Alternative education is an unconventional form of teaching which encourages smaller classrooms, closer relationships between students and teachers, and provides an environment that is conducive to work while at the same time, allows the mind to explore.
Such an education has seen its share of ups and downs in a country like India, where there is a variety of mindsets with clashing ideologies.
More often than not, parents don’t want their children to go away to a boarding school or attend a school where the system does not focus primarily on marks and examinations. But for the students who manage to get a taste of it over mainstream education, it is a choice which only a few come to regret.
Shantanu Verma, an ex-student of Valley School, 20 km south of Bangalore City, has seen both sides of the story. “I shifted to Bangalore in the middle of class seven and had to spend half a year in Ryan International Public School before I joined Valley and there was a world of difference between the two. In the former, a mainstream school, the emphasis on discipline was paramount. Every student was rated by his marks and not by his or her talent. In Valley, going by Jiddu Krishnamurti’s philosophies, every child was given the freedom to explore, express and to just be himself or herself.”
However, this does not imply that academics take a backseat in these alternative schools. “There was an emphasis on studies as well as extracurricular like sports and cultural activities. What was good was that everyone progressed together as a group at their own pace at the same time,” explains Shantanu.
There are many other alternative schools which have made their presence felt in Bangalore — Poorna, Shibumi, Prakriya, Steiner School, Aarohi Life School and Centre for Learning to name a few.
Despite all the controversies that revolve around the idea of unconventional schools, there is definitely something to them which makes parents keep sending their kids there. “They prepare children for life,” says Vani Periodi, mother of Indu (14), who attends Centre for Learning, and Ini (19) who passed out of there last year. “There is a non-competitive atmosphere in this competitive world, which is surprising. There’s also
nothing that they call ‘extracurricular’ since everything is an integrated process,” she adds.
As can be seen, the aim of such alternative schools is to produce students who are both academically focused as well as inclined to other activities that they wish to excel in.
These schools may not be too popular since they are more expensive and go against the traditional teaching set-up. But if parents wants to truly invest in their child’s education to see them through life, alternative education may just be the right way to go.