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Don Bosco's Way is a student-centred approach to education.

This is not the same as pampering young people who grow up to think that everyone must satisfy their desires. Rather, student-centred education generates expressive youngsters who cultivate happiness wherever they go. The focus of the entire educational endeavour - the syllabus, the staff, the location, the architecture, the building, the playground, the facilities -  is to be planned with a view to the holistic development of the young person for whom and in whose name it is created.

Reflecting on Don Bosco's educational contribution to humanity, Pietro Ricaldone affirms that the modern approach of his method was on the pupils' welfare: they were treated with kindness and respect; it was the educator’s responsibility to place them in a happy, vigorous, enquiring educational environment, a context where all were treated as equals, where all were encouraged to speak up, and speak out, to one another and to their teachers. Knowledge was adapted to the level of the students; classes were assigned to students on the basis of their age. The indignity felt by an older student when sitting down in a classroom of younger pupils was not experienced in Bosco’s schools. He urged his teachers to show patience and understanding when pupils could not grasp essentials. And lessons to be effective, had to be prepared well by the teacher before they were given. (Cf. Peter Ricaldone, Festive Oratory, Catechism and Religious Formation, St. Joseph’s Technical School, Madras, India, 1939, p.237-263, cited by Morrison, p. 54.)

Choosing young people as the prime focus of his grand educational project was not all. Don Bosco even related to each of them individually, taking a stand in favour of the more vulnerable students. Once, on considering the admission of a boy whose father had been executed because he broke the law, Don Bosco made the following observation: “We must be careful, because if we put a boy like this with other boys, he may suffer more, because boys can be crueller than they realise and could make his life miserable by making fun of him. Instead of improving his unhappy situation, we could make it worse.” He therefore made arrangements to put him in a special care-giving environment and followed up his progress till he was able to readjust to normal life. (G. Bracco, 'Don Bosco and Civil Society' in Egan-Midali, Don Bosco's Place in History, LAS, 1993, 242)

The focus on student-centred education flows directly from the general aim of Don Bosco's pedagogical approach. Far from being the passive object of instruction, the student is invited to become the active subject and enthusiastic learner – the future agent in the reconstruction of society. The focus of Don Bosco's method is therefore student-centred for self-actualization and social participation. Through it, the student matures into a dynamic agent of social, political and cultural progress.

Speaking to his co-operators in 1881, Don Bosco revealed the holistic dimension of his educational concern:
"The money you donate affects body and soul, society and religion, time and eternity [...]. It affects the family and civil society, because if our dear boys are trained in our workshops, they will become capable, through the exercise of their skill, of supporting their own families; at the same time their work and industry will be of considerable benefit to society. Those studying science and literature will be equally useful to society through the exercise of their talents or through their work in the employment of the state. But what is more important, both these groups will not only be well trained but wisely educated, and so will help to guarantee morality and public order within the population." (Don Bosco, BS, 5, 1881, no. 12, p. 5.)

Art: Nino Musio
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