Education: the basis of the human choice
Or how to make India the most advanced nation in the world
By Robert van Harten
Last week Nirupama, a 9 year old girl, came on a visit with her parents. While we were discussing with her parents about their school, Niru took up an American novel that was lying on the table. Before my very eyes she read 400 pages during our three-hour discussion and was even able to follow our discussion while she was reading! Niru is not a child prodigy. She is the product of a system, a system of education. A system that gave her the capacity to read Reader's Digest from cover to cover at age four and inform her mother about which articles would be of interest to her.
Some years ago there was a program on the Belgium television about super-intelligent children. The documentary discussed how an American educator, Glen Doman, had developed a method to educate children with cerebral palsy, a type of brain damage that makes children into mental invalids for the rest of their life. His method succeeded in helping brain damaged children to such an extent that they were able to read and write and attend school like normal children.
The success of his method made him think and ask: why not try this on normal children with healthy brains? He tried and discovered that there is no end to how early and how rapidly children can learn to read, calculate and acquire encyclopaedic knowledge. Through his methods, children are able to recognize and understand hundreds of words in several languages even before they can speak or walk! By the time they are ready to enter primary school, they can attain the reading, writing and general knowledge normally achieved after six years of schooling. And all this is done through very simple methods that every mother can practice at home with her own children.
The Human Choice
Science tells us that we are using only a small percentage of our brain. Glen Doman's method activates and awakens the brain at an early age and stimulates its growth to fullest genetic capacity. What really distinguishes our life from that of other animals? We eat, drink, sleep like they do. We live, like many of them, in social groups, in a collectivity we call society. It is our mind, our mental power, that distinguishes us. We are the first conscious beings, but most of our brain lies asleep, undeveloped and unutilized. The real difference is that we can use our minds to invent products that make our lives more comfortable, that we can use our minds to organise acts in life to build productive systems, structures, organisations and institutions.
But when we examine more closely, we realize that all this comes down to the individual using his partly awakened mind to explore the immense possibilities that are open to it and choosing to avail of a few of the opportunities it discovers. It is the mind that sees and the individual who chooses. We can say that when the mind awakens, it becomes open to the freedom of choice, a choice animals do not have. Therefore we can call it the human choice.
Making India the most advanced nation in the world
This human choice is driving the present development in India. We think money and investments are necessary to develop the country, we believe we depend on Government programs, laws, institutions for our development, but these are all secondary. What we really need is to exercise our human choice, because we choose development through our initiatives. We need not wait for money, for programs, for help. Every individual can choose to develop himself and his children. Education is the key to personal development, which is the key to collective development.
Happily for us, Niru's parents were not satisfied with teaching only one child with Glen Doman's marvellous methods. They opened a school in Bombay and taught many mothers how to teach their own children the way they had taught Niru. Not even satisfied with this, they took upon themselves an even more ambitious project. Niru's father, Raghavan, was a highly successful chartered accountant, her mother, Aruna, was an experienced teacher and newspaper sub-editor. They both gave up good jobs, sold everything they had, and started a school at Arasavanangkadu, a remote village near Kumbakonam in Tamil Nadu, using these methods to teach the children of illiterate parents. Last year Aruna and Raghavan brought some of the children for a visit. It was marvellous to see four and five year old village children able to recognize a few thousand words in both Tamil and English, playing so happily, so animated that each tried to be the first to answer every question.
What will happen to India if Doman's methods are widely adopted, starting with mothers teaching their own children from a very early age? What will happen if we can abridge six years of education and start from the level of the 7th grade at first standard? What will happen if the quality of education in rural areas can be elevated to urban standards or beyond by adoption of 21st Century teaching methods?
It will mean that every child in India so educated will have an extra six years of education
at a much higher level than anywhere in the world. In one generation India will have the most educated and intelligent population in the world. And that population will exercise through each individual's awakened mind a greater freedom of human choice resulting in developments that will make India the most advanced nation in the world. It is OUR CHOICE to decide to have one or more children like Niru in our own home.