While Transition school has been meeting the demands for primary education since 1985, the possibilities to pursue higher education within Auroville are on the increase
Transition school has witnessed great changes and developments over the past years. There were sixty students in 1993, and this has doubled to one hundred and twenty today spreading over eight classes from grades 1 to 8. The expansion has also been physical: new classrooms, a library, a computer room, a hall for ‘awareness through the body' and a new dining hall have been built, greatly improving the learning environment.
“There has always been a strong feeling of working as a team in Transition school,” says Clare who has been a Transition teacher for the past ten years. “But we had to become more organized to deal with so many more students. As a result, we became more consolidated and clearer about our guidelines. The teachers are very supportive of each other and take decisions as a group. At present we are working on setting-up a general curriculum, detailing certain basics which should be taught to the students in each grade. We have also developed a teacher training programme. Yet within the structure, every teacher has, and will continue to have the freedom to develop his or her own curriculum and teaching methodology. For example, my own curriculum developed over the years, using the resources available and the ideas from different teachers. This resulted in a personal system of working where I use a combination of certain traditional but valuable methods along with innovative approaches.”
Clare loves her job, and feels that teaching is also a great learning experience. “As a teacher, you are always learning new things which you haven't dealt with before. And when questions are asked, it's a great thing for a teacher to just be able to stand there and say: ‘Well, actually I don't know, let's go and take a dictionary or an encyclopedia or search on the internet and find out.'”
Clare feels that one of the great challenges in education is to continue meeting the individual needs of each child as the number of students increases. “I've got eighteen students in my English class and there are children who need extra help. We can't let these children fall through the gaps. Transition is doing its utmost to meet the challenge by offering individual tutoring. This is teacher-intensive but essential, and it has to continue. It implies that more people are needed to do this work. But Transition will only accept people who are committed to teaching.”
In the past, many students left Auroville schools to pursue higher education at the Lycée Français in Pondicherry, or at the Kodaikanal International Boarding School. But this is not to everyone's liking. “I would be so happy to see the students from Transition school continue their studies in Auroville,” says Clare. “These children have been together in a group for many years. A very special dynamic has developed between them. They all know each other well, and accept and understand each other. They can all work out their problems together. Think of what that would mean for the future of Auroville! I think it would be the best for them to continue their education in Auroville.”
This possibility exists at Future School, where Clare gave English lessons for a year to students preparing for their O-level examination. Asked about her views on the issue of studying for diplomas she replies, “The impetus for Future School came from the children who grew up in Auroville and were asking for the opportunity to continue their higher studies in Auroville. Studying to pass the ‘O' or even the more advanced ‘A' level examinations is just one aspect of the school's work. More importantly, the students are treated as individuals who have the right to decide for themselves which educational system they want to pursue. They actively participate in the way they are being taught. The students have the opportunity to take exams, but it is not compulsory, and they can still participate in the programme the school offers even if they choose not to. The team at Future School ensures that each student's curriculum is well balanced and that it includes many other subjects aside from the examination-oriented topics.
“One of the things I enjoy most about teaching in Auroville, and which has brought a lot of richness into my life,” says Clare, “is the relationship that builds up between the teacher and the students. These contacts and friendships extend outside the classroom and continue to develop and evolve through the years, as the children grow up and become young adults.”