The ETSI program represents the most significant change in 600 years to the Tibetan Buddhist monastic curriculum and we are looking for interested science educators to support this historic endeavor. Teaching for ETSI is a fascinating and challenging experience, but may not be for everyone. For those who have participated over the years, the personal and intellectual experience has been a unique, enjoyable, and enriching one. If you think you are interested in applying to become a volunteer ETSI summer program instructor, please watch this video and read the material below.
Prospective Faculty Information
Click below to watch the ETSI Orientation Video
Things to Consider
In considering whether this experience is for you, here are a few questions to reflect upon:
Are you willing and able to volunteer about 2 weeks per year of your time to this immersive experience? ETSI visits to Tibetan Monasteries are an intensive 5 to 9-day experience (depending on discipline) and the teaching day consists of four 90-minute sessions. Instructors often need to meet before and after classes to make preparations, ensure learning objectives are met, generate and grade assignments, and set up for activities. There are often extracurricular activities in the evenings, dinners, and celebrations that will introduce you to Tibetan Buddhism and culture, so you should not count on getting much, if any, other work done while you’re in India. In order to provide consistent quality and content, it is preferred if you would consider contributing your time over multiple (not necessarily consecutive) years.
Are you able to travel in a developing country and willing to make advance travel plans? The challenges of living and travelling in India are well documented, and monastic life is a bit Spartan. The monastic hosts make an extra effort to ensure the comfort and health of their foreign guests, but the arrangements are simple. Air conditioning is only available at some of the monasteries (some of the time), and electrical power is unreliable throughout India. This means that hot water or power to run/charge your devices may not be available 24/7. (Although many of the classrooms are equipped with backup generators). Be prepared to have a round of vaccinations and take responsibility for your health, and realize that transportation and local government offices function on their own schedules. Advance planning is necessary to make sure your passport is up to date, and to supply required forms and personal information to procure visas and permissions to visit the monasteries.
Are you willing to allocate time in advance of travel to prepare teaching materials in a timely way? ETSI curricula are prepared by ETSI faculty in collaboration with our Tibetan translators. Faculty create new videos, lectures, and activities based on existing ETSI resources each fall and faculty members typically prepare one or two such items, and help give feedback and edit documents. This is all on a volumteer basis.
Are you willing to work with other instructors and staff to ensure that the learning objectives are achieved? While each instructor takes primary responsibility for a portion of the lectures and activities, it is usually helpful to have multiple instructors in the room to handle unexpected setbacks, participate in group curricular activities, or to provide assistance. Some examples include handling technical problems with equipment, helping with board work and translations, handing out papers, answering questions, and participating in hands-on activities.
Are you willing to be flexible with classroom activities and attend to administrative and technical issues? As unexpected events such as loss of power, unscheduled celebrations and dignitary visits, and unavailability of materials can occur, the schedule of events may need to be altered during the visit. Additionally, topics that require more classroom time or remedial instruction may become evident. Common topics that need reviewing include basic math and graphing skills, basic vocabulary and concepts, and hypothesis testing. It is up to the team of instructors to use their best judgment to manage the schedule to achieve learning goals.
Are you comfortable answering broad questions about science and the scientific method? While you may be teaching specific topics in science, the questions you may receive both in and out of class may be much, much broader. Moreover, many Buddhist concepts may appear very similar to or very different from western science concepts, so the questions may not be very easy to understand. In addition, the concept of the scientific method is foreign and new to many monastics; however, they are very familiar with formal logic. In particular, Buddhist philosophy has well-defined concepts regarding consciousness, emotional regulation, cosmology, and causality that are particular topics of interest.
Are you open to other systems of thought and other religions as equally valid to your own? The goal of ETSI is not to convert monastics into scientists, or even to convince them of the validity of scientific methods. However, through this effort to communicate across scientific and Buddhist concepts both teachers and students may expand their worldview, and perhaps fruitful synergies may arise. Those of us who have participated consider a unique opportunity for personal, intellectual, and spiritual growth, and we hope you will too.