Alternative academies are emerging as a replacement for mainstream schools in India
The new generation of urban educated parents seems to have started understanding the importance of learning in schools and several of them who are dissatisfied with the current schooling system opt for alternate education academies that aim at providing an altogether different environment of learning for students depending on students’ ability and interests.
The right to education implemented in India has made education for children below 14 years compulsory. However, it has been seen that the approach to education has remained the same since several decades in the country. Deepti Priya Mehrotra, a doctorate in political science from Delhi University said, “The present mainstream educational system was inaugurated in India in the mid-nineteenth century, which completely supplanted earlier educational institutions of India.”
Surabhi Bhatia, a parent based in Bengaluru decided to send her child in an alternate education academy, she said, “This concept was new to me three years ago, but not now – my son goes to one of the best places for alternate schooling in Bengaluru. Students there are taught with innovative approaches, methods and ideas of learning.” She further added, “Such schools explore new ways in which children can discover their own talents and interests, at their own pace.”
Jiddu Krishnamurti, a philosopher said, “Education is not just to pass examinations, take a degree and a job, get married and settle down, but also to be able to listen to the birds, to see the sky, to see the extraordinary beauty of a tree, and the shape of the hills, and to feel with them, to be really, directly in touch with them.”
According to the Annual Status of Education Report (ASER), the only annual source of information on children’s learning outcomes available in rural India, just 25.1 pc of the students enrolled in standard III can read standard II level text and just 47.8 pc of the students enrolled in standard V can read standard II level text.
The latest report concluded, “Many parents of school going children do not have any or much education. They understand the importance of schooling but often do not understand how they can support children’s learning. Hence, there is a need to de-mystify learning to involve parents.”
A better future
India has already started taking baby steps towards a greater acceptance of the alternative education system. One school that is following the alternate education system is the Science and Cooking Academy. The academy aims to teach the basic principles of science and cooking using each other. It explores the concepts of science and social sciences along with various cooking techniques.
Ipsita Dasgupta, Science and Cooking, said, “Alternate education is an upcoming popular way of getting children to know the ways of the world, instead of sticking to textbook learning and paper evaluation. Though it is difficult to explain to parents how this would benefit their children since there is no obvious results that can be shown, this is more of a gradual process and that’s where the challenge lies. Nevertheless, we’ve observed that parents are increasingly moving away from the usual education system and open to new learning methods. At Science and Cooking, we teach our kids concepts of science, social science, mathematics and ethics primarily through the method of cooking and secondarily through group work and team challenges.”
Sonam Wangchuk, an innovator and an education reformist of Ladakh, has initiated a change, which has been appreciated by many. He is known for transforming the education system in Ladakh. He is the founding director of the Students’ Educational and Cultural Movement of Ladakh (SECMOL) founded in 1988. SECMOL launched Operation New Hope (ONH) in 1994 to overhaul the primary education system in the government schools of Ladakh. At the same time, SECMOL Alternative School’s campus grew into an eco-village, where students, staff and volunteers live and learn together.