by Bill Taylor (Brockwood Park School)
London Feb 26: “One of the greatest thinkers of the age "is how the Dalai Lama described Jiddu Krishnamurti (1895-1986) and while many are aware of the schools Krishnamurti started in India – the oldest among them being the renowned Rishi Valley School – few people know of the international, alternative school, he founded in England, in 1969. Brockwood Park School remains true to the intentions of its founder and having reached its 50th anniversary, was recently described in The Good Schools Guide as having “... an atmosphere in which all sorts of students thrive. "Krishnamurti’s radical vision was for the school to provide an education that would awaken self-reflective intelligence, inquiry and independence in the student, while giving due attention to academic excellence. The educational approach at Brockwood is underpinned by small classes, a cooperative spiritand lively student engagement and the whole place has a feeling of sensible freedom about it.
Situated in 40 acres of stunning Hampshire countryside and occupying alisted Georgian manor house, Brockwood Park is co-educational and fully residential, with 70 to 80 students, all of whom are 14 or over, coming from around 24 countries. One hallmark of the school was its decision to jettison GCSEs at the start of the millennia, feeling they were too restrictive and contributed to a climate of stress and anxiety among students. In their place it has developed its own special combination of core courses, interdisciplinary topics and student projects, all of which foster student initiative and self-motivation, and require application and creativity. A-Levels are taken at Brockwood, without the pre-requisite of GCSEs, and most students go directly on to university; this despite having been in a place that offers neither grades nor prizes and where competitionand punishment and reward, are not used as motivators.
Speaking of the school, Krishnamurti said "...we want to create a totally different kind of human being at Brockwood, who is neither English, French, German, Russian, who doesn't get caught in any belief, in any dogma, who moves only with 'what is', with the facts…” Having benefitted from this educational approach, ex-students from around the world remain in contact and hundreds are expected to return to Brockwood this summer for a rare five-day reunion. One of them, Reuben Weininger, now a Californian based psychiatrist, says “It was at Brockwood that I learned to ask deep questions, to persist and insist on thinking things through for myself, to accept no authority in ultimate questions of the mind and heart.”
Nestled in the same peaceful parkland as the School, is the Krishnamurti Centre, an adult retreat centre, with 19 ensuite guest-rooms. This striking purpose built centre is open for both residential and day-guests throughout the year and in addition to a well-stocked library, video-viewing room and quiet room, it also houses the offices of the Krishnamurti Foundation, charged with preserving and disseminating the extensive teachings of its namesake. Finally, nearby and tucked away in ancient woodland, is Inwoods Small School, the youngest of Brockwood’s ventures for the youngest of its pupils (4 to 11 years). Any one of these four areas of activity – boarding school, small school, Centre and Foundation – is worth visiting and exploring; as a whole they are more than the sum of their parts and they are without doubt unique, and in a league of their own.