Starting a New School…

The Quest for Knowledge

As they say, “Ignorance is bliss”. When we don’t know about things, we don’t worry about them. But when we started asking these questions, we came across some facts, that once we knew them, became hard to ignore. The pioneering work done by John Holt, had already told us that children don’t learn anything in classrooms. While we knew that, we really did not question it beyond a point. We accepted that schools have classrooms and children spend bulk of the time inside classrooms, because we knew nothing better.

Jidnyasa Learning Center, Kothrud, Pune

Born To Be Free

Sharmila Govande runs a learning center at a home with around ten kids. This learning center belongs to an even more radical thought, that children are the best judges of how they want to spend their time, so much so that they try to impose as few rules as possible. The term associated with this type of a system is usually un-schooling. If children want to play video games, then they are allowed to do that. The argument is that video games also require intense skill and concentration, and they trust their children are learning a lot of skills by playing these games.

The Two Rebellions

Later when we were debating about these models, I realized there are two rebellions. Maybe there are other ways to classify this, but this is what helped me put things in perspective.

1. Reforming the education system

The current education system, clearly does not cater to learners. We all know that and that needs to be changed. People who choose to question the current schooling systems, are taking on this system. Their goal is to provide a better learning experience to their children, compared to the current system. They want their children to ultimately integrate in the mainstream and become good citizens.

2. Reforming society

The second rebellion is a much more serious one. A society where a failed education system is allowed to not only exist, but also thrive, itself needs to be questioned. There is a lot more rotten about society than just education and we need to raise our children to question everything that is rotten about society, and they can only do that when they are supremely in connect with their inner selves. This is going to back to Hobbes’ State of Nature, and starting over from first principles. Allowing children to be at their own will and follow their desires also felt like an Epicurean way of living.

Core Principles

After doing all the research and visiting the schools, all of us met to discuss what we want of our new school to look like. Here is the gist of what we believe is going to be the vision of our new school.

1. Goals

We want our children to grow up as confident individuals, without fear. We want them to be liberal and secular in their outlook, and free of as many prejudices as possible. We want them to be driven toward excellence and rigor and be able to compete with the best in the world. We want them to be good citizens, participating in society and doing their public duty. We also want to include children from all sections of the society as long as the parents agree to the overall philosophy.

2. Systems

We want our schools to be learner centric. We want our space to be a happy and stimulating environment. We want to bring in experts from various fields to talk to our students and inspire them. We want our children to pick what they want to learn, when they want to learn, how they want to learn. We want the learning to take place by debates and discussions, and not instruction. We want them to learn certain baseline skills that they need to navigate the real world. We want our children, when they are of the appropriate age, to be equipped with netbooks so that they can explore online resources like KhanAcademy and other and take control of their learning.

3. Certification

We want the children to be able to select their own matriculate certificate (NIOS, IGCSE or any other) and choose their own path and time in appearing for these exams.

4. Governance

We want the school to be governed as a not-for-profit. We want the above principles, to be non-negotiable even as we grow as a school. We want parents to be able to participate in as many ways as they can within the framework of our principles. We want to have faculty that believes in this learner centric vision and want to be learners themselves. We want to be able to welcome faculty on short and mid-term duration and spend time in the school.

Join Us

At this time, we have just gotten started! We don’t yet have a name, place or a legal entity for our selves. All we know is that we want this school to be located in central Mumbai (i.e. Central Line).

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Rushabh Mehta

Rushabh Mehta

founder, erpnext | the best code is the one that is not written