I am currently in Turkey for a conference on social entrepreneurship with some high school students, and the first thing one of the students asks me is, “have you seen Three Idiots? It’s one of my favourite movies!”
“Of course I have – what do you like about it?”
She goes on to tell me about how the the stressful and competitive environment shown in the film, along with the memorisation-based education system, are common in Turkey. I tell her it’s the same in India.
In fact, it’s the same all around the world, which is part of the reason why Ken Robinson’s TED talk “Do School’s Kill Creativity?” is the most viewed TED talk with 44 million views: we see our own experiences in his talk. People are increasingly realising that schooling is not equivalent to learning, and that we need to revolutionise the systems we use to learn.
At our organization, Project Potential, we are trying to do just that in rural Bihar. We have recently launched a program called eArthshala for the English “earth” and Hindi “arth” for “meaning” and “economy.” We seek to create a space to regenerate our local environments, economies, and existences.
Rural youth come to our space to self-design their own learning paths and focus on the questions that are most relevant to them. We simply are here as a backbone – to provide a platform for them to get exposure, to explore, and to ultimately find and create meaningful employment.
So what does this space consist of? Because we are focused on self, community, and environment, we are designing our campus to make daily life a space for learning about each of these topics. Specifically on the latter, we are building the campus according to environmentally sustainable principles, including how we grow food, the buildings we are building, and our management of water and waste.
While our main focus is on rural youth, we want to invite youth from different parts of India and the world as well; we believe that this form of learning–more horizontal than vertical, based on choice rather than forced curriculum, and creating an intricate dance between theory and practice–can be adapted and contextualized anywhere.
For that reason, we are creating a summer fellowship for youth from May until July, who will join our learning community to work on questions and issues important to them. We have put a few different positions down in areas like alternative education, socially just business models, waste management, and sustainable farming to give a few ideas, but we are open to you self-defining your own projects as well.
We hope that in creating a community like this, we will be able to demonstrate different ways of living–from how we learn to how we earn to how we relate to one another–in line with the needs of other humans and the environment.
For those interested in learning about or applying for our summer fellowship, please visit our website to see more details.