“The world is my classroom, each day is a new lesson and each person I meet is my teacher” – Craig Happer.
This is exactly what I got to hear from many jagriks (Jagruk Nagriks) who were part of a recently concluded public initiative ‘Samvidhan LIVE! The Jagrik Project’ initiated by ComMutiny The Youth Collective along with its partner organisations.
The need for teaching emerged with the need to transfer knowledge and to ensure that our future generations were fully laden with the knowledge that had been acquired, assimilated and implemented by the previous generations. In India, Gurukuls were perhaps the first structured spaces to teach that dates back to the times of Hindu mythology. The more modern version of schools, as we know them today, can be traced back to the Boston Latin School in the US, set up in 1635.
As times have evolved and technology has changed the way we experience our world, the question we need to ask ourselves is that, with information available at our finger tips, will schools and teachers become obsolete by the end of the 21st century?
While adolescents and young people are being told right from wrong all the time, what is really necessary is a space to be created for their curiosity, critical thinking, their opinions as well as their feelings. As Julius Ceaser said, “Experience is the teacher of all things”, and experiences are what illicit feelings and emotions. At the end of the day, you may not remember what you did, but you will always remember how you felt. That is why, creating experiences for impressionable minds are critical. The teachers role, no longer is that of the ‘knowledge holder’, it has to now evolve into the ‘experience creator’. Our classrooms have to move out of the four walls of school and experiences have to be created in the real world. Taking a small example from Hindu mythology Arjun (from Mahabharata) is referred to as the greatest archer of his times. He learnt it from his guru Dronacharaya. He was taught a skill by his guru, and encouraged to practice and hone it to evolve his own style. Arjun surely wouldn’t have become greatest archer just by studying theory and passing written exams for the same.
It is critical for young people/adolescents to be told what is what but that doesn’t necessarily mean not giving space to their views, questions and most importantly curiosity along with addressing how they feel. It is critical to give space to feelings so that young people/adolescents are able to make right decisions and become empathetic. As said by Julius Ceaser ‘Experience is the teacher of all things’ and experience is incomplete without making you feel anything. Until you do it, you won’t learn. Knowledge is available at fingertips now hence traditional schooling system needs to evolve to collaborate with this wide available knowledge and provide students with something which they can’t get online. Teachers need to share their experience and make the learning journey experiential for them.
Adhering to the need of changing times, there are some spaces where not only education is given but students are encouraged to experience and learn. Here are some examples.
Agrini is an NGO which runs a community school in the district of Kurai in Madhya Pradesh. The school is co-owned by each stakeholder of that community be it parents, Teachers, students or other stakeholders. This school has slightly different rules from any other school. Their rules include living the value of democracy, freedom, Love, Non-violence etc. “It is critical to create a school where students learn by experience and
not mere by teaching. We strongly believe that students learn best when they do it themselves, all they need is a nurturing environment”, Says Navendu Mishra, Co-Founder, Agrini. They create experiences for students through which they learn. Also they not only teach standard subjects but encourage students to have real life experiences as well. they have an entrepreneurship programme being run in school under which they encourage students to make their products, do the costing and go to the market & sell them. All this happens under super vision and mentorship of teachers, but this gives the students a sense of freedom, enhances their learning and helps them apply all the different knowledge they acquire
Farm to food Foundation is another organization which is redefining traditional education spaces by bringing innovation to it. There is huge lack of local contextualization of education. There’s a lot of emphasis on textbook & IT but less emphasis on practicals. “The idea was to move away from urban centric education model. Inspired by the NCF 2005, we used the local environment of the child for teaching-learning process. We work on the concept of ‘moving from known to unknown’”, says Deep Jyoti Sonu Brahma, Co- Founder, Farm 2 food. Farm 2 food runs a programme call farmpreneurs with class 6-7-8 students of Government school of Assam. They have covered 400 schools so far and are currently working with 65 schools. Their mode of working is ‘practical – conversation – theory’. Through this programme, they help students to set up a School Nutrition Garden. This is not done merely as a school club project but it has a deeper impact on students. It opens up lot of reflection areas for students. Most of the students have regular exposure to farming through their parents. Here this experience is used to learn and understand the science and mathematics concepts around farming. Each school has a farm patch which is looked after by students. From understanding the soil, what seeds will be best for that soil, what kind of nurturing it will need, fencing the area, selling the crops to school’s midday meals authority, putting the hard earned money in savings account in bank, students learn lot of concept of soli structure, perimeter, area, photosynthesis, costing, profits and loss etc. They do the practical, then they discuss what they learnt which is then connected to what is given in their textbooks. The School Nutrition Garden has become the open science laboratory for the schools. This also helps in building scientific temperament of the students as they get lot of space to question and discover the Answers.
Similarly, ‘Curious me’ programme run by Pravah enables and empowers school students to develop scientific thinking. The curriculum is designed to garner a space for curiosity and encourage the art of asking questions. The programme provides for an excellent model to experiment, investigate and thereby learn in the process. A diverse range of action projects like conducting energy audits in the school, water conservation, anti bullying campaigns, waste management and renewal, among others are undertaken by students.
These are just a few examples of various spaces where education is being given in form of experiential journeys. All these organisations and many more such organisations are members of ComMutiny the youth Collective which helps them in bringing their collective voices out on redefining the traditional education spaces which can complement today’s knowledge explosion.
ComMutiny The Youth Collective is a coalition of 35 (& rising) youth led and youth engaging organisations across India working towards promoting empowering spaces for youth leadership called the 5th space.
“I learnt about the constitution, passed my exams and forgot about it, but I don’t think I will forget the lessons learnt from the tasks I did during the Jagrik journey. This is how I truly understood the Samvidhan”, says Maya Rani, a young girl from Patna, who participated in this ‘reality check’ on how well we, the citizens of our country, know our own constitution.
Samvidhan LIVE! The jagrik Project supported young jagriks (jagruk nagriks – Aware Citizens) between the ages of 16 and 30, from diverse background to experience the constitution where they engaged in a reality game to develop leadership capacities and the ownership for the only story that all citizens must know by heart. 1200 jagriks took part in a year long journey and through 5000 social and self refl-action tasks around fundamental rights and duties took informed stances as active citizens.
That’s the power of experience which is a dire need of the hour. Its critical to make students empathetic active citizens which can be done through wholesome education – knowledge with experience. Purpose of the education is to take our nation towards prosperity while living the values of equality, liberty, justice and fraternity. We now have to work on that dream by creating boundary less facilitated experiences for adolescents, for education to truly be fruitful.
To get in touch with Pravah, visit here: Facebook.
This blog is contributed by Saudamini Pandey, who works as Senior Coordinator – Visibility & Outreach at ComMutiny The Youth Collective (CYC). She has led various public initiatives initiated by CYC on issues like Youth in Governance & Constitutional Literacy. She has been driving force behind the production of many media products especially films. She believes in the power of conversations and therefore loves to create spaces for dialogues amongst young people. She is a constant learner and explorer and feels life is a journey where one can keep evolving.