A case for Alternative Learning

Current Education System

Over the last few years, I have been pondering over the prevalent education system and the philosophy of education. I am convinced that each new system will eventually get old. Also, the new system will have flavours of or retain the influence of the older system it replaced.

There are complaints abound about the current education system – it is not helping, it is too regimental, it does not recognise the requirements of the learner, and so on. All these thoughts are valid and very often are proved right. Indeed, it is this nature of the education system that has allowed us, educators, to think of alternative learning experiences. I have shared some of my thoughts on alternative learning in an earlier article.

Thinking of alternative learning

This thinking is a journey and hence has fellow travellers. Everyone comes with their own baggage and hence their own ideology, philosophy, and methodology that addresses a segment of the population. The question is, can we build a system that caters to most of the requirements of alternative learning?

To me, the answer is yes! This lies in a simple process called collaboration. Collaboration requires a diverse set of people with a developmental mindset. Such people are hard to find in one place at any given time. The prudent approach would be to collaborate and co-create a conducive space for learning.

Alternative learning spaces

Based on my research, here are my thoughts on alternative learning spaces and what they can offer. Broadly, alternative learning spaces can be classified as Philosophy-based, Ideology- based, and Pedagogy-based. Most often it is a blend of these three ideas.

The philosophy-based ones like our ancient Gurukula are today driven by caste or cult orientation. The ideology-based ones are purely personality-driven, like the educational network of Jiddu Krishnamurti or Shantiniketan of Rabindranath Tagore. The pedagogy-based ones are those that follow an alternative approach like the Waldorf (Steiner) schools, and The Walden School, Hyderabad.

Which is the best for you? There is no straight answer. This journey is exploratory. So, it would be wise to try a few spaces over a couple of years to find the best fit. One could also just deep dive with one and understand the concept well to be happy in that journey.

Personal experience

There are spaces like Abheek Academy in Bengaluru that blend these ideas. They focus on academic rigour and holistic development with a student-centric approach. These kinds of spaces offer the best of many worlds for those who want to have the freedom to explore and some framework to follow. ‘Freedom with framework’ may seem like an oxymoron. However, it is quite significant. In recent times, I have been part of this journey as a foot soldier. In this experience, I have come to realise the importance and the value of such learning spaces.

This journey requires a deeper understanding from the stakeholders. A lot depends on the parents and the educators in building a space that is enjoyable and effective. These spaces also recognise the individuality of every student. Hence the framework is more of a guideline rather than a commandment etched on stone.

Experience of parents

Parents whom I have interacted with have a different understanding of this alternative learning journey. This is great because they bring new perspectives and dimensions to the working of such spaces. Many a time the parents who are newly exploring alternative learning have a million questions and concerns. I understand this comes from their personal conditioning. For them, I wish to say that this journey is purely your child’s own. You and I are merely support systems that provide some insights into the meaning of alternative learning. Ultimately the child must walk that path.

My reflection

Over the last few years, I have come to realise that we are too conditioned. We think that the way we have led our life is the only way. It is difficult to change that mindset. But I can assure you that it is worth the effort and the results are exciting. The changing paradigm of learning in the 21st century emphasises the change in the mindset of a generation.

In the next 20 years, I see that there will be more open learning environments than conventional schools. The next generation parents will be more open to allow their children to explore new avenues. This would also create an opportunity for the country to move in a new direction. I see a bright future for this country in the hands of unconventional parents and teachers. Will you be part of this change or comfortable with old ideas is a choice you need to make.

Come, let us explore a new future that has more independent thinkers and compassionate individuals.

Featured image credits: Wokandapix from Pixabay

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Sriraghavan S M

Sriraghavan (Raghu) is an Astronomer by qualification (MSc, Astronomy, Bangalore University) and a teacher by passion. He is a trained counsellor and psychotherapist. His firm belief and conviction to transform the education system in India led him to be an entrepreneur through NumberNagar®. His core work at NumberNagar® revolves around product presentations, academic content, and training. He teaches Maths and Science to young students, rubbing off his passion to them. He trains teachers as well, inspiring them to better themselves. He has taught Physics in educational institutes, during his early career days. He has travelled extensively all over Karnataka, training teachers and popularising Astronomy. He advocates multiple intelligence and is constantly on the lookout for new things to learn. He is ambidextrous and enjoys sketching. He was an avid cricket player in his younger days. He is an enthusiastic biker and uses long solo motorcycle rides as means of reflection and rejuvenation.

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