In 1926, when the philosopher J. Krishnamurti decided to set up his first school, he chose a remote valley in the interior of rural Andhra Pradesh, in Chittoor District at the edge of the Karnataka Plateau, about 135 km northeast of Bangalore.
Rishi Valley is at an altitude of 800 metres. The climate is dry and temperate, the water drawn from deep borewells is fresh and potable; and, in the absence of any industries, the atmosphere is remarkably clean and clear.
Shepherds with their flocks of sheep and goats have traversed this area since neolithic times, and still claim their ancient right of access to the hills; and the farmers of the valley have grown rain-fed crops like bajra, ragi and, more recently, peanuts. Their small hamlets - clusters of thatched, round mud huts with pens for animals - are dotted all over the valleys of the region.
The largest settlement in the valley, Thettu village, probably dates back several hundred years.
Rishi Valley School, Rishi Valley Rural Education Centre, the Krishnamurti Study Centre at Rishi Valley, a small hospital with a resident doctor, a dairy with about 60 hybrid cows, a farm, an organic vegetable garden, a herb garden and fruit orchards are part of this well- shaded campus.
A wilderness area, consisting of about 150 acres of once-barren hillside now covered with scrub and a thin layer of trees, borders the built-in area of campus.
The valley was officially declared a Bird Preserve in July 1991, and was cited by the International Council For Bird Preservation.
Krishnamurti's philosophy of education, reflected in the activities of Rishi Valley Education Centre, is best expressed in his own words:
The purpose, the aim and drive of these schools, is to equip the child with the most excellent technological proficiency so that the student may function with clarity and efficiency in the modern world. A far more important purpose than this is to create the right climate and environment so that the child may develop fully as a complete human being. This means giving the child the opportunity to flower in goodness so that he or she is rightly related to people, things and ideas, to the whole of life. To live is to be related. There is no right relationship to anything if there is not the right feeling for beauty, a response to nature to music and art - a highly developed aesthetic sense.
I think it is fairly clear that competitive education and the development of the student in that process....is very, very destructive.
We must be very clear in ourselves what we want -- clear that a human being must be the total human being, not just a technological human being. If we concentrate very much on examinations, on technological information, on making the child clever, proficient in acquiring knowledge while we neglect the other side, then the child will grow up into a one-sided human being. When we talk about a total human being, we mean not only a human being with inward understanding, with a capacity to explore, to examine his or her inward state and the capacity of going beyond it, but also someone who is good in what he does outwardly. The two must go together. That is the real issue in education: to see that when the child leaves the school, he is well-established in goodness, both outwardly and inwardly.
The intention of the schools run by KFI is to awaken the intelligence of the student so that he or she may 'flower in goodness'. The cultivation of a global outlook and a concern for our fellow human beings are all part of this scheme of education. Some further goals of the educational philosophy of Rishi Valley Education Centre are:
Our experience shows that not all children flourish in this system. In particular some of the children who tend to be dependent and who need constant prodding cannot adjust to the absence of pressure at the school.
The school is concerned with developing the individual talent and intelligence of each child. We feel that it is equally important for parents to be aware of their children's talents as well as limitations, and allow them to develop in their own way, and not on the basis of predetermined expectations.