Three Pedagogical Principles

How Integral Education takes form/shapes itself will have endless variations, based on the cultural setting, the creativity of teachers, and the needs and interests of students. Yet there is a solid foundation that sets this educational approach apart from other approaches, through which it can be identified. There are three pedagogical principals that lay the foundation for an Integral Education, forming the core of its expression and methodology. These three principles define the roles of the teacher and student, base themselves on stages of human development, and introduce learning as a process. The aim of such an education is for the student to develop self-knowledge and to learn to connect their thoughts and actions to a space of deeper consciousness. These principles will be visible in every school or educational institution that has dedicated itself to this process of transforming education.

The pedagogical principles are:

  • Nothing can be taught
  • The mind must be consulted in its own growth
  • Working from the near to the far, from that which is to that which shall be

It is important to be aware that our old educational terminology is redundant and no longer representative for these new practices. For lack of new terminology, these terms are still used here. The term school derives from Greek, standing for a group to whom lectures are given, and the term teacher means one who provides information. Neither of these meanings apply in an Integral Education context, and they need to be replaced with a new internationally recognized terminology. The term education has two different Latin roots, educare – meaning to train or mold, and educere – meaning to lead out. The difference is significant, and in an Integral Education it is the second meaning that is more applicable.  

Nothing can be taught

By Maya Shakti

WHAT? Being and becoming

The child from birth to age three can be seen as a spiritual embryo. It can seem like the infant, at birth, is nothing, without pre-established psychic qualities, motionless and empty. Yet inside the infant are the immense potentialities to determine her/his development, a global power striving for purposeful activity and reasoning, and containing the creative essence of humanity. Real knowledge is already hidden inside the child.1 Plato acknowledges that knowledge is something humans are born with. But he saw an educational paradox of being and becoming. According to Plato we cannot search for knowledge unless we know what we are looking for. At the same time, if we already had the knowledge, we would not have to look for it.2 Therefore there is only one thing that the learner has to learn: to remember that she/he already is in possession of the required knowledge. 3A movement of research where all teaching is revealing and all becoming is an unfolding.4

Based on this view of the individual’s autonomy, Integral Education is only possible if the student is free and self-active, and, at the same time, in order for the individual to become free and self-active, an education to develop one’s self-awareness seems to be necessary. 5 Through this understanding, the educational leadership of teachers need to recognize and treat students as if they are already free (reflective, capable, trustworthy) in order to reach the ability to grow and act, less based on outer influences of the expectations of society. Educational leadership therefore lies and emerges from within the individual student, and education is a “recognition-based invitation, intervention, provocation, a disturbance or expectation concerning the student’s relation to herself/himself, the world and others. Teaching is then about recognizing the student as if they are already capable of doing what they are supposed to become capable of - and to act accordingly.”6 The student just has to learn to remember that she/he can strive towards gaining insight- the learner has to learn to connect to something that already exists within. So somehow, education is that which supports an individual to come into being.7

WHY? Development of consciousness

The aim of an Integral Education is to lay the foundation for an Unending Education throughout life, to support the active participation in our human evolution – individually, locally and globally. Growth and development through self-activity is nature’s greatest miracle, as is the ability of awareness. The human being is a great builder, with a power, an intelligence and knowledge. There is within nature, a divine force that enables each individual to construct the Self. 8 Through the process of being and becoming, integral learning aims to develop each individual’s consciousness. The outer perfection of an individual comes through the realization of the perfection that is already within. The instruments for this perfection are that of the mental, vital and physical, psychic and spiritual consciousness. “The more the individual’s most inner truth consciousness (psychic being) is in the foreground and developed, the greater will be the perfection that a human being can realize in the outer world.” 9

HOW? The role of the teacher and student

In an Integral Education the teacher is a researcher and learner. As well as being in an ongoing deepening of the Self, developing her/his own faculties of consciousness, the teacher also has to become an expert at observing and understanding the needs of each individual student, and gaining the skills of how to summon each student to enter a journey of self discovery and formation.10 It is therefore the student who is teaching the teacher how to guide, the teacher is learning through observing the needs of the student, by getting to know the student, by listening to the student’s questions. The work of the teacher is then to guide the student to learning opportunities based on deeper knowledge and understanding of the student’s developmental needs. It requires working with the same students over years, to be able to reach this in-depth connection.

The teacher’s task is to offer each student opportunities for learning, through situations that invoke the inner knowledge of each individual learner, without fixing a general outcome beforehand. The atmosphere needs to be such that it offers a warm and non-judge-mental environment, to facilitate the blossoming of the individual consciousness, through its mental, vital and physical faculties. The teacher supports the student to become aware of her/his own freedom and ability to realize her/his own aims and full potential. “The first principle of true teaching is that nothing can be taught. The teacher is not an instructor or task-master, he is a helper and a guide. His business is to suggest and not to impose…” the teacher “...does not actually train the pupil's mind, he only shows him how to perfect his instruments of knowledge and helps and encourages him in the process. He does not impart knowledge to him, he shows him how to acquire knowledge for himself.” 11 These invitations need to be understood only as an invitation to self-activity, where the teacher has a meditative role in relation to the student, in order to maintain and develop the individual’s self-relations, 12 as one cannot summon someone to gain a state of consciousness.

Integral Education is channeled through the conscious full-spectrum response from the teacher towards each student, each individual connection representing a fractal of the whole paradigm shift in education, gradually leading towards the transformation of what education will come to become. The universal value of this change in education is an integral development – both individual and collective. To shift the systems to transcend existing norms and values of what education is, by questioning that which is, teachers and students need to continually be cultivating their own learning process, developing their consciousness, aligning consciousness and action to be able to create the conditions necessary for continuous unlearning, learning and reflection about a future society, that is yet to be conceptualized. 13


  1. Grazzini, Camillo (1994). The four planes of development. AMI international study conference “The Child, the Family, the Future”, July 19-24. Washington DC; Partho (2008) Integral education – a foundation for the future. Pondicherry: Sri Aurobindo Society; Prakasam, Gnana (1966). What you should know about your child - based on lectures by Maria Montessori. Madras: Kalakshetra Publications.
  2. Uljens, Michael (2002). The idea of a universal theory of education - an impossible but necessary project? Journal of Philosophy of Education, 3(36).
  3. Uljens, Michael (2002). The idea of a universal theory of education - an impossible but necessary project? Journal of Philosophy of Education, 3(36).
  4. bShiksha:Education,
  5. Stoll Lillard, 2007
  6. Ylimaki & Uljens, 2017, p. 214
  7. Uljens, Michael (2002). The idea of a universal theory of education - an impossible but necessary project? Journal of Philosophy of Education, 3(36).
  8. Prakasam, Gnana (1966). What you should know about your child - based on lectures by Maria Montessori. Madras: Kalakshetra Publications; Stoll Lillard, Angeline (2007). Montessori - the science behind the genius. New York: Oxford University Press.
  9. Neeltje (2015). Psychic education - a workbook. New Delhi: Sri Aurobindo Society, p.133.
  10. Neeltje (2015). Psychic education - a workbook. New Delhi: Sri Aurobindo Society; Joshi, Kireet (2012).  Philosophy of Indian pedagogy. Delhi: Popular Media; Partho (2008) Integral education – a foundation for the future. Pondicherry: Sri Aurobindo Society.
  11. Aurobindo, Sri (1972). The hour of god and other writings. Pondicherry: Sri Aurobindo Ashram, p.204.
  12. Ylimaki, Rose & Uljens, Michael (2017). Theorizing Educational Leadership Studies, Curriculum, and Didaktik: Non Affirmative Education Theory in Bridging Disparate Fields. Leadership and Policy in Schools, 16(2), 175-227.
  13. Ylimaki, Fetman, Matyjasik, Brunderman, Uljens, 2017

Mind must be consulted in its own growth

Working from near to far