Oct 21, 2015

Meditation school adopts new mantra amid mayhem

Henrietta Cook
The Age
October 21, 2015

Students meditate at the Maharishi school
Students meditate at the Maharishi school
A Melbourne school that teaches transcendental meditation has scrapped single-sex classes in a bid to realign its energies ... and dwindling enrolments.

The Maharishi School in Reservoir axed the controversial classes after almost one-third of its students decided to leave.

One parent said she was told boys and girls were separated because they had "different energies".

But principal Frances Clarke denied this, and said the single-sex classes had aimed to lift students' academic performance.

The independent primary school offers "consciousness-based education" and teaches meditation techniques embraced by the Beatles.

Schools that offer consciousness-based education must have a north or east entrance to buildings, and over the past decade the Reservoir school has built three new buildings that comply with these architectural principles.

But despite priding itself on a calm and stress-free learning environment, tempers recently boiled over.

Last Thursday, the school held a meeting with parents to address their concerns about education standards, gender-segregated classes, poor communication and a mass exodus of students.

Concerns have also been raised about the school's unwavering focus on the positive, which led to important issues like wars being glossed over.

Ms Clarke said the school did not deny past atrocities, but rather made sure they were taught in an age-appropriate manner.

"You don't dwell on incredible cruelty when you are talking to an eight-year-old," she said.

"You don't want to have them feeling there's a lack of hope for the future. You need to have them looking positively about their future."

She said the school had listened to parents and co-ed classes would be reintroduced across all year levels.

Single sex classes were introduced for year 3 and 4 students two years ago, but many parents said they were not consulted about the changes, and would never have enrolled their children if they had known boys and girls would be separated. There were plans to expand the controversial classes to other year levels next year.

While 34 students had decided to leave the school early this year, less than one-third of these were unhappy with the school, Ms Clarke said.

The Victorian Registration and Qualifications Authority said it received a complaint about the school from a parent earlier this month.

The school told parents in a recent letter that it offered "effortless, joyful and fulfilling learning where students are challenged without stress or strain".

"If you or your children are hearing comments regarding the standard of education and quality of teaching, please consider whether your own child or children are happy, enthusiastic about learning and progressing comfortably," the letter said.


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