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Introduction to conscious learning

EducationWorld March 2024 | Magazine Teacher-2-teacher
Lina Ashar

LINA ASHAR

Education is not merely about knowledge delivery… Conscious learning is a new-age pedagogy that prompts students to develop deep awareness of their thoughts, emotions and action

In the fast-evolving education landscape, there is a notable shift towards a holistic approach to nurturing young minds. Education is not merely about knowledge delivery but also about shaping students into well-balanced, resilient individuals attuned with their inner selves. Conscious learning is a new age pedagogy that prompts students to develop deep awareness of their thoughts, emotions, and action.

Good education requires more than reading textbooks and taking tests. It should include cultivating children’s emotional intelligence and developing their self-awareness and cognitive skills. In response to ever-increasing pressures of contemporary life, there’s rising interest in conscious learning that incorporates yoga, mindfulness and spirituality. Currently, a large and growing number of parents and educators are expressing preference for conscious learning pedagogy for their children.

Mindfulness has been introduced into education to enhance children’s well-being, mental health, social and emotional skills, resilience, pro-social behaviour — all of which enhances academic performance. By teaching mindfulness techniques, educators can empower students to manage stress, improve concentration, and cultivate their emotional intelligence. These skills are becoming increasingly valuable in academic settings to prepare students for the complex challenges they are certain to experience in higher education and adult life.

Let’s examine why schools, educators and parents are choosing conscious learning education pathways for their children.

Emotional intelligence — the heart of conscious learning. In addition to enhancing academic performance, conscious learning develops the emotional intelligence of children. Through yoga and mindfulness, children develop self-awareness, compassion and communication skills. These are the prerequisites of nurturing emotional intelligence and social skills.

Stress reduction and mental well-being. With the explosion of social media, 21st century children are experiencing high levels of stress and anxiety in today’s fast-paced world. Conscious learning practices, comprising mindfulness and yoga, equip children with the skills to navigate life’s challenges. Conscious learning promotes stress reduction, emotional resilience, and overall mental well-being, inducing positive, balanced mindsets.

Mind-body connection. Mind-body connection is crucial for children’s holistic development. From time immemorial educators have connected mental and physical health (mens sana in corpore sano). To establish the mind-body connection some schools subscribe to online physical education programs, yoga and mindfulness sessions, which are incorporated into the curriculum. Not only do these programmes encourage physical fitness, they also teach students how to manage stress, focus better and improve self-management.

Self-awareness. Self-awareness is the foundation of all holistic development. Capability to recognise one’s strengths, weaknesses, and values, enables students to make better decisions to tackle life’s formidable challenges. Intelligent educators develop their students’ self-awareness by encouraging them to introspect to discover their interests and passions and follow them.

Cultivating focus and concentration. In an era when children are bombarded with digital distractions, discerning parents worry about their children’s ability to focus and remain focused for adequate time periods. By incorporating meditation into children’s learning, teachers and parents help them develop concentration capabilities and skill-sets.

Spirituality. Spirituality in education is religion neutral. It helps children develop the virtues of compassion and empathy advocated by all religions. By introducing spiritual ideas and learning, parents can instil ethics into their children.

Increasingly spiritual education is becoming related to nature-related activities and environmental consciousness. In these days of climate change and looming environment disaster, educators need to develop students’ strong connection with nature. Outdoor play, nature walks and eco-friendly activities are becoming mandatory for children to develop environment preservation responsibility.

Lastly, teaching children to commit themselves to lifelong learning is part and parcel of conscious learning that extends beyond routine, conventional education. Parents and teachers need to instil passion for exploration and discovery in children to encourage them to become lifelong learners who address challenges with curiosity and problem-solving attitude.

As awareness of the importance of conscious learning grows, the importance of yoga, mindfulness and spirituality in education is a natural consequence. Latter-day parents and teachers must provide balanced and holistic education for children’s optimal development. Children gifted with good mental health and emotional intelligence are moving ahead to confront life’s increasingly complex challenges with confidence and purpose.

(A pioneer of professionally administered early childhood education and promoter of the nationwide Kangaroo Kids preschools chain, Lina Ashar is currently founder-director of the Dreamtime Learning School, Mumbai)

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