for ISKCON News on July 9, 2011
ISKCON devotees in Poland have just finished writing an educational program that aims to provide primary and secondary school children with the cutural, social and philosophical basis for Krishna consciousness.
Since religion or “ethics” lessons are now obligatory in Polish schools—and children can choose which ones they want to take—ISKCON teachers have put their own program together which they have just submitted to the Polish government’s Ministry of National Education.
Bhaktavasa Govinda Dasa, who wrote the program along with Trisama Dasa and Ramesvara Dasa, and currently teaches Bhakti-Sastri courses at Belgium’s Bhaktivedanta College, discussed his effort to colleagues at this year’s ISKCON Communications Conference.
“Although ISKCON in Poland is deemed as a dangerous sect by the Catholic Church, it is registered and recognized as a legal denomination there,” he says. “So we have the right as members of ISKCON to teach our children our own program. And the marks will be officially recognized and included in the certificates children receive from school.”
Qualified ISKCON teachers will be able to teach the program in public schools to children whose parents opt for it. Alternatively, traveling teachers or those local to a particular ISKCON community may teach ISKCON children in their homes or at Sunday Schools or temples. These grades will also be officially recognized by
the government schooling system.
In the program, the culture and history of India will be taught by celebrating and organizing different festivals; social life will be promoted by teaching basic Vaishnava etiquette; and philosophy will be taught through literature and the Sanskrit language.
“In primary school, where the children are aged seven to twelve years, we’ll teach about festivals of India, heroes of Vedic literature, and basic Sanskrit vocabulary from literature and prayers,” says Bhaktavasa Govinda. “We’ll also give them an introduction to prayer. Meanwhile in secondary school—where children are aged thirteen to fifteen—we’ll teach them about celebrating and organizing festivals, and Vaishnava etiquette. We’ll also give them an introduction to the Vedic worldview and philosophy, as well as Sanskrit grammar, all through study of the Bhagavad-gita.”
The project is supported and supervised by ISKCON Minister of Education and Bhaktivedanta College Principal Yadunandana Swami, and is part of a larger vision for education in Poland.
“We’re aiming to create an educational system where professional devotee teachers can provide education both within the devotee society, as well as to non-devotees who are looking for a spiritually-oriented and value-oriented system,” Bhaktavasa Govinda says. “The long term goal is to open our own school.”
Polish devotees hope to be able to start teaching children in the 2011/2012 school year, although bureaucratic procedures may delay their efforts until the following 2012/2013 school year.