Taking an alternative route to education

The formative years of  children are said to be the most crucial aspect of their overall personality development. The right tutelage is an essential feature for moulding these young minds.

However, schools in India still subscribe to the mainstream methods of education, which focus on only academics. So, with changing times there is a need to bring a change in the way education is imparted. It also involves developing a stimulating environment where children are encouraged to think for themselves.

“Indian education has always been about how well one scores in exams. It’s a system which throttles an individual’s dreams and desires which later create a lost generation which is completely frustrated,” says Richa Pant, whose nine-year-old daughter is a student of Mirambika School for New Age, an alternative school in Delhi, which not only caters to mental growth but also aims for spiritual advancement by conducting classes amidst nature.

Alternative education which adopts different pedagogical approaches as compared to traditional teaching methods is gaining relevance in an inter-disciplinary world.
One of the features of alternative learning is that it focuses on self-learning and building healthy relations between people and society, in effect, making them self-reflective individuals.

Another negative aspect of Indian education is that it doesn’t give enough importance to personal skills. Reflecting on this institution which promotes rote learning, Sandy Hooda, co-founder of Vega School, Gurgaon says, “Living in a hyper-connected world we need to bring together cultures and build relations of learning which will not produce imitators, as India is generally accused of, but innovators. We need to foster critical                             thinkers who have skills in integrity.”

Vega School, which will start its first batch in April, has sought to address this gap in Indian education by taking a holistic approach to the idea of schooling.

“Education does not come in one fixed size. There are individual needs of every child, their passions, which Indian schools generally ignore. We want learning to be progressive,” says Lene Jensby Lange, founder of Autens Future Schools and head of Global School Alliance, Denmark. There are many examples of alternative schools outside India. ‘Green School’ located in a jungle of Bali not only aims at sustainability but also equips its students with necessary life skills. “Our students actively take part in rice sowing and also handle business transactions at our markets,” says Ni Putu Tirka Widanti, president of Yayasan, an NGO and trustee of ‘Green School’.

Some schools are also doing away with traditional four wall classrooms and embracing open learning spaces. “Open learning spaces create inspiration for learning in groups which allows sharing of knowledge,” says Allan Kjaer Anderson, principal of Orestad Gymnasium which is 100 percent digital and has no classrooms.
 
Indian institutions need to travel a long way. Nevertheless, the way ahead is to change the way students learn and what they learn by focusing on skill building and critical thinking rather than commiting to memory.

Indeed, learning should not be limited to classrooms and syllabus; rather it should be expanded to cover all walks of life so that our future citizens are not just mechanical creatures but sensitive human beings.

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