Teach students what they love: Dr. Wangchuk

Innovator from Ladakh speaks of reforms in government school system

January 21, 2020 01:04 am | Updated 01:04 am IST - Mumbai

Students often learn the things they do not like, and if they were taught what they enjoyed, they would like to go to school, says Dr. Sonam Wangchuk, engineer, innovator and education reformist from Ladakh.

Speaking at the SBAC-2020 (Business Academia Conclave) ‘Innovation and Technology’ held in the city recently, Dr. Wangchuk gave in insight into the reforms in education in Ladakh, one of which is the Students’ Educational and Cultural Movement in Ladakh (SECMOL) that he started. SECMOL aims to bring about reforms in the government school system.

“In 1994, I was instrumental in the launch of Operation New Hope, a collaboration of the government, village communities and civil society, to bring about reforms in the government school system,” he said.

From 5% to 75%

The programme involved the formation of village education committees to take the ownership of State schools, training of teachers in a child-friendly way and rewriting the textbooks and publishing them for Ladakh. “As a result, the pass percentage in Class X rose from a dismissal 5% to 55% in seven years and is now 75%.”

For students who failed their exams, he founded the SECMOL Alternatives School near Leh. The students are provided with a creative and supportive environment in school. “Students who failed have excelled in their chosen area and risen to become entrepreneurs, filmmakers, teachers and politicians as well,” he said.

Dr. Wangchuk said he also teaches innovation at the alternative school, where he and his students designed and built a solar panel-heated building that is low-cost, made of earth, but maintains 15 degrees Celsius even when the outside temperature is -15 degrees Celsius in Ladakhi winters.

Due to fast melting glaciers, Ladakh’s residents have been faced with a water crisis and flooding. “I invented the Ice Stupa artificial glacier, which stores waste stream waters in winter in the form of giant ice cones or stupas and releases the water in late spring as they melt just when farmers need water,” Dr. Wangchuk said.

Living simply

The reformist, who has stopped ironing his clothes, said the move ensured that the electricity saved, could power four rural households. “In Ladakh, we do not need development and industrialisation, unlike other cities. The region needs a more harmonious and sustainable approach that can go for a much longer time without exploiting the environment,” Dr. Wangchuk said.

He has also started a movement called ‘I Live Simply Movement’ wherein one takes a pledge to say stop ironing clothes, start bicycling and choose trains over aeroplanes. “The planet does not need money, it needs behavioural change.”

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