I was really excited to see that a Maharishi School is planning to open in SW London in 2013. Even though I missed the open days, I have registered an interest in a school that openly advocates regular meditation as a key component of the school curriculum. Wacky? Maybe, but the Ofsted and exam results at GCSE provide conclusive evidence that the practice of TM (transcendental mediation) assists childrens’ learning and cognitive skills in a profound and lasting way.
Let’s not prevaricate. Many UK state schools and classrooms are in crisis. Record numbers of undergraduate students are dropping out of teaching or simply not opting for it at all at undergraduate level. For those that do qualify and secure teaching employment, some subsequently find the demands of teaching too much and resign for the ‘cosier’ pastures of banking or marketing, no honestly!
Teachers are suffering from stress too and growing numbers of primary aged children are excluded or labelled as disruptive. Something clearly isn’t working.
The idea of consciousness-based education: low stress = high achievement, is an appealing one. At the Maharishi Schools, yoga is incorporated into the school day to encourage focus, toning and flexibility. YogaBugs, a franchise of yoga classes delivered in schools, is another example of parents’ growing interest in ‘alternative’ school activities, especially those that have perceived educational or behaviour benefits. In the Maharishsi Schools pupils are also encouraged to nurture and care for the environment through green sustainable initiatives.
Children need to learn to read and write not meditate in the classroom!
There is oodles of information online about TM, and this post isn’t focused on that. For the purposes of this article, we will look at the benefits of a regular meditative practice , such as TM, as the claims are that meditation can alter neural pathways and brain function significantly enough to create positive benefits for school, teachers and pupils alike. Many alternative practitioners as well as conventional doctors can evidence that meditation lowers blood pressure, reducing cortisol (the stress hormone) levels blood stream which mean people are calmer as the ‘fight or flight’ response triggered by cortisol is vastly lowered. Which headteacher wouldn’t want to be able to calm excitable children, improve concentration, increase awareness of others as well as the ‘self’ creating an environment that is highly conductive to co-operation between teachers and children as well as ideal conditions for independent learning?
These schools provide a holistic approach: education is not just a means to an end (a job, if you’re lucky). It’s more about education as learning, a key tool to enable enlightenment.
As 2012 is here, I’m open to exploration and analysis of techniques that will evolve the UK education system into a place of widespread high aspiration and achievement as well as personal, spiritual and social fulfillment. A holistic approach to developing conscious and responsible young people who have the knowledge, skills and confidence to make valuable contributions to society is no longer an option; it’s the only way.
Further reading: http://www.maharishischool.com/
© Suzy Rigg