How do you tell today’s child not to lie? An easy way would be to get him to watch a film on it and derive his own moral, rather than have someone preach. That’s what a new concept called School Cinema is doing, finds BHUMIKA K.

Who hated moral science class in school? I know, don’t bother to raise your hand. Now, instead of being lectured by your teacher to “be good”, would you like to watch a film instead? Of course! That’s the kind of psyche School Cinema has played on. A new concept that is slowly seeping into classrooms, children are now shown theme films so that they pick up life’s lessons from them. It’s not all that simple, though.

Kids don’t just see films and leave it at that. They are then given worksheets with questions to answer. These require some thought and pondering over, looking into their own lives, and in that process realising what the film is talking about. It could be about how not to discriminate against people, having a spirit of sportsmanship, not telling lies, not using bad language, respecting parents for what they do for a living, understanding puberty, creating awareness on child sexual abuse and so on.

EduMedia, the parent company that launched School Cinema, was looking at reaching out to children towards their overall development. “We experimented with various formats and found cinema the most impactful and influential. Schools tend to see cinema as a bad influence on kids and that was seen as the genesis for School Cinema,” says Syed Sultan Ahmed, project director, School Cinema and MD of EduMedia. What these films do is equip children with life skills — “something that’s most desired by employers and most neglected by educationists”. There are films not just meant for kids, but also for teachers and parents as well.

The topics for the films are based on research conducted by their in-house team. The research findings are then handed over to the scriptwriter. “We get about five to 10 scripts on each subject, then it’s up to the director and his or her creative freedom,” says Syed. It’s after the film is made that the worksheets get designed. Schools get a licence to use the films once they sign up for School Cinema. (The fee per student per year is approximately Rs. 360.) Teachers are trained and the workbooks/sheets handed over.

In the curriculum

School Cinema has been incorporated into over 300 schools in India, Nepal and Saudi Arabia. In Bangalore, 15 schools are part of this system. “Most schools are using it to either substitute or complement moral education,” offers Syed. “Our films are not documentaries. For the first time, entertainment has been used to get into education. We train teachers not to tell kids ‘come, learn about honesty’ because they do tend to evangelise the topic,” smiles Syed. He also talks of how it’s been difficult to get teachers to accept the fact that every answer from the child is the right answer — there are no wrongs! “We don’t give any set answers. People have to find their own solutions in their space.”

Saroj P. Subbarao, high school senior counsellor, Jain International Residential School (JIRS), says: “My involvement in School Cinema started after I attended the premiere of the film I Can Do It in 2009. I showed this cinema to the students at our school in small groups and had a very interesting interactive session. Children and teachers loved the concept of learning through cinema. We have been using this module from June 2011 and students and teachers from Classes 6 to 8 have already seen nearly 23 different films.”

Not in-your-face

But can a film really instil values or morals in children? Says Syed: “After watching a movie, you don’t just change overnight. It’s a thought that stays in your mind.”

Sushma and Spurthi of Class 8, JIRS, say: “School Cinema helps a lot in the upbringing of a student. Usually, teachers preach moral values to students. Some students follow it while others take it in from one ear and leave it through the other. When these moral values are depicted in short movies, students pay a lot more attention. It gives examples of children like us — how they face problems in life and overcome it.”

In fact, two of the films made for School Cinema have won the national awards for 2012, given away by the President — Red Building: Where The Sun Sets, directed by noted actor Revathi won for Best Film on Family Values. The Finish Line won for Best Exploration/ Adventure/ Sports Film. “Getting directors on board we thought would be difficult, but they were very willing because they want to change society. They were very much in tune with what we were talking about,” says Syed. Many, like Revathi, do not even charge their professional fee. In the last two years the team met around 300 directors; the latest to come on board is comedian Javed Jaffrey. School Cinema has a bank of 96 films for students ranging from class one to eight. “Of these we have produced 56 films (budget of Rs.10 to 20 lakhs) and the remaining, which are in the animation format, are co-produced with organisations in Canada and the U.K. because animation films are expensive to make,” says Syed.

For details visit www.schoolcinema.net or call 93790-58238.