank the almighty for guiding me towards Imara.
Limiting screen time, restricting junk food, teaching discipline and self-control, etc. are routine challenges for parents with children across all age groups. Yet, at Imara, it is not an uphill battle but an opportunity to connect with deep discussions, and explore their impact, finding ways to enjoy them without their adverse effects. Further, discussions on inclusivity, disappointment, despair, etc. are also opportunities to delve deeper into our own selves.
Choosing topics and exploring them further from various angles, without the rush for immediate perfection brings a lot of joy and further strengthens our bond. Such is the magical environment created by Imara that as a parent, you feel motivated to infuse it within your day-to-day lives. Before you even realize it, you start transforming as an individual. You soon realize how excessive competition paves way for a desire to add value and meaning. Success should not be measured just by materialism, but by satisfaction as well. Our desire to live life to the fullest and enjoy every passing moment along with its imperfections adds a lot of beauty to each single day.
But still – does the world really need Imara? If so – why?
Today’s world is a fast paced, volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous (VUCA) place, making it illogical to have a place where people actually slow down to rediscover themselves, their innate potential, limitations, dreams, and their true selves. Do we really need to focus on Emotional Quotient (EQ) along with Intellectual Quotient (IQ)? In a fiercely competitive world – does being balanced, self-aware, and contented really count?
To get answers to these questions, let’s look at how the world has evolved in the past few decades, and where it is headed for tomorrow. What skills are important? Which abilities have stood the test of time? Yes – intellectual abilities are important – but limiting intellect to merely processing a set of information and reproducing it in various ways is a gross insult of the immense potential of a human mind. Information is rapidly becoming obsolete and constant change is becoming the new normal.
Such a world always calls out for intellectuals who are also well balanced. Invaluable qualities like innovation, decision making, and problem solving are the result of nurturing the faculties of our mind. These qualities work at their best if they are accompanied by a calm mind and a passionate heart. Equipped with these, a child is no longer limited by their immediate surroundings, but are rather encouraged to surpass the obvious and interpret the world in a while new way.
The most surprising part is that – at Imara, a child barely realizes that they are being trained for these skills. Power of observation, concentration, and reasoning – coupled with training their memory, expression as well as intuition are some of the qualities that are sculpted through various activities designed from early years. Academics and everything else labelled as sports, co-curricular, extra-curricular, etc are means to developing these faculties rather than an end in themselves.
Facilitators diligently observe each student and tailor their learning programme to build and grow the required qualities within the child. And yet, for the child – it is just a series of exploring and learning sessions – enjoying through interesting and fun activities. With time, the programme carefully nurtures the child’s mental faculties while building a natural love for exploration and learning.
Of equal importance is the environment in which this learning happens. At Imara, children do not feel intimidated by their guides (teachers). They do not undertake learning just to excel in exams or earn recognition from their teachers, parents, or peers. Here, they are not judged for being unique – rather, their unique beauty is recognized and nurtured. They learn and excel naturally due to the right space and environment. The program and the environment has such a deep motivation on them to explore and learn, that missing even one day of school feels like a huge loss for them.
As there is no learning by rote at Imara, by the time children complete primary school, their ability to gather, process and present information become obvious. They have all the necessary tools to explore a subject, thrive through the difficulties presented to them, and bring a meaningful outcome – all of this without the child realizing that they are being trained on these skills. For them it is just a natural curiosity to explore and learn about the world around them.
For an eight-year old, exploring their city along with its heritage, and learning about its evolution through a detailed city tour is a natural and fun way to introduce history. A child will spend days learning about the changes that have happened in a city’s population, landscape, terrain, and culture. This exploration opens up a multitude of topics that are insipidly labelled as history, geography, civics, and environment science in traditional schooling. As against, holistic learning helps a child understand the world in its totality rather than in different, non-related elements.
After few months of exploration through guided city tours, reading of books, audio-visual aids, and discussions with facilitators, children assimilate their learning, process it and present it to everyone at school. In a project about Hyderabad city, they learnt about different civilizations, its rulers and population, its heritage and culture, the terrain and landscape, and changes that have happened over centuries. This was conveyed to them through verbal presentation, charts, models, and art.
Naturally, this triggered curiosity in the children to learn about other civilizations, cultures, geographies, and landscapes – and they started exploring similar topics with enthusiasm and self-motivation. While the children explore their world, they come across obstacles and they are encouraged to persevere. Their frustrations are taken as opportunities to harness their inner strength. Struggle while working with peers create a channel for learning interpersonal skills that are critical for their success. Conflicts are resolved through dialogue and pave way to a solution-oriented approach. Inner awareness, self-introspection, and deep reflections are included in day-to-day conversations. Music, art, drama and other creative pursuits are integrated in the learning process and become means to nurturing and expressing inner selves.
Every child is given a space to work based on their unique selves, empowering them to evolve in areas of their interest. While the facilitators keep working on their basic skills, having the right space and time for exploring their passions keep children motivated to learn the skills that facilitators are working on in the background. Doing this day by day, year after year, with different topics and various subject-matter experts build key skills to learn topics that one is introduced to.
Our highest endeavor must be to develop free human beings who are able of themselves to impart purpose and direction to their lives. The need for imagination, a sense of truth, and a feeling of responsibility — these three forces are the very nerve of education.
― Rudolf Stiener
This process of learning through their own efforts and perseverance through obstacles, and ultimately the joy of discovery gives children a lot of satisfaction and confidence, empowering them to keep self-doubt at bay. Children work through their emotions that come in different stages of their growth, as well as in different circumstances. Their facilitators gently guide them to discover their emotional strength. This enables children to build upon these crucial skills without actually having to work on them separately.
Having well trained mental faculties, intellectual skills, emotional strength, and deep self-awareness are the ammunition that children need to take on the world with ease and confidence. Over the years, I have observed children blossoming into beautiful adults and spreading this energy in the world around them. More of such tribe will definitely make this world a better place. And this is why I believe the world needs alternative learning schools like Imara!
Next: Part Three: How does Imara’s Way of Teaching Nurture the Physical Being?