At a recent seminar on education, parents and teachers were considered to be the most important collaborators in the child’s learning

Contemporary education regards the individual as a growing, changing organism whose mind becomes increasingly their most dominant characteristic.

The word ‘mind’ is an abstract term. Every mind is a unique organisation of impressions, intuitions and beliefs which interprets all experience. This explains the co-existence of various pedagogies especially for the critical early years of child development. Sutradhar, as the name of the non-profit educational resource centre implies, presented a platter of three distinctive approaches viz. Montessori, Reggio Emilia and Steiner-Waldorf, to one common objective – holistic development of the individual through education.

Prompt, precise responses and an air of confidence filled the room as the participants were walked through the Montessori approach. “We believe that the child is a worker working at constructing himself into an adult, and so needs the necessary tools, a prepared environment and the way of carrying out these activities. Our ultimate aim in education is not imparting knowledge, but to assist in development,” shared Nandini Prakash from the Indian Institute for Montessori Studies (IIMS).

According to the Reggio Emilia approach, children are seen as creative confident learners. Parents and teachers are considered collaborators in the child’s learning. Nina Kanjirath and Mona Dhawan from Gaia, a Reggio inspired preschool, presented their approach that emphasises on provoking children to think, learning from the environment and revisiting the lessons.

A simple song and a demonstration of an activity based on Steiner-Waldorf education made all that followed relatable. “If we can nurture a child’s ability to stay healthy in their physical body, in their relationships and in their larger engagement with the world with enthusiasm, compassion and balance, we would have given them a good foundation. To do this, adults in education should also be flexible, inspired and rigorous in building self-discipline,” says Smitha Mallya, Managing Trustee of Bangalore Steiner School Trust.

“The Steiner-Waldorf approach allows the child to experience the world through the window of his senses, keeping in mind the state of dream consciousness of a child and the three-fold human nature of Willing, Feeling and Thinking,” explains Latha Madhusudhan, co-founder of the Bangalore Steiner School and founder of Prakriti Kindergarten.

Meaningful questions poured in from an informed audience in the Q & A session. How does one ensure continuity between the school and home environments? What is the adult-child ratio? How often is the child involved in making an educational toy? Among these, came the question that addressed the elephant in the room - Scalability, for each approach in terms of cost and staff. Nandini Prakash answered this by presenting two programs from IIMS: ‘Hosa Chiguru’ (new sprouts) that uses low cost Montessori materials and ‘Me too for Montessori’ for an existing school to convert into a Montessori. The presentations were a bit hurried owing to lack of time but the dialogue between experts, practitioners and parents was skilfully moderated by Mandira Kumar, Founder Trustee of Sutradhar.

“Creativity is connecting things”, said the visionary in black turtleneck after revolutionising the digital era with Apple Inc. The ability to make surprising connections across areas of knowledge is the key to essential breakthroughs.

Though the three learning approaches were unique, similarities surfaced in rationale (child-centeredness, holistic development) and medium used (art, craft, music, free play). This led to a suggestion put forward by Nina Kanjirath, to integrate into a single pedagogy the methods best suited for Indian children that was unanimously accepted by the forum.