Social work begins from home, is learnt in school and expands in life. Unfortunately education today has compromised the need to develop strong individuals with values and clarity who feel responsible for society and themselves. The need of the hour is ‘Life education’ and just not ‘Life skills’. The paper elaborates on the ingredients that go into building evolutionary excellence amongst students based on experiential research with children between 10 to 16 years in Bangalore city. The module is built on Learning–Doing–Integrating and teaching children deeper reflection process. The highlight of the program is SAP – social action project that children undertake in tenth grade.
Social work starts from home and is learnt in school. As the world needs social orientation, Education should be given to actually create, connect and contribute, to go beyond themselves and connect to the society and create a society that all of us would want to belong to.
Education is one of the most fundamental spaces where social work orientation, thought and action begins. Working with children to make them part of the social work is one of the prime activities of a matured and nurturing society. Schools today and always have served as a valuable platform for young minds to come together and mutually evolve, but Education today has sadly got restricted to individual performance and skills, knowledge required for livelihood of the individual. There is a serious disconnect of the child from the society and interdependence. Education needs to go beyond the academic realms and prepare its students for the important chapter called LIFE. Apart from giving the students knowledge, the education should address a deeper level of human existence such as one’s VISION, the VALUES one stands by and make the children continuous LEARNERS, so that there is continuous harmony between the demands of the society and the child’s inner self. While a lot of effort is invested in building capabilities, equal amount of time has to be invested in building the deeper level of enquiry process that will help integrate life. That is what “Life education” can do. The child needs to grow knowing its purpose for its own existence as well as in society.
Education sector on the other hand have introduced ‘Life Skills’ connecting again the individual performance and capacity building. While ‘Life skills’ deals with learning various tools and skills to handle Life situations, ‘Life education’ on the other hand deals with the understanding of using these skills appropriately in Life situations.
‘It is important to know what I am capable of. It is even more important to know what I am using my capabilities for’ (Sampath 2003).
Life skills may give the competence to a child who may use it for positive or negative consequences. The world today seeks Life education and not mere life skills. If we dream to see empathetic, respectful, self directed and farsighted individuals, who want to make a difference to themselves and others, they need Life Education. They need to have the reflective quality that enables them to make the choices that would truly add value in the larger context.
Life skills build the capabilities required to handle life; but Life education nurtures the clarity that is required to make the right choices to use these capabilities appropriately.
What Is Life Education? How Is It Different From Life Skills?
Life education can be seen as being more holistic and evolving, enabling better integration than life skills.
• Life education facilitates the ability to be context sensitive: while it includes Life Skill in it, it goes beyond on how one can use one’s skills in enhancing the quality of life. For example, the capability of being intelligent can be used to manipulate a situation to suit one’s achievement of a goal; or the same intelligence can be used to create and contribute for larger well being.
• Life education aims at facilitating the deepest level of enquiry and enables the person to be appropriate to a given context.
• Life education instills an understanding of the knowledge while Life skill brings in various methodologies to obtain the knowledge. The understanding of the knowledge is likely to leave behind several insights in the person which become pearls of wisdom when integrated into life. For example I know mathematics is a difficult subject for me but my understanding of this knowledge will give me what, why, when, where, who and how mathematics tends to become difficult for me. This enquiry will bring forth an insight into me, my learning styles and the orientation I have towards learning.
• Life education teaches one to work at a cause level. The deep down learning’s and beliefs that one makes in life that governs the behaviour. It shows a path to handle issues in life at a belief level rather than behaviour level. Behaviour is only a representation of the beliefs that govern them (Sampath, 1999, 2006).
• If we seek meaningful development in children then we will have to focus on life education; particularly in a context where the whole world is going through crisis like never before.
Life Education Curriculum - EQUBE
Life education curriculum has to address both the purpose and the process of life. The purpose connects to vision and the process connects to the values. In order to be on a continuous journey of life evolution, learning to learn becomes a key dimension. Over a hundred years ago in the east, especially in the Indian context, large part of education was about life. Now, education predominantly seems to be information and subject driven. Life education helps the child look at life more holistically in a way that enhances the quality of life based on the choices and decisions they make. The module is based on the concept of Evolutionary Excellence Model (Sampath, 1998)
This concept stems from a belief that all human beings innately move on the path of Excellence, which requires four critical cornerstones – Vision, Values, Learning and Excellence.
• Vision provides a sense of direction to life - where to go?
• Values determine the choice or the path taken to move towards the vision
• Learning makes the journey continuous by enabling clarity at every stage
The journey towards excellence is an ongoing evolutionary process and therefore excellence is not a destination but the milestones that are achieved in the journey. Life education curriculum is based on this excellence model and in the six years all the key words in the model are transacted at conceptual, experiential and application levels for the students.
Education has been serving as a process to equip the people especially children to face the requirements of the context in the immediate future. Therefore, when the era changes the requirements of the context changes too and the educational perspectives have to also equally evolve. Agrarian era had education as a part of living with the family and through hands on work. Industrial era saw various new fields of study and structured processes that enabled proficiency to handle the context. The Information era had knowledge explosion and logical thinking skills at its peak. Further, with the onset of consciousness era and the children who are much higher in their capacity and capability, education needs to respond to their ability to enquire, understand, and integrate learning in life. Else, the children lose faith in the system and therefore develop indifference and restlessness. Recent research in understanding of children indicates the rise of ‘Indigo Children’, who show the capacity of human beings to be connected to the consciousness at a different level (Carroll and Tober, 1999). Carroll was the first to bring to light this phenomenon. The children of the new age are called ‘Indigo Children’ because of the predominance of indigo color in their auras. There are a host of websites that has collections from counselors, parents, pediatricians and educationists on the powers of indigo children, recorded with relevant case studies. There are already special courses in educational institutions meant to cater to the special talents of these children. Carroll and his wife Jan Tober propound ten common behaviour traits to identify the Indigo children.
• They come into the world with a feeling of royalty (and often act like it).
• They have a feeling of ‘deserving to be here’, and are surprised when others don’t share that.
• Self–worth is not a big issue; they often tell their parents ‘who they are’.
• They have difficulty with absolute authority (authority without explanation or choice).
• They simply will not do certain things; for example, waiting in line is difficult for them.
• They get frustrated with systems that are ritualistic and don’t require creative thought.
• They often see better ways of doing things, both at home and in school, which makes them seem like ‘system busters’ (non–conforming to any system).
• They seem antisocial unless they are with their own kind. If there are no others of similar consciousness around him or her, they often turn inward, feeling that no other human understands them.
• They will not respond to ‘guilt’ discipline.
• They are not shy in letting you know what they need. (Carroll and Tober, 1999, p.1)
In order to address the children of this new era,
• learning about life needs to be a process of enquiry rather than prescription
• It has to be experiential in nature than just theoretical
• Learning should have adequate space to be integrated in life and should relate to everyday life. Exploration therefore is more welcome than monologue.
With these factors in mind, EFIL1, an organization working in the Education and Governance sector, a Life Education Curriculum has been designed that suits the enquiring mind. This program is named EQUBE – meaning E3 – which stands for Enabling Evolutionary Excellence. The following teaching guidelines determine the structure and delivery of the module:
• Facilitate – No prescription
Children from the consciousness era are largely conscious and explorative in their learning. Every session in EQUBE is designed to facilitate the enquiring mind to understand the implication of the choices one makes in life. Hence, teachers are more facilitators and they explore the various alternatives in life through understanding its implications.
• Working with cause
As adults, to bring in change, one needs to work with those that ‘cause’ the behavior rather than behavior itself. Every human being has coded themselves with millions of conclusions that turn into beliefs which govern the behavior. While some of these beliefs are known, some are unknown and still they continue to govern the behavior (Sampath 1999).
In children, it is essential to intervene at the coding level and give them the understanding of the process itself. Then, they have a higher possibility of sowing the right seeds and knowing how to weed out the unwanted plants.
• Awareness is one step ahead. The program is focused on bringing in awareness in children towards multiple perspectives available in life. After that deeper level of reflections happen as they grow and their sensitivity towards life increases.
• Edutainment as a process model enables the learning to be easily accepted. Intertwined with play, sharing become natural and learning is stress-free.
EQUBE addresses the five formative years of a child’s growth, from the 5th to 9th grade. The 10th grade is the culmination of this program connecting them to social organization and social entrepreneurship.
In grade 5, the aim is to impart that Life is nothing but a string of stories with learning attached to it. In these sessions, 16-18 values are explored using a transformative tool called Discovery 2 (Sampath, 2005). The children get to understand that every event in their life is a story by itself and they have the choice to draw their learning’s from each of those stories. It also introduces the possibility of multiple perspectives to them, along with introducing over forty different values. The children are made to move away from good/bad concept of values which are judgmental and limiting to understanding values from facilitative and restrictive perspective.
In grade 6 Children learn that the learning they pick up from the stories move on to become conclusions and further to become beliefs. The linear model of the formation of values from experience to conclusion to Belief is presented to them through experiential processes of role-play and sharing. The children explore the processes involved in manufacturing their behavior through learning the processes involved in looking within. The power to change their beliefs and the ability to be aware of their conclusions form an important part of grade 6 program.
In grade 7 having learnt to locate their beliefs in the previous year, the children move on to learn to learn. Learning is a critical skill for managing change. The realization that mindful learning leaves behind a wise person and mindless learning creates a knowledgeable person is brought to them using the examples picked from their own classroom learning. Using 5W-1H, they learn to explore and connect to subjects and life. This gives the 12-year-olds a new perspective to look at their subject learning from an evolution-in-life perspective rather than from an examination perspective.
The grade 8 children are stepping into teens. The learning from grades 5, 6, and 7 about life needs to now get streamlined to advanced level of integration. Therefore, the purpose of these learning is anchored through dealing with ‘VISION’ formulation. The children learn the distinction between goals, mission, and vision. The power of vision is imparted to them with real-life examples and reflection exercises. They learn the vision essentials from individual point of view as well as group/team point of view.
The core learning is in three areas:
• The role played by vision and values integration in evolving them towards excellence
• The choice of being a Victim of circumstances or a Master of circumstances in working towards reaching their goals
• The children take a vision-value assessment using VVI (Vision-Value Instrument)3 and identify the extent of imbalance in their vision-value alignment.
The VIII graders get a realization that there is a purpose behind their existence and they need to find it. The sooner they find, the more the time they have to achieve their vision. They learn that career is only a means towards vision. They also understand the connection between the career and the societal needs fulfillment process.
Grade 9 is a sequel to grade 8. Having understood the power of vision, they now understand the values that go into achieving that vision. This year, the children learn five critical orientations in moving towards excellence:
• Achievement Orientation
• Sociability Orientation
• Leadership Orientation
• Learning Orientation
• Integrity Orientation
The children are introduced to feedback process using VPI (Value Profile Instrument)4 (Sampath, 1999). This is a multi-rater instrument. The exercise helps the children to obtain a 360-degree feedback from their peers, family, teachers, and friends. The children learn through understanding the implications created in the society from the imbalances in the values.
When the students come to the 10th standard the sessions are designed in such that they evolve and scale up with the class dynamics and have been enhanced with practical module called SAP - Social Action Projects that help internalize the learning and provide healthy cross linkage among various institutions like the family, school and community. The Social Action Project (SAP) is a possibility for each of the student of class 10 to know that he/she can make a difference to some place or someone in their life, and when given the opportunity of exploring this possibility what is it that they would do? Each student had to spend a minimum of 20 hours and a maximum of whatever they needed to put in to complete the project.
The students are educated and encouraged to think out of the box and also to connect the SAP projects to their life vision and to the various concepts and learning’s they have got in the 5 years of life education classes, take the guidance and suggestions from their parents for whatever project they take up and do their best. They also get an understanding of social work principles and project management skills. They are supported by EQUBE facilitators throughout the year in this process. At the end of the year they submit a written project report along with a questionnaire and also do a presentation of their project in front of their class. They get feedback on different parameters which include the written document, authenticity, uniqueness, innovativeness, clarity and depth, passion and courage while doing and presenting and also the overall flow of the project. They are also evaluated on how they could connect the whole experience of the project to self, society and the learning they got out of it. The panelists include persons who have not only been very high achievers in their respected fields but also are people with a vision to see a better, evolved and compassionate society.
For example, in 2013-2014 the SAP presentations saw a wide range of projects-the plethora included something as varied as creating an application for doctors to spending quality time and supporting their grandfather in a difficult time! Waste management and waste segregation, composting, fuel conservation through spreading awareness at traffic signals, water conservation, teaching blind students subjects, arts music, dance, editing text books for the blind and voice recording, playing games, teaching in Government schools, interacting and teaching children in orphanages, donating clothes and books to the same through newspaper drive, creating cycling trails to cleaning up lakes, selling cloth bags, making paper bags, teaching dance to the differently-abled, to helping the underprivileged people make bank accounts and manage their finances ,giving free tuitions to their maids children, teaching spoken English to their maids…the list is endless.
One of the fall outs of this is the formulation of an NGO called Trash Mob in Bangalore city by two students which is gathering attention and momentum. Two students Adhitya and Vivek developed an idea to motivate students and youth to clean their surroundings areas of residence on Sundays. They began as an example gathering people in their area and adjacent areas to collectively work on cleaning their residential areas. This was presented as a SAP project. When they moved into 11th grade this idea gained momentum. When Swatch Bharat was popularized, this idea got a lot more impetus and now they also enable managing school events to ensure trash is cleaned and it becomes a way of life. So a seed that gets sown in tenth takes a form as they grow up.
The children present their ideas and efforts with a lot of style and panache and their confidence levels are high with a belief they could make a difference, if they choose to, not only to themselves but also the society. The key learning from SAP so far has included sharing and caring as a beautiful experience; empathy coupled with efforts can bring about change; becoming aware of the opportunities given to them; being thankful to all the gifts they have been bestowed with in terms of loving supportive family, good health and limitless possibilities; getting out of their cocooned comfort zone and seeing and facing the ‘real’ world; all these opened many students eyes making them more determined have a vision, work towards it and make a difference in whatever way they can to the society around them of which they are an integral part of! This whole experience also gave them a different perspective of their parents, teachers and to a large extent made them come out of ‘I, Me, Myself’ micro mode and look at a more macro perspective.
The entire effort of instilling social concern and social work possibilities is only a seed during school. When the children grow up and get their professional degrees and become people with power and money in the society, this seed will somewhere get stimulated and germinates into a social responsibility is the main aim. This effort does not stop with the children but it flows into the house to reach the parents and other adults in the society. It instills a social consciousness within them. While our education is built of the foundation of performance and competition, this effort brings forth the values of collaboration, cooperation and co-existence in the children. Instill love for society and a social consciousness is one of the pathways for professional fulfillment for a social worker. Its our prime responsibility too.
1 = EFIL stands for Education For Integrating Life, derived by spelling LIFE backwards! EFIL educational services private limited is an initiative with a clear direction to provide objective life - education by designing and delivering concepts, services and product interventions that help enable evolutionary excellence.
2 = DISCOVERY - ‘Discovery’ is a Values Clarification Transformative Learning Tool aimed to introduce basic human values to a person and to initiate a process of self-enquiry, which takes care of the need to learn to learn. The tool is presented in the form of a game using ‘snake and ladder’ with hundred parables/stories forming the backbone of the game. The eleven theme-based spirally evolving charts are included to inquire into specific dimensions like team building, creativity, self-esteem, leadership, etc. With exploration as the key methodology, the players are taken through three levels of learning – beginning with Explicit learning to Experience sharing to an Abstract conceptualization process. This leads the player towards a belief level change that is transformative in nature. Having been used over a decade and half, this tool has multiple uses in schools, organizations, and communities - both at the self-level as well as the group level.
3 = VVI – Vision Value Instrument is a forty item instrument. The Instrument presents the location of the individual in the vision-value grid and describes the predominant characteristics of the individual in the current state of being. It indicates the extent of alignment between vision and values. It also provides the focus area for immediate action. It presents the profile in a two x two matrix four quadrants of high vision-high values; high vision – low values; low vision – high values and low vision and low values. EQUBE uses the student version of the instrument.
4 = VPI – Value Profile Instrument was developed in 1992 by Dr. J.M. Sampath. This is a 30-item multi rater instrument using a nine-point scale. The uniqueness of the tool is the ability to arrive at interdependence of values after converting the points obtained through rating scale into quantitative measures. The instrument is built on the premise that “No single value by itself is valuable. Values are inter-dependent. One needs to understand this inter-dependence to understand one’s own behaviour”. The VPI is classified into five orientations – Achievement, Sociability, Leadership, Learning and Integrity orientation. EQUBE uses the Student version of the instrument where students take feedback from parents, teachers, friends, siblings and significant others in their life.
1. Carroll, Lee & ToberJan., 1999, The Indigo Children, Carlsbad, CA: Hay House, Inc
2. Sampath.J.M, 1998, Evolutionary Leadership model. Arpitha Associates Pvt Ltd, Bangalore, www.arpitha.com
3. Sampath, J.M, 1999, A sociological study of values clarification process in the development of organization culture. Unpublished PhD thesis. Gujarat University
4. Sampath, J M, 2003, Inner Realities - Notes from the School of life, Bangalore, India: Insight Publishers., p.160
5. Sampath, Kalpana & Sampath, J.M, 2006, The changing face of human capital in the era of consciousness - development path forward for HR. Paper presented at NHRD conference, India
6. Sampath, J.M, 2008, Inaugural address at the Parents meet. Shishya school. Hosur, Tamil Nadu.
Director, Arpitha Associates Pvt Ltd.
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