Waking up early in the morning, getting ready, and rushing to school carrying loads of books had never been my favourite part of life as a four-year-old. I remember how our teachers used to give us strict instructions of taking out books, reading the alphabets, varnmala or numbers, after which we were supposed to imitate them in our four-line copies while sticking to our benches until the bell rings.
The angry eyes of the teacher staring at me for not having a good handwriting still give me nightmares. Not just this, since keeping quiet had never been my friend’s forte, as per my teacher’s words, both of us troubled them a lot by disturbing them in the middle of a boring class — wondering in our world of fantasy, discussing the colour, shape and beauty of flowers peeping in from the windows.
I couldn’t understand why leaving the classroom to explore the school was forbidden. Why did teachers used to complain to my parents and why did they not like my class explorations beyond the four-walled classrooms? Also, why were striking sleeping lines and standing lines on a 9-inch notebook so important than going out and imitating the lines on an open field? Unfortunately, all my good memories are associated with only 20 minute-games periods that seemed to be too short to explore each part of the school ground.
At last, just like any other student, somehow, I also complied with school norms fearing isolation. Nobody could satisfy me with their answers to my innocent but important questions at that time. Now, like me, many others have finally got the answers to these questions from the Ministry of Human Resource Development (now Ministry of Education). That’s what we call “Der aaye durust aaye (Better late than never)”.
After almost three decades of the announcement of the last education policy, our Union Cabinet has finally announced much-needed reforms in the form of National Education Policy 2020. The Ministry of Education has at last taken into account a holistic approach towards the overall development of a student from pre-primary to higher education.
The key thrust of curriculum and pedagogy reform across all stages will be to move the education system towards real understanding and learning how to learn, and going away from the culture of rote learning as is present today.
Some highlights on primary and middle school reforms:
1. There will be path-breaking reforms for pre-primary children as there will be universalisation of Early Child Care Education (ECCE), which will have its own curriculum for the children upto three years. Three to six year-old students will have a play-based, activity-based flexible, multi-faceted, multi-level, activity-based and discovery-based learning curriculum.
2. There will be a change in curricular and pedagogical structure introducing 5+3+3+4. Setup of national mission for basic literacy and numeracy for students of Class 1 to 3.
3. There will be no bag days for vocational learning, internships, experiential learning, project-based learning from Classes 6 to 8. The curriculum of these classes will have subject-introduction and subject exploration as the main focus, plus it will be multidisciplinary.
4. The curriculum will be reduced to essential content so that students get time to explore and focus on foundational education such as life skills, scientific temper, problem-solving and critical thinking.
7. The medium of education till Class 5 or 8, if possible, should be in either mother tongue or regional language.
Every child, when they walk into the school, wants to have an independent environment, i.e. no restriction of sitting on a seat the whole day, no bags with a heavy load of notebooks that they rarely love. They like talking, giggling and playing with friends, no pressure of doing classwork and homework, no scolding. All they want is to live freely, enjoy and explore their own little world where they can grow organically rather than as machine-manufactured “OK-tested” products of schools. These were the opening lines of Dr Mukti Patel, Founder of Prayaas: The Democratic School, first of its kind in India.
Prayaas has been working towards developing foundational learning.
1. Holistic Learning: It helps in psychological, social, emotional and spiritual development of a child.
2. Early Literacy Development: It is very important for children through simple activities, such as singing, talking and playing games, which help in developing an association with Nature.
3. Observing their daily activities, growth and inclination give children more autonomy that boosts their intrinsic motivation.
4. Self-Directed Learning: Freedom, Happiness and Values — Prayaas helps children in self-exploration. It gives wings to children to fly and explore the world in their own possible way.
5. No bag, No burden: This concept is put on children as the concept behind free school, away from the load and closer to critical thinking.
6. Age-Mixed community: No separation based on the age of children is made. Instead, they study as a cohort with flexible age limits that nurture their social understanding better and also develop problem-solving skills in children.
7. Focus on Areas of Interest: Prayaas allows children to use their creative minds and develop abstract thinking by keeping individual differences in consideration of each and every child.
8. Teachers As Facilitators: Teachers are trained weekly and involved in making decisions regarding everything in the school.
9. Fees: Prayaas charges a very reasonable fee.
Education in Prayaas is independent of the traditional teaching-learning programme. It prepares its children for the future as independent well beings.
We can say that Prayaas: “Ek Nayi Koshish Shiksha Ki Or”.
You can read more about Prayaas here.