Noospheric Education: Who Needs It? Why Is It Interesting?
Holistic systemacity, biorelevance, and bi-hemispheric thinking are increasingly interesting concepts for educators and parents. They are all elements of a noospheric education. The Global Women Media news agency prepared an interesting interview with Natalia Maslova, PhD in Psychology, ideologist of noospheric education, and pedagogue-innovator.
PhD in Psychology, PhD in History, pedagogue, educational expert, founder and leader of the scientific school of noospheric education, scientific school of systemonomy
Natalia Maslova is a hereditary pedagogue having extensive experience of working at all levels of the education system from school to university. On the one hand, she is a practitioner who uses innovative approaches and methods in her work. On the other hand, she is a scientist with a deep view of the world and education of the younger generation.
The expert has received several awards for her contribution to the development of science and education. In particular, she is an author of the concept of noospheric education as an evolutionarily necessary stage of bringing up children and young people. Today, Natalia Maslova heads the Department of Noospheric Education of the Russian Academy of Natural Sciences and the Department of Systemonomy in the Russian Space Society.
Over the years of her work, the expert has trained 41 PhDs and created scientific and pedagogical schools of noospheric education in a number of regions of Russia, Ukraine, and Kazakhstan. Natalia Maslova also organised and held 25 international and all-Russian conferences on the system of noospheric education.
– How did your path in education begin? How did you start working on noospheric education?
– According to my first degree, I am a source researcher, i.e. a specialist in researching historical sources. When I came to the Lomonosov Moscow State University in 1970, that department had just appeared and we were the first ones to master such a speciality.
I have always been particularly interested in the history of Russian and European science. While working on that subject, I thought that a scientist’s attitude towards his or her subject of study requires deep psychological analysis. For example, in the period of classical science, people believed that the researcher should distance him- or herself from what he or she was studying. Researchers had to be as objective and impartial as possible. Therefore, they showed neither love for the subject, nor any special interest in it. Only in the 20th-21st centuries, it has become popular to believe that the state of mind of a scientist and his or her passion for the cause can affect the quality of work favourably. A few decades ago, psychology and psychological reconstruction started being used as full-fledged scientific tools.
I taught at school and in higher education institutions simultaneously with my scientific work. During that practice, I became convinced once again that psychology is very important for life and development. It is vital not only for individuals, scientists, and schoolchildren but also for humanity as a whole. Thus, as an accomplished historian with a PhD, I discovered a new and interesting direction for my research.
It became clear to me that giving proper education to children and young people is simply impossible without knowledge of psychology and cognitive science. Subsequently, I started to develop my own educational methods on the basis of these two areas.
Today, I have a powerful team of like-minders with whom I have been working for about 30 years. We train teachers-psychologists with systemic and holistic thinking, create biorelevant textbooks, and develop the ideas of noospheric education in Russia and abroad.
– You mentioned several interesting notions: systemic holistic thinking, biorelevant textbooks, and noospheric education. What do they mean?
– I believe, we should start with an explanation of how our brain works. In fact, all modern education from first school grade to university studies is essentially based on exploitation of the left hemisphere of the brain. When mastering new information, students are engaged in analyzing, memorizing, retelling, writing down, calculating, and logically reasoning. These are all functions of the left hemisphere.
Of course, in everyday life, we occasionally use both hemispheres of the brain. We dream, fantasize, read books, watch movies, dance, or sing. However, all this ‘turns on’ the right hemisphere only episodically. Most people think mainly using their left hemisphere. It is only a part of the brain. It is a familiar but not natural process. We do not walk using one leg while being able to use both of them. At the same time, few people reflect on why we use only one hemisphere of the brain while possessing two of them. That process is not as visible and difficult to control as walking or other physical activities. However, it is no less important.
The human body naturally has two legs, two arms, two eyes, two ears, two kidneys, and two hemispheres of the brain. This symmetry exists not for the sake of beauty. Each part of these pairs performs a different function, thus reducing the load on the other paired organ. When we mainly use only one hemisphere of the brain, we experience overload and are also simply unable to think holistically.
The brain can be compared to a ‘flight control centre’ of our body. Medicine has proved long ago that a malfunction of the brain leads to a malfunction of other organs. This leads to illness, fatigue, and many other negative consequences.
It is necessary to form a holistic way of thinking from an early age. Kindergarten classes presuppose many creative exercises and thus activate the two hemispheres. People who are older starting with schoolchildren are taught differently. That is why, in my opinion, the first change to be done concerns general, secondary, and higher education. It is important to build the educational process based on working with both hemispheres of the human brain. When explaining any information, images that imply colour, volume, and motion must be used.
When developing the ideas of noospheric education, we work directly with children, train teachers, and create biorelevant textbooks in different subjects of school curriculum.
Biorelevant textbooks correspond to the nature of the human brain, body, and psyche. They are based on the principle of following the natural stages of information perception: sensory-motor, symbolic, logical, and linguistic.
Traditional textbooks lack the first and second (sensory-motor and symbolic) stages of presenting learning material. As a result, the child’s emotional sphere, long-term memory, right brain hemisphere, and systemic holistic thinking are blocked. As a consequence, the development of morality and high spirituality is delayed.
The whole system of noospheric education presupposes establishing such an educational process where nothing violates the nature of a child’s body, brain, and psyche. Holistic thinking is the first step in that system. It makes it possible for the brain to listen to a person’s heart and soul.
Interrelation of logical, creative, mental, and spiritual aspects is the law of psychology. It was borrowed by noospheric education as well.
– How long has the noospheric education been developed in Russia?
– When the outstanding Soviet natural scientist Vladimir Vernadsky delivered lectures on the biosphere at the Sorbonne, he met the French scientists Edouard Le Roy and Pierre Teilhard de Chardin. Their contact later passed into a friendship. In their discussions, the scientists agreed that the development of the biosphere presupposes not only the evolution of plants and animals but also the spread of the right frequencies in the environment.
According to them, any human thoughts generate certain waves affecting the atmosphere, or, to be more precise, the noosphere. Today, physicists have not only confirmed that hypothesis but also learned to measure such wave patterns. For example, during a session at an educational institution, wave vibrations in space increase significantly. After the session, they become more still again. One can feel such frequencies even without special equipment. Sometimes we do not feel comfortable when being near people with bad thoughts, even if they do not voice their thoughts. And, on the contrary, when we are in the company of people with positive and kind thoughts, we start feeling better. When talking about that back in 1927, Vladimir Vernadsky used the word ‘noosphere’ for the first time.
Noosphere is a sphere of interaction of society and nature. Within it, reasonable human activity becomes a determining factor of development.
In his book titled ‘Notes of a Naturalist’, Vladimir Vernadsky wrote about human thought becoming a great geological force capable of transforming the surrounding world. Indeed, all that surrounds us (transport, houses, shops, technologies) is the fruit of intelligent human activity. Richard Bach adhered to a similar way of thinking. I like his phrase that everything we see around us was once someone’s idea until someone put it into practice.
All that is directly related to noospheric education, which is aimed at shaping the right kind of thinking in students. A person’s thinking determines his or her creative or destructive deeds.
Vladimir Vernadsky introduced the notion ‘noosphere’ and proposed to use it actively in science. For 75 years, people treated that idea rather sceptically. Only in 1990, students and followers of the outstanding scientist organised the Academy of Natural Sciences (later the Russian Academy of Natural Sciences) using their own resources. It developed Vladimir Vernadsky’s ideas about the noosphere. The Academy has Departments of Noospheric Transport, Construction, Land Use, and Medicine. In 1995, under my guidance, the Department of Noospheric Education was also established.
– In Russia, noospheric education has been developing for almost 30 years. Several generations of students have changed over that period. What is your vision of today’s children? Why is the new generation unique?
– I believe that the modern generation has an amazing ability to push the boundaries and to find new opportunities. I see that in my son and in my grandchildren.
On the one hand, thanks to possessing genetic memory, each generation ascends to a higher step. This means that, already from birth, our children have a larger information base than we did. On the other hand, the new generation is not trying to rely on the experience of the past and prefers leaning on its own one. Today’s young people are very open, courageous, and eager to discover their potential. Today, an increasing number of young people begin to engage in sports, to take care of the beauty and health of their bodies. I very much like that trend. I want to believe that their transition from external saturation to internal enrichment, to awareness of their creativity, cognition of friendship, and love in the highest sense will be their next step. This is already happening gradually. In my opinion, today’s youth will be able to do much more than previous generations. I want to believe in that.
– Why is noospheric education especially valuable for today’s youth?
– It gives young people the right tools matching their nature. Thanks to that, when developing and learning, one does not have to ‘get over oneself’. Young people don’t have to memorize information without pleasure and take exams only for the sake of grades.
Noospheric education presupposes learning in the atmosphere of love and sincere interest. The modern generation appreciates that very much.
We have great positive feedback from students and schoolchildren. They write with gratitude that they managed to love the learning process itself. That happened because we had shown them how to learn by dreaming, imagining, and creating. It is close to them because it is natural for them.
At the same time, noospheric education is extremely valuable for not only students but also teachers. I remember the moment when we came to the Republic of Buryatia to deliver seminars for teachers there. One of the teachers came to me after the class. She had been working at school for many years and doing her best to improve the quality of her work. However, she could not get the children interested. The workshop has upgraded her pedagogical thinking. She thanked us with tears in her eyes because she finally understood that she had been going against her own nature.
Teachers, psychologists, neuropathologists, neuroscientists, medical scientists, and many other experts approach noospheric education warmly. In 2004, the head of the Department of Education of Almaty invited our team and brought 350 school principals and head teachers from all over the city to the meeting. We held a three-day conference. At the end of each day, she pointed out which principles, ideas, and methods of noospheric education must be introduced into the existing school system of Kazakhstan.
– What should a good modern teacher be like?
– In the first turn, he or she must be multi-talented. I have a special lecture where I talk in detail about my vision of a modern teacher. I believe that any teacher of today needs to perform the functions of about 60 different professionals. Let me list the ones that seem the most important to me.
In my opinion, it is important for a teacher to be a psychologist capable of reaching a child’s soul. A teacher should also be a methodologist able to structure a lesson corresponding to the principles of natural conformity of education. He or she must be able to explain the methods and approaches that he or she uses while being guided by not only intuition but also didactics. And, of course, it is important for a teacher to be an educator in the highest sense of the word.
In the first turn, a teacher is a person interested in what he or she does and wishing to bring use and good to the world. Children are very sensitive to that. They learn best from those teachers they love.
Being a teacher is no less responsible than working as a doctor. When a surgeon performs an operation, he or she clearly understands how each organ works and what the consequences may be if it is disturbed. Similarly, a teacher must understand what consequences his or her actions in education may have. If a teacher knows the psychology of communication, then he or she knows how to transmit knowledge properly without disrupting the biorhythms of the human body, brain, and soul. The ‘do no harm’ principle from medicine also applies to education.
We regularly conduct seminars for teachers at the Department of Noospheric Education of the Russian Academy of Education. I will be glad to welcome all those teachers interested in this topic at our classes.
– Noospheric education is growing more popular in the modern world. However, not all educators use that approach yet. Can you share your tips on developing a person’s own holistic thinking?
– My tips are as follows: to dream, to fantasize, to sculpt, to dance, to sing, to make handicrafts, to develop sensual memory, and to try to think with images even when reading scientific, educational, and methodological literature. It is important to create mental models of any information that you study and present to children or adults. You should make your speech vivid and exciting. Try to approach the study of any information creatively.
As for children, I advise to use as many creative activities as possible in primary school: dancing, playing musical instruments, singing, reading poems and fairy tales, drawing, sewing... I would also advise to go on excursions, to the parks, museums, galleries, and theatres with your children regularly. This will help children form a ‘memory archive’ consisting of beautiful images.
As we grow up, we begin to compare everything we encounter in life with the images in our ‘memory archive’. Then we choose what we like and what is closer to us.
Importantly, that ‘memory archive’ should contain high-quality, deep, and harmonious images. Such images may and should become our guidelines. Children must be filled with love and beauty since their early years. Then they will aspire to those values throughout their lives.
– What is your dream?
– I want noospheric education to be available to everyone. This is not only my dream but also a goal I’m pursuing every day when creating textbooks, training new professionals, and interacting with the younger generation.
I really want to say “let’s teach our children properly, let’s do it with love” to the whole world. Then they will be not only smart but also happy.
Marina Volynkina, Viktoria Gusakova, Global Women Media news agency
Translated by Nikolay Gavrilov