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Mirambika: Learning for life
Mirambika- a school which espouses alternative education and doesn't believe in rote learning. The focus here is on 'learning' and making the children better individuals. The focus is on nurturing the child's natural creativity and innovative ideas.
“WE WANT to provide only such education as would enable the student to earn more. We hardly give any thought to the improvement of the character of the educated. As long as such ideas persist, there is no hope of our ever knowing the true value of education.” - Mahatma Gandhi
IMAGINE A school with creepers hanging from the walls of the building, a school where classrooms are not separated by doors; a school where kids play all day long in the sandpit or the little pond; a school where ducks and rabbits are free to reside. A school with just about a little more than hundred students and a little less than hundred teachers; a school that does not seem to be in the midst of a perennially busy city. A school like Mirambika. Mirambika, situated opposite IIT Delhi is one of the 35 alternative schools present all over India. Alternative school, as the name suggests refers to a form of education different from the traditional or mainstream. These schools are guided by their own philosophy of learning and teaching. They firmly believe that education is about keeping alive the spirit of questioning and learning throughout one’s life. As Dr Ramesh Bijlani, former professor at AIIMS and an expert on Mind-Body medicine and Yoga, especially Sri Aurobindo’s Yoga says, “The basic purpose of education is to inculcate in child a love for learning. The child should be taught ‘how’ to learn rather than ‘what’ to learn. Education should be for life, not for a living.”
Thus, unlike today’s modern schools where cutthroat competition has driven the focus on marks and rote learning, these alternative schools come as a new wave of education. Here, the focus is on nurturing the child’s natural creativity, while the formal reading and writing skills can wait for a few years. The emphasis is on the pursuit of one’s own goals based on one’s natural interests rather than merely trying to do ‘better than the others’. Education here, does not mean sitting in classrooms in closed doors and cluttering the mind with facts. On the contrary, children learn by doing, observing, experiencing and experimenting. All academic learning is done in an environment where genuine freedom and exploration is encouraged in the child. Thus in such a warm, relaxed and creative atmosphere, each child is able to realise his/her true potential. Further, these schools may not even conform to a National Examination System because learning here is pursued for the sake of knowledge and character building.
Mainstream schools, on the other hand, do not give enough space to allow the child's creativity to blossom. “Fantasy and imagination should be allowed to flower in the child. Talk that may seem without logic may not necessarily be irrational- it could be suprarational,” informs Dr Ramesh. He further mentions that one of the serious flaws with today’s educational system is that, “emotions are most often ignored in our rigidly regulated and tightly controlled system. But it is essential to transform them to retain the best of the emotions- vitality, love and enthusiasm. This manifestation of our divine essence cannot be nurtured through rote learning. We have to create such situations where this part is also brought forward. Thus, training of the psychic voice is an important task of the teacher”. However, mainstream education completely overlooks this aspect and hence, manufactures emotionally underdeveloped children, which are made to fit into the industrialised society. These children do not question authority, they only follow suit. The result is masses of people who do not think for themselves but blindly obey. It was in reaction to this mass-production approach that the alternative education movement began.
This movement gave an impetus to those people who believed that the child had to be driven by his/her own need to learn and know. “We believe that nothing can be taught. Education is inherent in the child, we only help in stimulating it to bring out the best in him/her”, asserts Sulochana Di, one of the teachers who have spent more than 20 years at Mirambika. Her statement can be supplemented by great men like Socrates who once said, "I cannot teach anybody anything, I can only make them think.” Along with children, Mirambika has also been preparing teachers through its teacher training program. Understanding the need for life-long learning, it recently launched the Mirambika Reasearch Centre for Integral Education and Human Values. Certificate courses on Pre-school Childcare and Education; Personality Enrichment; Creative Writing and Yoga have been initiated by this Centre. These courses have broadened the Alternative Education Movement to include adults. Such adult learning programs are all the more significant in the 21st century when the industry demands innovative, versatile and independent thinkers, leaders rather than followers.

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