ENCOUNTER: Education for Meaning and Social Justice

Mary Clarissa Shorten holds a degree in Religious Studies from Concordia University and is currently completing her M.A. in Education and Society at McGill University. Her research interests include holistic curriculum development, spirituality and education, and the teachering of world religions in public schools.

Teachers should nurture and protect the natural curiosity, love of learning, confidence, creativity, intelligence, happiness, and enthusiasm of their students.

There are over one hundred Sri Sri Ravishankar Vidya Mandir (SSRVM) schools throughout India, run by the International Association for Human Values. It is widely acknowledged that their students are not only happy and well-balanced individuals, but also highly successful academically within the fiercely competitive climate of the current Indian educational system. The inspiration behind the schools is Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, co-founder (with the Dalai Lama) of the International Association for Human Values (IAHV). The spiritual leader and world-renowned humanitarian is famous for his efforts to restore human values in society, as well as his middle path approach to reviving ancient wisdom while promoting modern knowledge and innovation. Based on his educational philosophy the schools use what they call “values-based holistic education” which blends progressive educational theory with the ancient knowledge of yoga.

The SSRVM schools are urban1 schools comparable to public and alternative schools in North America. IAHV also runs vast rural school projects; they have over 300 rural school projects throughout India, which are highly regarded within the world of international development because their unique approach results in extremely high student retention and is linked to successful family and community outreach. IAHV has also started specialized colleges that address concerns specific to the Indian educational climate. It has recently launched a state-accredited university in Orissa and works in schools in Canada and the United States through its “YES for Schools” program.

This paper focuses on those SSRVM approaches to education that lend themselves most easily to integration into North American schools.