Saturday, December 03, 2005


In the following paragraphs, I am describing in brief, a few alternative learning initiatives that have stood the test of time.
The Summerhill School founded by A. S. Neill is rooted in the total absence of coercion in the learning process. All the learners have been included in the larger learning process by including them and empowering them with equal voting rights in all decision making process that affect school. (Martin, R.A. 2000). For more details please refer to
There are learning initiatives that are rooted among communities that celebrate their culture and life in the light of the challenges and periods of oppression undergone by their members. This brand of education is termed ‘folk education’ ( Paulo Frier - one of the most influential thinkers about education and learning in the twentieth century – was an artist in this method of education. He revelled in the realm of dialogue as the basis of learning than the curriculum. His Pedagogy of the Oppressed is currently one of the most quoted educational texts (Freire, P. 1972) Near home, the movement of naxalism in the southern states of India, has successfully rallied around with this philosophy to mobilise its support among the downtrodded and often roughshodden tribal population. Some experts have termed this kind of an education as ‘people’s education’ also, which the governments or political powers tend not to like.

Near home, the Krishnamurti schools envision the creation of an education that is not rooted in a ‘system’ but is built around the attitudes and qualities of the teacher and child and their relationships. These schools go beyond the mere acquisition of intellect and memory skills to a realm of cultivating intelligence. The Krishnamurti Schools work with the conditionings of the learners and teachers equally ( According to Krishnamurti, “Right education is to help you to find out for yourself what you really, with all your heart, love to do. It does not matter what it is, whether it is to cook, or to be a gardener, but is something in which you have put your mind, your heart.” (Krishnamurti, J. 1974)
The Montesorri schools based on methodologies developed by Dr. Maria Montessori, dwell and delve in the natural development of the child, the healthy formation of the physical, mental and spiritual qualities that are the latent in the human being (

In the recent times the spiritually based Waldorf Schools or Steiner Schools (as called in Europe) emphasize the spiritual growth of the individual, the individual becoming free, responsible and active human beings, able to create a just and peaceful society (Koetzsch, R. 1997)

Maurice Gibbons evolved the “Walkabout Paradigm”: a paradigm of challenge and excellence ( ‘Walkabout’ is an Australian word. It is a legend among the aboriginals that every adolescent aborigine must spend about a year away from his community in the Australian out-backs and lives on the land. The fittest survives. He is accepted in the community only after the “walkabout” ritual.
As educators, today each one of us has a challenge of shaping the learning of our learner. There is a need to build a learning experience that is based on “challenge and excellence” and that is life-long beyond the four walls of our campuses. Challenge is an easily accepted word, though excellence is not. Especially in the recent times the latter word, excellence has become a taboo in educators world on account of extreme pressure it brings upon the learner.
Neither is the walkabout paradigm inappropriate. By challenging the adolescent to attain excellence in the face of survival, the community demands the demonstration of knowledge and skills that will help him survive and thus contribute to his society. It also challenges the learner to live in isolation, away from his traditional support systems, thus allowing invaluable time for reflection and to sort out his anxieties with himself.The challenge paradigm as well as the isolation involved in the paradigm is extremely contrasting from our traditional school system (in spite of being global schools). But the reality is that our learners do not have any chance to prove or demonstrate their knowledge and skills as they graduate from school/colleges to work places. Neither are our learners completely in tune with the sensibilities, knowledge, competencies and skills that are musts as they graduate in to their adult lives.
I have not commented upon other individual and like-minded group initiatives on education and learning. One common line communicated through all these alternative initiatives have been about ‘keeping the child/learner in the center’. All the above-mentioned learning initiatives arose in response to specific needs of the people, their culture and began in a small and localized manner. A few of the schools are beginning to gain a larger acceptance, yet these initiatives are oases in the midst of a fiercely competitive world. David Kolb speaks of four essentials that are a must for learning to occur: concrete experiences, reflective observing, abstract concept-making and active experimenting ( Most of the alternate educational initiatives build themselves on these guiding principles put forth by David Kolb.


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