Schools in Auroville
Profile of schools
See also: Life Education Centre in Environment section
Arulvazhi means “Way of Grace” in Tamil. This educational
centre, situated in the Promesse community of Auroville, has been catering
since 1985 to the educational and cultural needs of children aged 4
to 16 years from the nearby village of Morattandichavadi in the light
of the teachings of Sri Aurobindo and The Mother. The aim, while working
in close collaboration with the existing government educational structure,
is to provide value-oriented education in an atmosphere of simplicity,
beauty, joy and harmony wherein the children can develop naturally.
Arulvazhi has five areas of activity: (1) a kindergarten group for 25
children aged 4 to 6 years, (2) a body awareness and cultural expression
group for about 80 children in the evenings, aged 6 to 16 years, (3)
a training programme for drop-out girls aged 16 to 18 years, (4) a Pudu
Ulagam group of 25 children attending middle and high schools in the
neighbourhood, aged 11 to 18 years, and (5) an unending education programme
with the participation of Promesse community children and elders. Excursions
to places of great cultural, educational and spiritual interest are
arranged. The children are encouraged to practice and develop indigenous
forms of art, folk song, stage plays, etc. A self-improvement programme
for girls trains them in various activities like child care, sports,
and crafts like tailoring, typewriting, etc.
Ilaignarkal School has been in operation for 24 years now in the field of educational and vocational training. From its inception, the school has been helping village workers and their children to learn and enhance their basic skills and knowledge base. The school has been reaching out to the most difficult cases in society, such as school drop-outs, slow learners and illiterate village workers forced to go out and earn early in life due to economic pressures during childhood. The school has already touched the lives of thousands of students since its inception, by giving an appropriate space to improve basic skills in language, maths and the arts, plus simple skills like typewriting etc, leading to a qualitative improvement in their lives. The school’s free-progress customized style of education has been designed to fit the special requirements of its students. The school has only two full time staff, and most of the teachers and office workers are voluntary workers from neighbouring schools, ex-students, and other specialists in their field and profession.
Isaiambalam School is located on the northern periphery of Auroville. Most of its students come from five nearby villages. Initially the school was catering to the learning needs of young adults in the age group 8 to 15 years, who were considered drop-outs from other learning establishments and came from the villages in the Auroville area. In the course of time the school has evolved, and now comprises pre-school, primary and young adult sections. Altogether there are now 115 students and 12 teachers in the school, which is making provisions for the students to receive education up to 10th standard level. English is learned by all the students and teachers. The school is gradually becoming a resource base with reference to the removal of the difficulties in learning encountered by the first generation school-going children, in particular the removal of the difficulties that stand in the way of acquiring language and maths skills and pursuing higher studies. The school is also slowly developing the capacity to train people from outside in the methods used by the school; in removing the difficulties in learning experienced by the children; and in organising teaching/learning activities in a manner suited to the learning needs of the children. Isaiambalam's students learn in the afternoon art-related skills in drawing, music and classical dance together with vocational skills like tailoring and typewriting. Towards the end of the school day physical exercises and sports activities take place. Thus learning occurs in the school in an integral manner involving not only the mental, but also the vital, physical and psychic parts of the being.
The school forms part of the New Creation community, located close to the village of Kuilapalayam, where the majority of the pupils live. The school today caters for 240 children, both boys and girls, between the ages of 3 and 15 years, and also includes a kindergarten/creche. Children are able to study up to eighth standard, thus giving them an opportunity to study for a School Leaving Certificate at another Auroville educational establishment called After School. New Creation School teaches all the normal subjects, but in addition places strong emphasis on art and vocational training. In the latter context, a number of options are offered i.e. clay work, wood work, traditional Indian dance, art, singing, tailoring and computer studies. For a village school, there is a very good teacher/pupil ratio. The 240 children have 27 regular teachers, all Indian, including some part timers. Occasionally European student teachers also work at the school. As regards future plans, it has always been the purpose of the school to expand out from a purely academic curriculum into the field of industrial training i.e. carpentry, mechanics, electronics, metalwork, etc. This is a very long term project, but there is a great need for trained people in these fields, because Auroville, as it develops, is going to need more and more skilled workers.
Located adjacent to the village of Edayanchavadi, Udavi School is a recent addition to SAIIER's list of units.
The school itself was started in the early 1970 by Auroshikha, (a Commercial Unit of the Sri Aurobindo Ashram), and was run by it until 1999. Thereafter it was agreed that while Auroshika would continue to finance the day to day running of the school, the management would be taken over by SAIIER.
Udavi is trying to follow the guidelines on education laid down by The Mother and Sri Aurobindo, while taking the children up from 1st to 10th standard in preparation for their Government-held Matriculation examination around the age of 17-18 years. The school today, which is divided into 11 classes is limited to a maximum of 18 children per class, is attended by a total of 270 children, of whom 70-75 are in the Kindergarten, with a combined
faculty of 30 teachers. The school starts each day with a short period of prayer and meditation. This helps calm the children physically and mentally before the day's teaching programme starts, while also providing an opportunityfor them to become aware of their inner self and develop powers of concentration.
To develop children's full potential, in addition to intellectual education they must also have a strong and supple body. With this object in view, the school has introduced physical culture into the curriculum. Children do athletics and yoga, and play games like volley ball, hand ball, foot ball, cricket, badminton, table tennis and kabbadi. The school curriculum includes vocational activities like carpentry, tailoring, clay works, electronics and computers and creative activities like dance, music, Art and theater.
Tamil Ulagam Evening Schools (after work schools) are joint ventures involving Secours Populaire of France (SPF), SAIIER and the villages committed to educational activities. Ten village night schools, which have been functioning since 1980, have been included under the outreach educational programmes of SAIIER since 1992. These night schools were mainly started to help disadvantaged working children who did not get any opportunity to attend regular school in the daytime. Originally they were meant for the drop-outs, stay-outs, pulled-outs and pushed-outs, but there was also a great need to give tutorial guidance for school-going children who hailed from multi-purpose educational centres, in response to local needs and requests from parents. The teachers at each school are volunteers from the native village. They maintain the building, and take care of the children in the evenings. Between 6.00 and 8.30 p.m. every day, they conduct special classes during examinations, and organize cultural programmes, study tours and visits, work camps and other such co-curricular activities. Artistic talent (in music, dance, painting, theatre, writing, kolam drawing and hobbies) is encouraged, and sports activities are also conducted. Special get-togethers with other night schools through work camps, summer camps and student exchange programmes are arranged wherever possible, to bring unity and understanding and to enhance appreciation among the rural children. Teachers of Tamil Ulagam night schools are all long time associates of Auroville, most of them working in units of Auroville. They are not teachers by profession, but get regular training to impart knowledge to their wards.
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