Towards an Alternative Education Path

Youth Education

An alternative education path (ATP) which is well integrated with the creation of a better and safer world is presented here.

One part of ATP can be called Core 1 and the essence of this remains the same from the beginning of school education to post-graduation, although of course the learning is different for various classes and age-groups. This core 1 is concerned with the teaching of certain universal values such as peace, non-violence, justice, protection of all forms of life and environment, attitude of caring and co-operation towards all human beings, non-discrimination, equality, gender equality, social harmony etc. Various aspects of these universal issues are learned in various classes so as to gain a comprehensive view of universal values by class five (approximately the first half of school education). Then this is taken to an advanced level in higher school, and then to college in various interesting and meaningful ways. This is to be considered the most important part of education which is also well integrated with other parts. Core 1 should be integrated at advanced levels increasingly with solutions to most pressing problems facing humanity.

Core 2 consists at school level of three compulsory subjects—Two languages and their literature, science with human health and basic math and thirdly, social studies and humanities. The basics of all these three subjects are to be emphasized in interesting ways and at the same time, at more advanced levels, these are to be linked in very creative ways with core 1 as well with various problems facing humanity.

Component 3 consists of non-compulsory subjects from which students can make a choice according to their special interests. These subjects can include a third language, advanced math, drawing and crafts, sports, social service, applied democracy, dance, music, theatre, cinema and videos, radio, photography, debating and writing skills, tracking, thoughtful walks etc. Care should be taken not to burden students with too many subjects and non-compulsory should be treated as truly non-compulsory without anything being imposed on students. If a student is not particularly interested in competitive sports, for example, and would instead prefer to take a long walk in the school for exercise, he or she should be perfectly free to do so, with the option of changing midway also available.

In all aspects of education, the approach should be interesting, creative, participative, reflective, thoughtful and non-imposing, avoiding stress, imposition and tensions of any kind, allowing students to learn at their own pace and in their own ways, with adequate space being provided also for learning from each other. Exams can be held once a year without making them too competitive or tense, along with some routine periodic tests. Those who fail to meet certain minimum norms at the end of the academic year have to attend a one month revision course in which those who have passed can also join, and those who have done exceptionally well are encouraged to join as voluntary teachers, helpers and guides for students who have not done very well, all in a spirit of help and cooperation. After the end of this revision course, all are promoted to the next class. There is a board exam only at the end of school with two chances given with a gap of a month. Those who fail also get a school completion certificate, but if they want to repeat they are welcome to do so.

In the last class of school there is an additional subject called future options in which student get enough time to think and plan for their future over a period of almost an entire academic year while at the same time receiving the guidance of their teachers.

Post-school education does not start immediately. Students have about 9 or 10 months partly to think and reflect, partly to take up some independent group activity with friends, partly to give various entrance exams. These entrance exams are not just centralized national level exams but also exams at state and perhaps even district levels keeping in view local needs and opportunities, giving students more opportunities to study and prepare to work as doctors or nurses or engineers or teachers or entrepreneurs  within their own communities or remaining very close to them.

The responsibility of providing good quality, well-equipped education at all levels with adequate budgeting and community support should be accepted by the government, with the private and philanthropic sectors free to make their contribution to education at various levels, accepting some essential government regulation (without trying to dominate the education sector and influence the government administered education system adversely), using their own resources.

Financial burden on students should be very low, and in any case there should be adequate scholarships to make education accessible to all at all levels.

Bharat Dogra is Honorary Convener, Campaign to Save Earth Now. His recent books include Protecting Earth for Children, Planet in Peril and A Day in 2071.

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