Children

FASHIONING lives

Former fashion designer, teacher Nathaniel Seelan is moulding lives of students and changing the education system, one step at a time.

In one of his classes, Nathaniel Seelan, a teacher at Vidyaniketan School in Chennai had his students divided into several categories — models, designers, choreographers, and more. And he went on to organise a fashion show! Before this, he also was a resident volunteer at Auroville’s Sadhana Forest, where he spent weekends with kids from the local community, teaching them the method of “unschooling” — students were given hands-on experience with the environment. He wanted to popularise alternate education to the extent of mainstream education. And this is what he made the headlines for.

For the uninitiated, Seelan is a graduate from the National Institute of Fashion Technology. He spent three years working in the fashion industry, decided he wanted a break and applied for the Teach India Fellowship as he wanted to try his hand at teaching. “The plan was to get back to my master’s and design, if I didn’t like teaching. But I fell in love with the work that happens here and the creativity and design that takes place at Teach For India,” he said in an interview.

Making a difference

And since then, there has been no looking back. He went on to work at Vidyaniketan school and realised early on that there were certain gaps in the education system that needed to be filled. “There were kids in my class who were academically inclined — ones who were good with numbers, or languages, or at memorising stuff; and the system catered to them fairly well. But I felt like there were these other kids, with different skill sets, that the system just refused to see,” he said.

And it was this lack of balance he wanted to rectify. He conducted research and realised that talent came in three important forms — academic, artistic and athletic. He came to the conclusion that the reason for academics being taken seriously was because it was assessed. Seelan wanted a system where all the three forms of talent could be assessed in order to spot talent among kids.

Consequently, he collaborated with RASA , a Chennai-based organisation that works through theatre to cater to individuals with special needs. With RASA, he worked to devise an assessment rubric, dividing each pool into sub-pools. The arts were categorised into music, visual arts, drama, and movement. A pilot was conducted for Stds. IV and V students, and parents were told that their wards would receive not one but three report cards every year — for athletics, academics and the arts!

Seelan believes, “For the system to be truly fair, we have to work towards exposing kids to the same or similar amount to arts and athletics as they have been to academics.”

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Printable version | Feb 18, 2020 12:41:04 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/children/fashioning-lives/article19609784.ece

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