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Last Updated: 01/05/2009
Mathetics and the relationship between peace and learning
Suman Shukla

The following speech, on the theme of Mathetics: a challenge for peace education, was presented by Dr Suman Shukla at the 18th IAEWP WORLD PEACE CONGRESS, held in Petaling Jaya, Selangor Darul Ehsan, Malaysia.

Pedagogy is the study of teaching methods. A pedagogue, it follows, is a teacher; someone who likes to teach other people things, especially because they think they know more than other people (Oxford Dictionary, 2000).

Thus pedagogy is the discipline in which attention is focused on the School Master’s behavior while teaching, and less attention is paid on the learner’s learning. It is observed and felt that as if teachers are only the possessors of knowledge, who dominate, dictate and oppress, and put the learners in a dispossessed position who are oppressed and exploited. And this continuity is maintained in the society. Thus teaching prepares a few minority-the possessors of knowledge, and majority in number dispossessed of it, which kills the creativity.

Education, in broader sense, is not confined only within four walls. But it is extended to beyond the campuses also as it has agencies like family, religious institutions, state and educational institutions. Elders of these means of education narrate, dictate, and dominate the youngsters of their respective institutions thinking that they who are parents, preachers, rulers and servants of people, and teachers are only in possession of things and property, religious enlightenment, power and authority respectively, while sons and daughters in family, devotees in religious institutions, masses or citizens in the state, and students in educational institutions are dispossessed in their respective houses. Hence the guardians of different institutions, including institutions of peace education, of the society dominate, oppress and exploit them with their possessions. And they do so-the act of violence-because they are product of teaching. In this sense, teaching is violence, and this continuity is maintained in every society. Therefore pedagogy must be denied to be used in peace education to protect the teachers and students both, and the masses, to be men of violence of exploitation, oppression and war, because they are the nations and the world.

Reasons for Acceptance of Mathetics

The word ‘mathetics’ is derived from Greek mathesis (from mathein, to learn), and mathet means pupil- he who learns. Thus mathetics is the science of the pupil’s behaviour while learning. The mathetic processes and their study are assuming increasing importance. The term ‘mathetic’ describes the transition from teaching to learning. Certain researchers in the United States (Gilbert) and the Soviet Union-now Russia- (Lev Landa) are now using it and so is the European Education Centre in Frascati, Italy, where a first, small-scale ‘mathetic laboratory’ has been set up (Learning To Be, UNESCO, 1972). The new development in the field of learning has primarily been contributed by Carl Rogers (1980) by emphasizing the importance of nurturing self-direction and fulfillment, Bruner (1980) by stressing the importance of autonomy and self-reward and discovery as the main way of learning and Paulo Freire (972) by his emphasis on conscientization as the main goal of education. The shift in emphasis can be seen from coping behavior to expressive behavior (using the terminology of Bruner) or from prescriptive behavior to liberating behavior (using the terminology of Paulo Freire) or from direct influence to indirect influence using the concept developed by Flanders (1970).

Thus learning needs no interference in its process. Because no teacher can enter into the process of learning of any learner just as no doctor can enter into the process of healing of the wound of a patient. Learning or healing takes its own course. A teacher or a doctor only arranges the things so that learning or healing may take place or occur. But importance of a teacher or a doctor does not diminish, because a teacher must be skilled and trained in varieties of methods, techniques and audio-visual aids through which he or she can be able to create the situation so that learning in the learner occurs, just as a doctor must be skilled in operation, trained in bandages and knowledgeable in proper medicines through which he can facilitate the situation so that healing in the wound of the patient occurs. Kahlil Gibran (1976) makes this view of learning very clear in his popular book: The Prophet when he was asked by a teacher to speak of teaching. And he said:

No man can reveal to you aught but that which already lies half asleep in the dawning of your knowledge.

The teacher who walks in the shadow of the temple, among his followers, gives not of his wisdom but rather of his faith and his lovingness.

If he is indeed wise he does not bid you enter the house of his wisdom, but rather leads you to the threshold of your own mind

The astronomer may speak to you of his understanding of space, but he cannot give you his understanding.

The musician may sing to you of the rhythm which is in all space, but he cannot give you the ear which arrests the rhythm, nor the voice that echoes it.

And he who is versed in the science of numbers can tell of the regions of weight and measures, but he cannot conduct you thither.

For the vision of one man lends not its wings to another man.

And even as each one of you stands alone in God’s knowledge, so must each one of you be alone in his knowledge of God and in his understanding of the earth.

Thus teaching, if it is considered as learning, makes both the learners and teachers aware, more humane, cooperative and sharing.

Learning also makes the learners feel all are capable of learning and prepares them to help each other, and serve their fellow-men who are also capable of being but have no chance for learning. However, students and teachers both, and the masses, are incomplete in the process of becoming (in the mission of completion) while learning and teaching (as it is life-long process); and in this process, they become more creative, humane and peaceful. Therefore learning is peace itself (Prasad, 1996). Report to the UNESCO of the International Commission on Education for the Twenty-first Century (Learning: The Treasure Within, 1986) also considers education as learning throughout life which is based on four pillars, viz. Learning to know, Learning to do, Learning to live together, and Learning to be. After the publication of this report then UNESCO Director-General Federico Mayor added two more pillars, viz. Learning to dare and Learning to undertake. Prasad, 2004, who has developed a new concept Peace Education based on catholic five sheaths within every individual man and woman to be evolved integrally, have also added two more pillars, viz. Learning to share and Learning to be just to make the roof of education more stable, great and strong.

Thus teaching as learning is not merely a profession but it is a mission also. True teaching is a true learning. A teacher is best in teaching when he

remains a life-long learner. Nobel Laureate Rabindranath Tagore (1970) also considered teacher as the lamp. He said about the teacher, “He is like a lamp lighting other lamp. But a lamp cannot put light into other lamp if it does not itself burn and shed light.”

Problem-Posing: Not Problem-Solving As Method of Teaching

The problem-solving method makes learners dependants on teachers, books, notes and other ready-made solutions. It kills creativity of the learners. It makes the learners life-long parasites on others.

Problem-posing method is an important part in mathetics. Problem-posing method encourages for self-learning, leads to creativity and enhances self-confidence in the learners, and makes them independent. Problematize, in the sense of Freire (1972), is to associate an entire populace with the task of codifying total reality into symbols which can generate critical consciousness and empower them to alter their relations with nature and social forces.

According to Paulo Freire (1972), the problem-posing method (which is based on learning) affirms men as being in the process of becoming as unfinished, uncompleted being in and with a like-wise unfinished reality.

UNESCO’s Learning To Be (1972) also observes that man is biologically unfinished…his existence is an unending process of completion and learning. It is essentially his incompleteness that sets him apart from their living beings, the fact that he must draw from his surroundings the techniques for living which nature and instinct fail to give him. He is obliged to learn unceasingly in order to survive and evolve. George Lapassada (1963) says that human being is born ‘prematurely’. He comes into the world with a batch of potentialities which may miscarry, or take their form the favorable or unfavorable circumstances in which the individual is compelled to evolve. According to Erich Fromm (1959) man can never cease to ‘enter life’, to be born in human form. He says that the individual’s entire life is nothing but a process of giving birth to himself; in truth we are only fully born when we die.

Prof. Lalji Ram Shukla (1947), in his book: Principles of Education, writes: “Fullness of human personality lies in the child’s creative activity; assimilation of external influences is valuable only in so far as it incites the child to express himself. A child who gathers knowledge but does not radiate it, recreate it, cannot be said to have been properly educated.” Hadfield (1925) says, “Every organism is compelled towards its own completeness. Fullness of life is the goal of life, the urge to completeness is the most compelling motive of life. There is no motive of life so persistent as this hunger for fulfillment, whether for the needs of our body, or for the deepest spiritual satisfaction of our souls, which compels us to be ever moving onward till we find it. Hunger, material or spiritual, is the feeling of incompleteness… so persistent strong is this law that no organism can rest till it has satisfied its hunger by achieving its complete self.” Paulo Freire (1972) says that human beings are aware of their incompleteness. In this incompleteness and this awareness lie in a very roots of education as an exclusively human manifestation. The unfinished character of man and the transformational character of reality necessitate that education can be ongoing activity.

Thus, the problem-posing method considers the teacher and the taught as learners (both learn from each other). It helps them both to realize their true selves (the treasure within both) which are different but unique. Therefore peace education should adopt the problem-posing method as a method of teaching, which is fully based on learning.

4. Dialogue: Not Narration as Technique of Teaching in Peace Education

Narration is a technique of teaching without thinking. It is dictatorial, domineering and authoritative. In narration, the teacher asks the students to learn mechanically what he says as an authority of the knowledge about the matters. Hence narration kills the creativity of the learners, and leads them to submission and lack of self- confidence. It facilitates in the creation of ‘mute-culture’. In peace education, though educators teach about variety of techniques of teaching including dialogue as a technique of teaching. But they teach them about these techniques including other topics in the courses of peace education through narration. Thus peace education is suffering from narration-obsession.

Freire (1972) talks of narration as a mechanical device of teaching. The contents whether values or empirical dimensions of reality, tend, in the process of being narrated, to become lifeless and petrified. He says that education is suffering from Narration-Sickness. Narration (with the teacher as the narrator) leads to the students to memorize mechanically the narrated contents. Prasad and Prasad (Shukla), 1985, critically evaluated the very popular book: Pedagogy of the Oppressed by Paulo Freire (1972), and found that the major thrust of Freire’s criticism of the educational system is that it is one of the major instruments for the maintenance of the ‘culture of silence’. In this situation, learners, like slaves, are ‘mute’, they are not allowed to argue or ask questions for clarification.

Dialogue is a necessary component of mathetics. Therefore peace education needs dialogue for effective better teaching and true learning. Dialogue is essential for authentic education. Without dialogue, there is no communication, and without communication there cannot be true education. Hence dialogue is essential necessity in learning and teaching. Dialogue imposes itself as the way in which teacher and taught both achieve significance as man-human. Dialogue is the encounter in which the united reflection and action of the dialoguers are addressed to the teaching-learning community which is to be transformed and humanized (Shukla, 2001). Paulo Freire (1972) feels that through dialogue, the teacher of the students and students of the teacher cease to exist and a new term emerges: teacher-student with students-teachers. The teacher is no longer merely the one who teaches, but the one who is himself taught in dialogue with students, who in their turn, while being taught, also teach. Joyce and Weil (1985) say that relationship between the student and the teacher is the best described as a partnership. In Taittriya Upanishad (1970), in reply of what is education? it is said that in education, there is ‘the teacher on one side, the pupil on the other side, knowledge between, and discourse joining them’.

And in the beginning of this Upanishad, a pupil prays, “May we both (the teacher and taught) attain fame together.” Carl Rogers (1980), in his Non-Directive Model of Teaching, says that in this role, the teacher helps the students explore new ideas about their lives, their school work, and their relations with others. This model assumes that students are willing to be responsible for their own learning, and its success depends on the willingness of the student and the teacher to share ideas openly and communicate honestly with one another. According to Paulo Freire (1972), the teacher and the students become jointly responsible for a process in which all grow. In this process, arrangements based on authority are no longer valid; in order to function, the authority must be on the side of freedom, not against it.

The observation of The National Policy on Education (1986): “…No people can rise above the level of their teacher,” is not proper. The fact is that the greatness of a teacher is in this that his disciple goes ahead of him with regard to creation, contributions, and achievements (Shukla, 2004). But it needs dialogue. For dialogue puts more examples before learners for effective and true learning. Einstein (1956) also says that the only rational way of educating is to be an example- if one cannot help it, a warning example. Therefore, peace education must remove this type of dilemma about the level of development of people and their teacher.

Therefore, mathetics is a must for peace, and it is a challenge to existing peace education- especially to peace educators and peace thinkers to accept it and to use its knowledge and practice in peace education.


Peace cannot be taught. If it could be taught, the result would be violence. Peace is a learning concept. It is the product of true peace education, by following the methodology of a science of learning.

It is a very hard truth that no peace educator can enter the process of a peace learner. Learning of peace will take its own course. A peace educator, or a teacher of any subject, can create the situation through variety of methods, techniques, devices, skills and audio-visual aids so that learning for peace may occur in the learners.

Thus we all, teacher and taught both in the classrooms, and the other people beyond the campuses, are learners till the end of our lives; we learn from each other to be peaceful and non-violent. Therefore there is a great need to change our mentality from teaching to learning i.e. peace.

Though peace education is not everywhere in practice. And where it is used, pedagogy is adopted there. Pedagogy is the science of teaching while Mathetics is the science of learning. Hence there is a great challenge to peace education to adopt mathetics for leaning peace.

Suman Shukla, Ph.D. Reader - Associate Professor, R.T.M.Nagpur University’s Bar. S.K.W. College of Education, Nagpur, Maharashtra, India Phone and Fax: 00-91-712-2232523 e-mail: