The Holistic Education programme offered by Bhoomi College seemed like the perfect fit when I wanted to take a break to understand ‘alternative education’. Little did I know then that these eight months would create an impact on me, not just intellectually, but emotionally and spiritually as well.
Investing time in my inner-self as part of the foundation module – Connecting to Land, Self and Community is a journey I will cherish forever. From understanding perceptions, complexity, self-enquiry and other processes, my outlook towards life changed. The positivity of the space and the reverence with which sessions were facilitated made the struggles I was silently fighting seem resolvable. Offerings made by facilitators and peers were meaningful, experiential and instilled faith and hope. Furthermore, staying on-campus provided an opportunity to collectively mull over classroom discussions and afterthoughts.
Running in parallel were discussions on sustainability, and by late August, the much-awaited modules on education began. The energy within me changed. Understanding psychology (like brain sciences, the stages of development, windows of opportunity), the need for mixed age groups, thematic learning, whole language approach, multiple intelligences, learning styles and active learning methodology (to name a few), gave perspectives I would have never gained otherwise. Prakriya-specific practices like building sensitivity, ‘Circle Time’, emergent curriculum and storytelling in the real-world context helped as well. Interacting with educationists Miss Madhu Suri, Miss Jane Sahi (Founder, Sita School), Mr Gautama (Director, Pathashaala), Seetha Anathasivan (Founder Trustee, Prakriya School) and facilitators from Prakriya helped in understanding their philosophy of education, and questioning the current system.
To further our learning, we were encouraged to pursue a two-month internship with an educational institution. Inspired by our visit to the Valley School’s Art Village, I decided to spend six weeks at Vidya Vanam, a beautiful school for tribal children located near Coimbatore. Subjects including mathematics, science and languages are taught through art, and at the end of the term in December, children display their projects/models at the annual project day. It was heartening to see how the entire school (including teachers, management and support staff) came together to give children an opportunity to learn and participate in a fearless, non-competitive environment.
My understanding of ‘alternative education’ emerged when we dived into the underlying connection between Prakriya’s guiding principles, processes and practices. Today I have a vision of how education should be – respecting diversity, fostering eco-consciousness, learning as an eco-system; how integral every stakeholder is, and how important it is for children to grow in an environment that encourages them to just be.
Although our batch was diverse, and every individual had unique stories to share, I believe that our learning would have been more enriching had the Holistic Education’s batch size been bigger – creating a space for broader perspectives, richer experiences, and deeper analyses. Also, having the flexibility to do the real life project in education (and not only sustainability) would have been more exciting and engaging for us.
Both the inner-outer ecology and deep ecology programmes set a new dimension I could tread on. With guidance from the facilitators at the college, I have started mirroring some of these sessions (like appreciating diversity, realising one’s strengths, understanding blocks to creativity, etc.) back home. I believe this is one of my biggest takeaways, and I will continue to engage in this work with those around me. Concurrently, I wish to explore opportunities of working with teachers at low-income schools (taking to them these alternative methodologies) and understand policies that make our education system.
I believe that this invaluable journey with Bhoomi College will aid in realising my dreams.