Suriyaprakash C, along with Steffan Ajay, leave today on a study tour with a difference. They will drive over 9, 000 km across the country in the span of four weeks. Their mission? Visit alternative schools, interview teachers and interact with students to find out about their education system and what they do differently to make their schools stand out.
“We are looking at centres that are not so well known and yet follow home-grown systems that work well for them. These are institutions that cater to the local children in both urban, rural and remote areas,” clarifies Suriyaprakash. “These schools have created an environment that works best for them. Some have no more than 15 students while others have nearly 1, 000.”
Steffan is a Senior Programme Officer, World Wildlife Fund in Coimbatore, and works closely with children in tribal areas. Suriyaprakash is Professor of Organisational Behaviour at Jansons School of Business in Coimbatore and also a Teaching and Supervising Transactional Analyst. The other members of the core team are Viji Mohanraj, an industrialist who is interested in environmental issues; Dr Srilatha Juvva, Professor, School of Social Work, Center for Disabilities Studies, Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai; and Dr Thamilselvi S, Transactional Analysis Psychotherapist, Director, JKP Medical Centre, Coimbatore.
- Is the child happy with the mainstream learning process?
- What is the role of the teachers and parents in the child’s formative years?
- How is the system attuned to the child’s developmental needs?
- Is the current model equally accessible and applicable to children from all strata of society?
- Are alternative models scalable?
- How is the system relevant to our cultural and socio-economic conditions?
- What aspects of these systems can be applied to mainstream schools to make education meaningful and relevant?
- The expenses for the mission are being met through crowd funding. Those interested can contribute at https://www.ketto.org/fundraiser/ChildFirst-CurriculumNext
They call the project Child First Curriculum Next. While this segment of the mission focuses more on schools in the northern part of the country, there will be another exploratory journey covering the southern states.
Says Suriyaprakash, “We are the consumers of the products of school education and we are alarmed at the lamentable quality of students who come to us. We inevitably blame the university system saying it is rotten. It has become our habit to label our education system as outdated. But what are we doing about it?”
This blame game needs to stop. The cycle needs to be broken, he says. As an educator, he has been involved in training programmes for teachers and high school children and has seen how the students are not taught to think nor encouraged to ask questions. “No wonder their language skills are lamentable.”
Suriyapraksh and his friends toyed with the idea of opening a school. But then they decided they would do better to work on a project that will have a wider impact. “So we decided research some schools that were doing a great job”.
There were several, they discovered. “There is a lot happening in pockets, but it is fragmented. The people who are doing a commendable job are more than willing to share their formula of success, but no one is coming forward to ask them.” Suriyaprakash says that there are schools in the remotest areas where the children have done remarkably well in life and have returned to give back to their alma mater.”
These are institutions that have been successful, despite managing with minimum infrastructure, points out Suriyaprakash, and are involved in innovative experiments where pioneering educationists are trying out new learning systems that are child-centric. “We feel an urgent need to aggregate the experiences of these experiments and make the wisdom available for the larger audience of all stakeholders in child development.”
He mentions the democratic model of education where children decide what they want to study and how, and other unconventional yet successful methods where they work closely with their own environment. “We realise one size does not fit all, but surely there are lessons in these success stories that can be tweaked and adapted to suit different environments,” he says.
Child First Curriculum Next wants to find out if these successful experiments can be scaled up. “We can get learning from anywhere. A success story of a school in the remotest corner of the country may have a lesson for someone in the urban area and vice versa. We wanted to talk to these schools, ask them if they can share their knowledge and meet and share.”
The team members will collect information and data, document them and use the knowledge to create an ongoing campaign. The collated information will be turned into a ready reckoner for educationists, teachers, parents and policy makers.
The articles resulting from this trip will be published in the International Journal of Transactional Analysis Research.