A unique Gurukula personality of the week

Kannan Ramachandran –   | Photo Credit: Photo: K. Ananthan

Coimbatore: Enterprise is embedded in the bowels of Coimbatore. Though Coimbatoreans are prepared to suffer even long gestation periods, it is quite unusual for any of them to wait for years to realise their capital, leave alone profits. It is rarer still to venture into a virtually unknown sphere of enterprise – children’s education

But Kannan Ramachandran of the Sharp Group, who is heading one of the wings of the group, has a different vision. For this mechanical engineer who had studied in the U.S., it is a sort of life’s ambition to introduce a better system of education.

He feels that though the intelligence of our population has been higher than most other populations in the world , our system of education and our way of handling students and their needs has limited potential. Besides, we have glorified practices that are not child-friendly and definitely high in stress levels. “I want to equip children with the skills to keep up with the global knowledge revolution, to empower them through qualitative inputs to stimulate learning in every domain of development and to inculcate a deep sense of responsibility and values. In the long run, I plan even to franchise the system all over the world that I have introduced at my Anan Kids Academy,” he tells G.Satyamurty.

Aarti C.Rajaratnam, a clinical psychologist and education consultant, whom he has roped in for the venture, points out that Mr.Ramachandran conceived the idea of promoting a school system which is “unique.” Hence, the name of the school emanates from the Sanskrit term “Ananya” meaning “unique.” It took almost three years of planning and several trips abroad to conceive a system “which strikes a balance between parental aspirations and scientific research and the genuine needs of the developing child in a stress-free and child friendly environment.”

“It is almost a Gurukula system which is extremely child-friendly. It is more a theme park than a school and we have created facilities that will help child find a guru.”

The Academy, set up at Kalapatti, a suburb of Coimbatore, at a cost of Rs. 2 crores, envisages a school without class. Every learning space is a lab. “No one person is going to instruct.”

There are core skill labs (creative arts, performing arts, home skills and dance, music and gym) and core subject labs (languages, science, arithmetic and multimedia) in addition to the sky and water corners and a designed outdoor play area.

“Our aim is to provide them holistic learning and learning opportunities are available all the time and in every way.”

She underlines that it is “not fragmented” as in the regular class room system.

The natural way, through which children learn, is by play or by activity in which they are motivated to engage wholly and spontaneously without external pressure. “Here the children have the opportunity to learn by doing without the fear of their performance put on a test. “Even the tables and chairs have been uniquely designed.”

“There is no homework at all.”

Mr. Ramachandran, who spends considerable time on running this fledgling institution, has evolved a curriculum model that combines theory with practice. Besides, it reflects a philosophical orientation and is supported in varying degrees by child development research and education evaluation.

The principles underlying the model are the right to learn and achieve one’s potential, development of every domain, holistic learning, respecting differences and variations, readiness, going with the flow, a safe haven for every belief system and self-esteem and social skills.

Ms. Aarti is particular that the outdoor play area should be a stimulating creative space to facilitate physical and gross motor development, cognitive skills and fun- filled play. “Each activity has been scientifically designed to ensure that an aspect of the physical development and the correspondent area of the brain are developed.”

Mr. Ramachandran knows concepts alone do not achieve desired results. It is the systematic implementation of this curriculum model which envisages integration of science and creativity that can ensure that.

The most important feature is “a theme based model.” “A theme is an idea or topic that a teacher or facilitator and children can explore in different ways in each lab and during outdoor play. A theme is based on culture, environment, shared experiences and specific goals within a lab. While basic themes will be the starting point, future themes will arise from the events significant to each child and will arise from each lab. This way high standards of education and high levels of motivation learning will be maintained in every child. Children will be involved in planning the themes and taking active part in every step of the implementation.”

The teachers will be involved in the periodic observation, implementation and planning at every step of the process of learning in each child. They will integrate language, science, social skills, arithmetic, fine arts and self -help skills into each theme.

Scientific observations and evaluations are made of the process and also of each child. The parents get confidential reports regularly with a feedback on areas for a change and scope for improvement.

The central element of this method is “plan-do-review sequence” in which children conceive a plan, carry it out and then reflect on the results.” This is evaluated without the child being subjected to any form of stress and consolidated into a feedback.”

The academy respects the role of parents and provides a unique “observatory” in the school from where they can view the performance of the child through one-way mirrors.

“All that I am planning to do is to give the child a strong foundation through exploration and I plan to mould this institution into an ICSE\CBSE school,” concludes Mr. Ramachandran.