Nesin Villages and a Unique Style of Education

Since 2007, the Nesin Mathematics Village has been present with a unique functioning and rationale in Şirince neighborhood of Selçuk district of Izmir province.  This was the first name of the village.  Then, this place changed its name into “Nesin Villages” with the addition of the Philosophy and Art villages.  In this article, let’s try to focus on subjects, such as education, place, unique methods in education, over the model that the Nesin Villages are practically showing.

The issue of education is one of the matters that most frequently occupies the agenda in the public sphere.  Because education points out a process that concerns almost everyone and that everyone is a part of in some way.  It constantly changes, transforms, but never finds a proper ground.  A “system” changes even before all of the students in that period fully understand what’s going on.

Of course, changes implemented in education are not automatically bad; nevertheless, changes that create constant uncertainties do not lead to positive results.  In Turkey, education is still an object to be feared, an area of uncertainties.  To be able to get a good education is one of the biggest blessings one can get.

In an education system, the anxiety of passing exams taking precedence over the purpose of learning makes the learning itself a tool.  When learning is treated as a process of only solving the problem, instead of intellectually solving the problem on the related subject matter, then the method itself is discarded after the question is handled.  Therefore, the thing is just imitated, not learned by internalization. Naturally, these imitations do not have a place in mind after the “bridge” is crossed.

To normalize this relation by reversing it is a fundamental requirement for a genuine education.  To make the education intellectually comprehensible through explanations on its origins by removing it from the process of memorization format can make it a factor that is not a material of memorization to be forgotten easily.

This is the origin of the fundamental difference between the Nesin Villages in Şirince and the monotonous compulsory education format.  Nothing is compulsory there.  First and foremost, attendance is on a voluntary basis. This simplest first step facilitates overcoming a psychological barrier in the process of education.   Everybody participates in schools and classes in an interested manner and with their perceptions open.  The fact that the places, where the classes are held, are designed differently than the usual gray concrete “schools” and in a more humanistic manner positively affects the mood of the individual.  Above all, being at the heart of the nature makes the individual feel good, and no concentration-related problems occur in a school where people already come voluntarily.

There is another fundamental point that makes the Nesin Villages in Şirince different than the schools in metropolises.  This is the state of becoming a part of the work flow in the Village that literally harbors young and old alike.  Learning and experiencing that the process, which is presented as things that function independently of the people in the cities, is actually a direct product of human efforts are actually activities which many students see and be part of for the very first time.  Students not only take lessons, but they also help the village life continue in its ordinary course.  Nobody is passive, but everyone is an active part.

This is probably a bigger lesson than all other lessons.  Those “effort”-oriented, unnamed lessons that are practically functioning are as precious as the lessons on the fields of mathematics, philosophy, art, theater.  Besides courses, tasks such as contributing into kitchen works (300-500 people eating 3 courses a day naturally requires a serious organization), collecting garbage, arranging classrooms prevent people from being “alienated” from the place they are present at, while improving the common sense of “this place is mine/ours”.

This sense of commonality over the place also applies to the classes.  It is important to have a dialog with the people, whom you take the classes with, in a broader time, going beyond the borders of the class time-place, in terms of understandability and humane dialogs.  Being able to ask questions while eating, picking up trash or waiting at the line for washing the dishes creates a unique space where the ordinary course of life and “class” intersect.  Naturally, classes have specific durations, yet there is actually no concept of “class time” in the Villages.  Every time and everywhere can act as a class time and place.  Class and life are fully integrated in these villages.

The location of the Villages is another important issue.  The Villages are located right at the heart of silence and naturalness. There are no other people in the village area than those who give and take lectures.  This situation minimizes the issue of distractions with the regards to concentration.  A calm space that is away from the noisy and dirty complexity of the cities facilitates a full concentration, which enables the potentials to arise more easily.

The pace of life is different than usual within an order that functions in full harmony with various bug sounds, chickens, cats and dogs.
Furthermore, you can feel like you are at a massive open-air museum while walking around the village.  People playing piano, guitar, saz, along with dancers, small effigies and various artworks appear before you as an ordinary image in the village.  All these factors activate the entire set of properties of the mind, while pointing out a unique, holistic education model that attempts to make it fully competent.

The Nesin Villages in Şirince offer a model that is unique in terms of intellectuality and format, against the education model that is put before us in a monotonous manner.  New ways and opportunities can be made possible through the salvation of the education from the forced work format, strict borders and monotonous dullness. Having the purpose of improving the entire skill set of a person will encourage the improvement of their academic skills on a more solid ground.

Education models that ignore and do not care about the feelings and moods treat people like they are machines, and eventually fail.  Considering all these issues, the Nesin Villages demonstrate quite a precious alternative, a unique education system, a collective method of creation-improvement which the Germans call “bildung”.  This model can only continue and preserve its existence with people who appreciate it.  It is a very precious opportunity to visit the Şirince Nesin Villages and see what’s going on there for those that are interested in fields like mathematics, philosophy, art, theater.

Z. Soner Dinç
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