'Spiritual understanding combined with reason expands a child's ability to better perceive, empathize and comprehend.'
A child's spirit is nurtured by an inspiring school environment. The future of humanity rests upon what kind of environment is provided within the four walls of a school. The soft side of education, the school ethos, has a profound impact on the psychology of a child. It nourishes the inner spirit. Just like when we walk into a temple, a church, or into nature, our spirit is attracted. So must a child's spirit be attracted as s/he walks into a school. Schools need to create a new culture and provide a new climate of encouragement.
At CMS, daily prayer-assemblies are well planned to be spiritually nourishing. The integration of All-Religion Prayers before the commencement of every event is an innovative way to teach children to embrace diversity and create awareness of and reverence for all religions. Students attired in traditional costumes of each religion render their special prayers one group after the other. The melodious prayers performed in an atmosphere of reverence make contact with the deeper emotions of a child and address their spirits most profoundly.
In a Broader, Bolder education, particular care is taken to teach children respect for all religions. Values are inculcated through all activities of the school, by their integration in all subjects and through carefully implemented family education programs. One test of success of education is that children have an inclination for things spiritual and they aspire to become 'good' people. They exhibit a set of personal values and they appreciate the importance of their spiritual lives. They also desire to lead conscious lives.
At CMS, values are taught in a non-intrusive way to a religiously diverse student body from the Hindu, Muslim, Christian, Buddhist, Jain, Sikh, Baha´i, Parsi and other faiths. This has been an incredibly complex task but CMS's experiments have been successful in implementing this new approach to teaching values. It has researched many concepts and perfected several methods over the years for the development of spirituality in children, maturing in its ability each year to build tolerance, acceptance and respect for diverse beliefs and viewpoints, to appreciate the other and to lead virtuous lives. Thereby, CMS has been able to inoculate several generations of children and their families to the goals of peace and unity. This awareness has given rise to a non-sectarian yet spiritual approach to education.
Parents of different faiths who were initially opposed to such practices by CMS now greatly appreciate the spiritual focus their children receive. Many parents enroll their children at CMS precisely because of the school´s stress on inculcating values, prayerfulness and thankfulness and for putting high emphasis on the development of a child's spiritual reality.
From All-Religion Prayer Ceremonies to the daily discourses on education and spirituality on cable television and radio, CMS expands its circle of influence to the parents and society at large. These discourses serve as frequent reminders against religious and communal factionalism. CMS has thus influenced millions of people nationally to the goals of harmonious living and peaceful coexistence.
'A school community can transform the lives of individuals, the family and society'
'One test of success of education is that children have an inclination for things spiritual and they aspire to become 'good' people.'
A school should lead others in society. As parents are increasingly unable to provide spiritual nourishment to the young child as they once did, schools must take on a new responsibility. They must both set and meet new standards of ethical conduct. By demonstrating the effectiveness of this Broader, Bolder education, CMS has not only become a valuable experiment, it has helped hundreds of thousands across the globe acknowledge the importance of a spiritual education in the schooling process.
It is true that education can determine whether a child will become potentially the light of this world or its darkness. Without a Broader, Bolder education that is based upon spiritual principles, it can be asserted, society has no sure basis. An individual lacks direction and life his becomes anchorless, purposeless and hollow. In the microcosm of the city of Lucknow, it has been possible to witness the impact of this Broader, Bolder education where this experiment has been run consistently for several years.
When religious riots broke out throughout India, for example, because of demolition of a medieval Mosque in Ayodhya, which is said to have been constructed on the site of an ancient Hindu temple, violence and killings engulfed India. Lucknow was an exception as it remained calm. This is despite the fact that Lucknow is the capital of the state of Uttar Pradesh in which the demolition took place and where violence was the worst. It is also rather remarkable that Ayodhya city is nearby, with only 80 miles between the two cities. Lucknow is also religiously diverse with over 30% of its population Muslim. Many have attributed this exception to the long-term impact on the citizens of Lucknow of a Broader, Bolder education provided by CMS.
There are many eyewitness accounts of these successes such as 'A Bold Experiment in Teaching Values', Educational Leadership (USA, May 1996); '35 Inspiring Stories from Around the World', European Centre for Conflict Prevention (The Netherlands, 1999); and 'Conflict Resolution: 50 Success Stories from Around the World', Oxford University Press (UK, September 2001).
Such a tremendous impact is possible only by efforts that put more emphasis on the qualities of the heart over qualities of the mind, on love instead of riots and hatred, on peace in our hearts instead of war on our streets, and on respect and reverence for all forms of life.
'Along with creative methods that address all aspects of a child's development, this tunnel of learning is transformed into a tunnel of enlightenment'
'Broader, Bolder education puts more weightage on spiritual and human education'
Such an education stretches the definition of what is possible to accomplish with human potential during the process of educating. Despite growing social degradation, the experiment at CMS has shown that schools can create a new reality. In this tunnel of learning, the school, in which a child spends 14 years of life, a Broader, Bolder education emphasizes both process and outcome. Along with creative methods that address all aspects of a child's development, this tunnel of learning is transformed into a tunnel of enlightenment. A child emerges as enlightened citizen of his community and the world. S/he is confident, articulate, positive, enthusiastic, open-minded and above all else has the wisdom to know right from wrong.
The results are visible. As some studies and observations have shown, children coming out from the portals of CMS are significantly more conscious of their true station, more spiritual, endowed with values and virtues, have a sense of mission, and also aim for excellence in all they undertake. Observers have noted that CMS is like an oasis in the desert that stands out. One evidence is the endorsement of parents, who by choosing CMS as their choice of school, have made it the largest school in the world with its entry into the Guinness World Records each year since 1999. Such an outcome underscores the need for spiritual and human education in addition to material.
In fact, because of a Broader, Bolder education that puts more weightage on spiritual and human education, children's contexts are widened and they do better in their academics too. Such an outcome supports the hypothesis that when children are provided a broader framework for their lives, education becomes more meaningful for them. Children progress more in their academic work when compared to an education that is focused on academics.
CMS is testimony to the fact that even a large school community that mimics a public school, drawing as it does children from all strata of society, can produce consistently the best results year after year. By combining spiritual education with academic preparation, CMS has shown it is possible to engage the highest in a child, to motivate her/him from within and beyond that, to make life more meaningful for her/him.
In such an education, reaching for excellence becomes a value in itself. Students show an internal desire to excel and to stretch the boundaries of their human and spiritual potential. Students aspire to perfection both within and without. They increasingly become what we refer to as 'Total Quality Persons' (TQPs), that is, persons who are balanced in all aspects of life, inner and outer. It is no wonder, therefore, that CMS students have won countless awards in every subject, and have excelled in music, arts and the sciences, at the same time as they have become conscious and compassionate individuals.
CMS literature on spiritual education has been translated and used in several countries including Macau, China, Russia, Zimbabwe and others. A recent enquiry was made by the Zambian Ambassador to the US on how she could set up a non-profit educational society in her country based on the CMS principles. In South Africa, a Member of Parliament has taken the Excellence in Character Series and implemented it in many schools over the last two years. People worldwide are attracted to this model of education.
'Every Child is Potentially the Light of the World'
In an open-ended survey, referred to as the Parel Survey, Matthew J Parel, former Principal and Head of several Army Public Schools in India, interviewed 14 and 15 year olds at two well-known schools, one of which was CMS. He posed three questions, of which the qualitative answers to two of them are enumerated below. Data was quantified based on qualitative survey.
As the Parel Survey demonstrates, such a focus has created demonstration value and raised expectations from education. Broader, Bolder education at CMS has given direction and meaning to its student body. It has motivated, for example, more of them to dedicate their efforts to the betterment of society, not just for personal material gain.
There are a number of new terms, concepts, methods and innovations that are part of this unique experiment with education. They include the reorganisation of educational structure and instructional content to facilitate the highest possible emphasis on spiritual aspects.
'Music deepens emotion and increases spirituality'
Music is an essential aspect of the development of the inner spirit of the child. The end result of such an education that uses music as food for the soul, among others, is enormous creativity of its students, staff and parents. Children and teachers write new songs and soul stirring music. Their original compositions are based on the school's vision. Such soul stirring music helps deepen emotion and nurture the spirit of children.
'Let your deeds distinguish you'
To promote good qualities and inspire children and to promote school's philosophy of 'Jai Jagat' ('Hail the World') and Vasudhaiv Kutumbukam ('The Earth is One Home'), the CMS Film Division makes children's films on such titles as Anmol Ratna ('Priceless Pearl'), Maa ('Mother'), Sabak ('Lesson'), Roshani ('Light'), and Aao Dosti Karain ('Come, Let's Be Friends'), among others. These films are shown on a continuous year round basis at a centrally located Capitol Cinema in the morning hours so that schools from across the city can view them. In 2009, CMS also launched its first International Children's Film Festival. The 9th such Film Festival just concluded in April 2017.
Radio can be another powerful means to communicate a school's vision. For this purpose CMS runs two FM Radio Stations (90.4 MHz) from two locations of Lucknow.
Several local newspapers carry daily articles on Broader Education. Articles are well written and informative on such topics as 'Strong character makes a better individual', 'Let your deeds distinguish you', 'Parents need to be sensitized', 'Balanced development key to peace', 'Let your virtues distinguish you', 'Spare some time for your child', etc.