A rigid curriculum and high school fees are forcing parents to put their children in alternative schooling centers.
Parents of the city are increasingly taking their children out of traditionally-run schools and are opting for alternatives ways of learning for their children.
For instance, in Whitefield, Bangalore, citizens have come up with ‘Citizens Gurukul’, a parents’ initiative to release their children from the pressure of conventional schooling. Sandeep Aniruddhan, the co-founder of ‘Citizens Gurukul’ said, “When we disconnect children from their immediate environment and make them focus only on books, we realized that they don’t really learn anything valuable in life. So we looked at how we can teach children to learn rather than memorize.”
The key idea of the model is that parents who have children in the school have the status of a trustee and in turn get a say in the operations. Parents can tailor the learning process and don’t have to play along to what the government decides, Sandeep explained. “At the end of process of schooling, ideally a child must grow and mature into a thinking, questioning, reasoning and scientific human being, only then can fulfill and perform a duty as a citizen in a way that it benefits the neighborhood, the community and the country.” Sandeep added.
There are several alternative schools developing in the city such as Arohi, BeMe, among several others that believe children should learn at their own pace. In these alternative spaces children are free to learn whatever they want, wherever they want and from whomever they want. There is no predetermined, rigid curriculum or examinations. Children here learn various subjects depending on their interests, from their parents or neighbors.
Namratha, the co-founder of BeMe and the mother of a 16 years old said, “ If I talk about how Beme operates or what philosophy we follow, then we don’t follow any particular philosophy, we read many philosophies to have better understanding of child-psychology, but not to apply a particular philosophy on every child because each child is different and unique. But one methodology I can put up is, we follow democracy as a methodology in Beme. We decide everything together and the school is run by children.
“If somebody asks me what they learn, frankly speaking, I don’t know, and we don’t want to map, because we feel children or any individual is the best person to evaluate his or her own learning. They are learning how to live, how to see the world with their own senses and then define that world and interact with that world. We follow love, respect, and care for each other as a curriculum. We want to give each child that freedom from any fear of being judged and take their own decisions of life,” added Namratha
“Each alternate school, each alternate path is different, but the basic common factor is the freedom given to the child. They find space for themselves and to analyses their own needs. Many parents are looking forward to alternate schools these days. We have a beautiful parent community who are open to questioning their own belief and they want their children to decide for themselves. In Beme, I see children everyday figuring out everything for themselves, on their own. And to live life, I think that’s the only thing you need. Rest will fall in place,” added Namratha.
Parents are not happy with the amount of money they need to pay for a decent school education for their children. Therefore many parents are opting for alternative learning centers.
Keshav Joshi, the father of a school-going child said, “Almost one-and-half years back there were protests in the schools in Whitefield, about abrupt fee hikes by schools. The expenses are going to be almost two lakhs a year, and with our salaries not increasing, we thought something has to be done as schools were not giving into our demands. Then we came up with the idea which is—why can’t parents come together remove the business aspect, remove the profit aspect from schooling, and bring together parents students and infrastructure. These days fees are at the core of the education system and we wanted to change that.”
“At the end what I expect from any educational institution is that my child should know everything that he needs to know, he is aware of the environment around him. He understands what he is supposed to do and what he is not. He has basic courtesy to interact with people around him and he should be at pace with the changing world, both from technology and education perspective. That is what I expect from this school, that my child should be ready to take up any challenge that comes up his way, and if I am taking care of the school, or parents like me are taking care of the school, I think any child passing out of this institution will be ready to take up any challenge that he faces.”
Other than this, many other alternative schooling initiatives are developing in the city. The Valley School, The Home School, etc. are growing initiatives to move out of the contemporary way of schooling and make it more interesting for the children. These schools aim at building better individuals for the society and the idea is that a rigid curriculum is not needed to learn to be better human beings.