Book Reviews

A Book on Alternative Schooling in India

Alternative schooling in India is "more vibrant than it seems but less dynamic than it should be", says the co-editor of a just released book on the subject.

Mainstream education "is too focused on securing a well-paying job, scoring high marks in examinations and outdoing the rest of the class...there is too little on nurturing the latent talent in each (unique) child", Neeraja Raghavan, a Bangalore-based writer and editorial consultant, told IANS.

She has edited "Alternative Schooling in India" - that focuses on the innovative methods of learning in some schools - along with Sarojini Vittachi of Bangalore-based gender advocacy group Girls Education Plus, and technical writer Kiran Raj (Sage, 2007).

Schools like the Timbaktu Collective (Anantapur), Rishi Valley (Chittoor), Sloka, the Steiner School (Hyderabad), Shreyas (Ahmedabad), Bhavya (Bangalore) and the Valley School (Bangalore) have deviated from convention to educate children.

Some schools teach kids concepts like "mind-mapping and meta-thinking" while others work to develop qualities like "compassion, humility and respect for each other".

Most believe that education happens best without the bitter competitiveness and pressures that have invaded most schools.

"In short, there is far more happening than we know of as most people concerned are quietly doing excellent work. It doesn't come out into the open. Yet, from what we see of mainstream schooling today, obviously not enough is happening to penetrate that," Raghavan said.

The three authors of the book visited schools, met educators and learnt about "more than one dedicated educator quietly bringing about change in his or her limited space".

Initially, the trio planned just a directory. But on approaching it, as educationist Krishna Kumar writes in the foreword, he proposed something more elaborate -- a project evolving into a book.

"In essence, alternative schooling (in India) is an attempt to move away from the traditionally accepted norm of what learning is, how and why we learn," Raghavan said.

Vittachi, who has worked for over two decades with Unicef and travelled across the globe, felt that one of the keys to developing the country was to educate the girl child. After superannuation, she set up the NGO for the advocacy of education of the girl child online at

Mainstream education often prevents the emergent self-confident individual from independently defining "his or her own life goals. And of course, it is seldom an enjoyable experience for the child, who sometimes (often?) ends up feeling drained of self-confidence", Raghavan said.

Behind this study is a "group of women who are interested in education, wish to see the children of our country (and especially the girls) enjoy school, learn well and finally rise to their fullest potential."

Raghavan said: "Often, parents who have admitted their children to an alternative school in one state and then had to relocate to another are hard put to find similar schools in their new environs. We hope such a book helps them."    


More by :  Frederick Noronha

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