I am of Asian origin and hence Asian philosophy is ingrained into my psychology. I particularly embrace the Buddhist worldview and it manifests in my professional life as well. My approach to educating my pupils is taken after some of the principles of human nature that I had learnt from my parents and Buddhist texts. In terms of categorizing my world view under the four systems proposed by Ibrahim et. al., I would say mine contains shades of all four except the Pessimistic/Deterministic worldview. I would elaborate on this in the following paragraphs.
There are elements of the Eastern/Buddhist worldview that converge with the Optimistic worldview of Ibrahim et. al. For example, the ideas of living in harmony with nature and focusing on inner spiritual development are basic to Buddhism as well as the Optimistic model. A corollary to this understanding is that sustainability of the environment is to be kept as a cherished goal. But in contemporary society short-term goals have taken precedence over long-term sustainability. So, it is difficult to see how I could inculcate this aspiration in my students given how our society and schooling system is presently configured.
Some elements of the Traditional worldview are also part of my personal philosophy. For example, I believe in respect for the distilled wisdom of the past and that social relationships have a primacy. So I’ve tried to incorporate time-tested methods of teaching, while at the same time being open to new methods. And whenever possible I tell my students anecdotes from my personal life to illustrate the importance of social relationships.
The importance of being or living in the Here-and-Now is something I learnt from Buddhist monks. It is a very simple yet powerful approach to tackling the vagaries of life. Zen meditation, to me, is more than just a spiritual practice – it also serves as a mind-training program. It helps me compartmentalize various concerns and interests competing for my attention and lets me focus on that which needs immediate attention. With respect to my teaching, the inner calm that I’ve acquired over years of meditative practice has a contagious effect on the students. For instance, students find it reassuring when their teacher is not too critical of them and does not get upset easily. They are more trustful of me for this reason. Also, during the potentially high-pressure situations of examinations, a calm and cool teacher is an asset for the students.
One of the features of Eastern philosophy is its emphasis on the interconnectedness of life. Not only does it espouse a sense of equality among all life forms but that between life and the material world around it. In the school system we have today much fuss is made of individual excellence. Grades and standardized test scores have become the sole criterion of judgment, eschewing considerations of the social character of the student. My native worldview stands in opposition to this. Fundamental to this opposition is the understanding that an inequitable and unjust society cannot produce fair-minded and just individuals. By placing the thrust on the collective as opposed to the individual, Eastern thought takes a broader view of excellence. This is not to say that individuals and their merits do not matter. Individuals are appreciated to the extent that they act as socially conscious agents. It is this governing principle that I would like to bring to my teaching. But educators are merely one cog among multiple influences acting on students. So I may only succeed in a limited way in being able to achieve this change. In the capitalist consumer culture that is aggressively promoted today I recognize that my vision is difficult to implement.
Finally, having stated what my worldview is and how I try to bring it to my teaching practice, I have to acknowledge that there are numerous challenges. While we proudly boast of technological and material progress as a civilization we have somewhat regressed. I remember my own schooling days and what kind of ethos prevailed among our generation of students. In comparison the students that I handle come out a tad superficial, preoccupied with selfish interests and personal gain. Their social and political consciousness is quite appalling. In terms of apportioning blame, parents should take a huge share. On my part, however much I try to renew the system, I am too small to make a significant impact. This brings us to the role of school administrators and politicians to the fore. It is for them to ask what kind of leaders our current education system would produce. They need to act expeditiously, for the education policy in the country has become quite stale.