Experiences from the Pioneer Phase of the Project
During the ten years pioneer phase, many experiences were gained pertaining to the possibilities and limitations of scientific education with Buddhist monks and nuns. Appropriate curricula, subject contents and didactical forms were developed and tested in the classroom.
Based on past SmD teaching experience, it was possible to estimate how much previous education the monks and nuns bring with them. It was evident that great differences exist between the individual students' levels in linguistics as well as in mathematics and the sciences. Another obstacle was that the students were often so busy with other monastic duties, that the continuity of teaching could not always be ensured. The status of SmD as "elective" made it very difficult for the science instructors to assign homework.
On the other hand, most of the monks and nuns were highly motivated and participated attentively and actively in class. Interesting issues and exciting discussions often developed which could deviate from the primary subject and rapidly lead into philosophical deep water. Many of the western teachers of the pioneer phase reported that they especially appreciate this aspect of teaching and profited greatly from it themselves.
Overall, the basic conclusions of the pioneer phase showed that science education in Tibetan exile monasteries was a practical possibility, and many nuns and monks developed high interest in science.