Thoughts on Education | A Visit to Anand Niketan

“My contention is that creativity now is as important in education as literacy, and we should treat it with the same status.”

– Sir Ken Robinson (in his funny yet brilliant & inspiring TED talk on ‘Do Schools Kill Creativity?’)

The thought of instilling creativity in my child has been in my mind since the day she was born. My daughter Ira is now 2 years 5 months old & frankly, I feel blank when someone asks me which school she will attend.

From my training experience, I have observed that these days kids are excessively disciplined. They are scared terrified to make mistakes. Kids as well as their parents believe that anything (including life skills) can be rote-learned & only getting ‘good grades’ can ensure a bright future. Their creativity is stifled & this highly rich resource gradually dies a slow death as kids venture into adulthood.

Also, relevance is another issue. It’s painful when my daughter sings “Rain Rain Go Away” when I know that there is an adverse condition of drought in the country. Education should be completely in sync with the surroundings we are living in. Second, what if by ten or twelve years of age, I figure out my daughter’s true talent. Say if she’s inclined towards dance, what would be the point in teaching Maths, Science, Geography or subjects which would not be relevant to the field of dance.

I think education should be fun & real learning happens by doing. In school, my favourite subjects were those which had activities, projects & wholesome teacher-student interaction; this truly ensured that students learn while doing. More importantly, I also recall those subjects better. I hated History lessons but ironically, reading the same stories in Amar Chitra Katha still remains the fondest memory of my childhood. I have realized: Kids should enjoy learning. They should look forward to new learning experiences.

Relevance is equally important. We need to be compassionate, respectful & responsible about the environment we are living in. This can be learned only if the educational concepts make sense to us by using examples from our actual surroundings. Farmer’s children can be taught topics like Profit-Loss, Interest, etc. using real life agriculture related scenarios while milkman’s children could be taught about fractions using milk cans.

At Anand Niketan, Wardha, the Nai Talim framework of education is implemented. Here are some pictures:

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All offices & classrooms are made of traditional Indian materials. Even in sweltering heat outside, these structures ensured relatively less temperature inside.

What is Nai Talim?

Nai Talim (New Education) is a philosophy of education developed by Mahatma Gandhi which believes that the whole world is a classroom. Since the real world involves relationships & occupations, children should learn to be co-operative & self-reliant (i.e. sustain themselves). Nai Talim is all about learning by doing for children & consequently learning by earning when they become adults. Read details here: http://www.nayeetaleem.org/history.html.

Freedom but under Discipline:

The pupils must have initiative. They must cease to be mere imitators. They must learn to think & act for themselves & yet be thoroughly obedient & disciplined. The highest form of freedom carries with it the greatest form of discipline & humility. Freedom that comes from discipline & humility cannot be denied; unbridled license is a sign of vulgarity, injurious alike to self & one’s neighbour.

-Mahatma Gandhi, Young India, 03-06-1926

 

Anand Niketan at Sewagram, Wardha applies the Nai Talim philosophy & uses simple methods to strike a balance between freedom & discipline, as per Gandhiji’s Nai Talim principles. Read more about Anand Niketan here: http://www.nayeetaleem.org/index.html

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‘Shiksha Pitara’: what a lovely term!

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Baahuli-ghar (doll-house) in a classroom made children feel at home.

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Every thing in a classroom is labeled. There is a reading corner. There are no desks or benches. Kids are drawing, talking, playing but not making noise or creating chaos. I saw even the teacher (not in picture) sitting with a group of kids at another corner & colouring along with the kids.

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The Maths Corner: There is a model for every mathematical concept. This required using inexpensive things in an innovative way which helps in making a dreaded subject like Maths fun to learn as well as practical to apply.

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Music class: This reminded me of Plato’s philosophy of Utopia where he spoke of teaching music to children so that they learn harmony & rhythm.

So what about my daughter? Do I have an answer about the school she will attend?

No… At least not right now. Though I do know for sure that the whole world will be her classroom.

Let noble thoughts come to us from all sides.

My husband & I are looking for parents who have lost faith in the current educational system & are considering an alternative system of education for their children. Please drop a comment here & I will get back to you.

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