ISAI AMBALAM SCHOOL
Isai Ambalam School is located in the northern periphery of Auroville. Its
catering to the learning needs of Young Adults in the age group of 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 it has evolved to the
present stage. Now it has preschool, primary and Young Adult sections and there
are 125 students and 12 teachers in the school. For the last 4 years the school is
specialising in conducting experiments in education by adopting innovative and
comprehensive educational methods that make learning easier, faster, more joyous and context-oriented. All these methods conform very well with the 3 cardinal principles of education enunciated by Sri Aurobindo and all of them are based on joy, freedom, learning by doing and self-learning. Further many of them have been effectively and successfully used elsewhere in and outside India, and are being successfully used in the school.
GLENN DOMAN METHOD
Creative and play way activities are daily given to the preschool children. Apart from these activities, the teachers apply the Glenn Doman method for imparting reading skills in Tamil and English and general knowledge to the preschool children who joyously respond to this method of learning. Since the inception of this method in 1996, 4 batches of 12 children each have learnt to read using this method. One of the 4 batches learnt the reading skill completely, thanks to the continuance of the learning practice for the full specified period of 2 years. The staff members also teach the parents to apply this method to the children at home in a fruitful manner thus shortening their learning time.
RISHI VALLEY METHOD
To the primary level children and the Young Adults the school is aiming to
impart all the skills needed for their self-directed learning. As one of its steps, it
has transcreated in Tamil the educational method discovered and successfully used by the Rishi Valley Rural Schools in Andhra Pradesh in India. This method
consists of a number of study cards in Tamil, Mathematics and Environmental
2 Science that are arranged in a graded manner and can be used by the primary level students to learn most of the subject matter by themselves. Creative and play way activities as well as group activities are in-built in the study cards. A regular primary section was opened in June 1999 and this method is used there now. The primary section has reached the fourth level. This method has a great potential and can be resourcefully used to organise in future the learning activities in Auroville.
THEMATIC PROJECT WORK AND EDUCATION BY DESIGN
For older Young Adults who wish to continue their studies Thematic Project Work Method and E.B.D. Method (Education By Design) are used and an appropriate classroom environment has been created for them to use these methods. In the E.B.D. method, as part of their learning process, the Young Adults are given challenges or problems to be tackled, which involves the study of their subject matter. The teachers create the challenges or problems from the subject matter to be learnt such as staging a play enacting the important events in the Indian Independence Movement, or the preparation of a chart with appropriate illustrations to teach simple prepositions in English. The Young Adults do Project Works in groups to tackle such problems. The teachers help them when needed. This method of learning is somewhat similar to the Free Progress System used in the Sri Aurobindo Ashram School. Resourceful and intelligent use of this method can bring out the innate talents and faculties of the students and also lead them to access the deeper or higher regions of consciousness.
NEED-BASED ENGLISH LEARNING
All the students and teachers learn English. A need-based approach is practised for this learning. That is, all those who wish to learn to speak English are taught the spoken skills, and all those who wish to read and write and pursue higher studies in English are taught to list out the details of this learning, and then to learn them using appropriate methods. An Audio Tape Method combined with
language games is used for the Young Adults. Teachers and senior Young Adults use Basic Sentence Structure Method. They also use a 400-Hours Intensive English Course developed by CIEFL (Central Institute of English as Foreign Language) of Hyderabad. The Audio Tape Method combined with Rishi Valley Method can help establish a Language Laboratory in Auroville where languages from all over the world are spoken.
TRAINING CAPACITY DEVELOPING IN THE SCHOOL
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 of 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 one’s teaching/ learning activities in a manner suited to
the learning needs of the children. Outside educational institutions have also
started seeking assistance from the school in applying non-formal, joyous,
play way learning activities in their establishments that are now applying formal
ACCESS TO GRACE
Further an effort is being made to create conditions in the school under which the students can become aware of the Grace acting all over Auroville, and can invoke it. For instance, when difficulties or hurdles arise in the context of their
studies, they are taught to keep their mind silent and to concentrate so as to find away for their removal. Alternatively, they may pray for their removal. Grace also
operates automatically when a certain maximum possible perfection is achieved in any aspect of their study, or a certain maximum effort is put forth by them. They also offer their work inwardly to the divine Force or creative Force, so that it can act upon the difficulty to remove it. The students are taught and encouraged to do these three things. As a result they are acquiring the capacity to feel the silence that results from such endeavours, and to cherish it. They are also able to feel the intensification of silence when they collectively concentrate. The school hopes that soon aspiring students will learn to ‘draw upon’ the Grace for their progress in their learning.
The students learn in the afternoon art-related skills in drawing, music and
classical dance, and 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
level but the vital, physical and psychic parts of the being.