Wednesday, 21 February 2007

A Modern Gurukulam

While everyone is talking about the pros and cons of Indian Education system, the innovative way founded by Shri.Jiddu Krishnamoorthy came to my mind.

I had the great oppurtunity of visiting Rishi Valley School near Madanapalle (AP) many times and its I should say I was very lucky to get a real insight into the system of education followed in the school.

The school looks like a village from a Bharathiraja film and it is said that the great location with majestic hills with a view of plush green valleys was hand-picked by the founder himself . The climate is pleasant throughout the year and a visit to the school is like taking a vacation in some exotic hill station.

The guest houses look like old Madras Bungalows and the dorms are in a similar style giving the entire place an old world charm.
You are surrounded by chirping birds which reminds you that the place is a bird sanctuary and any RVite passing by would stop and answer your queries about the birds.

The two aspects that impressed me are, there are no day scholars in the school (except the kids of the staff ) and so everyone is on equal grounds and the next one is that all the teachers live in the campus .This is a great advantage to the school as they can make a complete impact on the students without any outside influence. No day scholar telling her boarder friends " Hey..I went to a party yesterday and......" ..

What I saw was a homogeneous mix of kids from different regions and from various walks of lives ..you name them...they have them..diff languages..diff religions and diff races and even mixed races.... What a
blend ! It feels wonderful to see all these kids play together in great hrmony.

They have no uniforms, no exams upto 8th standard, have classes like yoga , batik , carpentry , bird-watching and pottery.
Visitors are not allowed to dip their fingers in clay :( while the students there were happily operating the electric wheel and were blissfully making pots and were thoroughly enjoying themselves.
The happiness I could see in their faces... a million pounds cannot bring that. (This promptly sent me to Golden Bridge Pottery in Podicherry to enquire if there are any classes there...but no luck :( )

Although there is no uniform they have an unwritten dress code and wear appropriate clothes for different activities.Instead of exams , they have assignments and projects. I saw a 5th standard child ('fifthie' as they put it ) going around the campus asking other students what brand of shoes they were using and making a pie-chart with all the data collected. What a way to learn...! I mentally yelled at everyone who made me do tonnes of exercises in text books to understand the concept.

The classes are not always conducted in class rooms...one can see groups of student and a teacher seated under trees ,on stone benches or on long steps that are fixed here and there. The teacher would be in the centre while all the students would be seated around him/her in such a relaxed manner (as if they were watching a TV show! ). You can even see a bunch of them sharing the book with the teacher reclining on him/her.
Would you believe me if I tell you one little boy was swinging on a banyan (ariel) root during a class and the teacher was patiently calling out to him repeatedy? What rapport they have ..there is absolutely no fear or false respect in the children's faces. Just open minds and happy learning. I always think that only people who have a passion for children, nature and teaching go to Rishi Valley to teach there. There are many teacher who are RV products themselves.I have also seen some acadamecians who stay in RV for a few months and take pleasure in teaching the kids their subject.

Kids call the lady teachers and staff 'Akka' ..no 'Miss' ,'Ma'am' or 'Miss.Jones' there. They have a unique drawl to their 'Akka' pouring all their love into it. No standing up and bidding 'good morning's..just a 'Hi...Akkaaa.' . Even when I stop to talk to RVites ..their dialogues are always generously sprinkled with 'Akka's.

The library looks so inviting and using the Library is part of the curriculam and each child is expected to share his views in class.
Have you heard of a school which invites a teacher from the UK to tell stories and to teach the nuances of story-telling ? No wonder the kids had such great communication skills.

Importance of recycling and use of biodegradable material is not just a text book topic there and the use of plastic and polythene bags are prohibited.. Beats me how the kids dont complain but follow it in such a positive way.

Wild life preservation, enviromental awareness, appreciation of nature ,
kindness to animals are areas which are concentrated upon.Even the snakes (that are found commonly) are caught and taken away to be left loose in a remote area.

There is a hill called 'Astachal' and everyone gathers there at the same time every evening and in cloud of 'Sambrani' smoke to chase away the mosquitos sit there in absolute silence and watch the sun set. I was reminded of this

"The birds have vanished into the sky,
and now the last cloud drains away.

We sit together , the mountain and me,
until only the mountains remains."

____ Li Po


The education does not stop with the school but also extends to the hostel life.All the snacks the kids bring are collected together and shared equally. I was surpried to see that the living quarters are swept and mopped by the kids themselves . Dignity of labour at work. Most important of all...the boys are included too.I have seen teen-age boys doing the dishes with blaring music in the background and wonder of wonders enjoying the chore.

There is no topic that is taboo and the kids talk about anything under the sun with their teachers , all while walking around the school in the evenings.

Workshops are conducted by experts in the field.For example, Hindustani music by Bombay Jayashree....films by..who else but our ManiRatnam ,wild life conservation by Sekar dataatri are just a few in the long list.

But there are some criticisms about the system too...many ppl say that, these kids are brought up in a simulated environment and hence would find it difficult to face the real world. Well..I personally feel that the kids are fine and have no adjustment problems.After all being street-smart or pushy does not really help in the long run. Kindness, altruism, team spirit, generosity are no trivial traits and they never go unrewarded.

What better way to widen the mind than keeping them happy and making the learning experience a pleasant one..As the saying goes, if no learning is achieved , the teacher has failed more..It makes sense to see if the kids are in a receptive mood before teaching anything..

I sincerely feel that we should have more of these kinds of schools and also the final board exams should be modified to suit these schools.

I remeber reading an interview by actor Nandita Das in which she says her ultimate ambition is to set up a school like Rishi Valley. We need more of such people to better our existing system.

25 comments:

Voracious Blog Reader said...

Hi Shri. Shree,

Character maketh a Wo(man).

The end of education is character
- Satya Sai Baba

This type of education seems to be unique.

Voracious Blog Reader

Sree's Views said...

Hey Kootalee jee,
Epadee paa indha maari aptta oru saying pudichi pottudareenga..

Enadhaan irundhaalum en kootalee en kootalee dhaan :)

The emphasis in this kind of education is on imparting values and building EQ along with IQ.

Thanks V !

balar said...

Excellent post Sree.Felt like walking inside the Rishi valley..

/* The classes are not always conducted in class rooms...one
can see groups of student and a teacher seated under trees,
on stone benches or on long
steps that are fixed here and
there. */

Krishnamurti's explanation from his Book "What Does Fear Do To You?"

You cannot find out about yourself
if you are always talking, going about with your friends,
with half a dozen people.Sit under a tree quietly by yourself....
By being with yourself, sitting quietly under a tree,
you begin to understand the workings of your own mind and that is as
important as going to class..


/*
I remeber reading an interview by actor Nandita Das in which she says
her ultimate ambition is to set up a school like Rishi Valley.

We need more of such people to better our existing system.

*/
very impressive...i will convey to Salma..:) :) :) :)

Sree's Views said...

Hey Balar...
That was one great excerpt from JK's book.

//The right kind of education should also help the student to discover what he is most interested in. If he does not find his true vocation, all his life will seem wasted; he will feel frustrated doing something which he does not want to do. If he wants to be an artist and instead becomes a clerk in some office, he will spend his life grumbling and pining away.//

Another one of JK's quote... this is the very essence of RV.

Thanks for your comment!

Sree's Views said...

Hey Balar...
Salma Madam school aarambicha adhula yaaru modha studentnnu enakku theriyum... :P
Inga kooda oru queue form aagai irukku... :P enna solla sollareenga ?

vatsan said...

if ur in madras, visit 'The School KFI' its on similar lines, but a day school, and has got permission for a boarding school. Its also a part of the Krishnamurthi Foundation

Sree's Views said...

Hello Vatsan..
Welcome here !
Have been reading your comments in PK's blog regularly..really liked the ones in his NRI post.
(Aana avar treat koduthaarannu sollavey illa :) )

I have visited The School KFI and The Valley School KFI in Bangalore. They are very good. But the real essence of this system can be seen only in Rishi Valley as it is very secluded and has very little outside influence.But for ppl who dont like to put the kids in hostels and yet like the system, I guess these schools are the best choice.
Thanks for your comment !

Voracious Blog Reader said...

Hey,

Looks like you have appended the post.

Voracious Blog Reader

Sree's Views said...

Hey V...
Thanks to my friend's guidance...

Voracious Blog Reader said...

@ Sree

You are welcome.

Voracious Blog Reader

Ravi said...

Sree,
I touched upon a similar topic during my initial blog posts. Its sad that children hate going to school - something which is supposed to be with them life long.

Btw, why did you remove your previous post (ie the one after Shivarathiri) infact it was in good spirit. Even I used to say "Ramar maadhiri husband vida Sivan maadhiri husband irukkanum". Anyway, debateable ofcourse!!

Srikanth said...

everything seems fine, the whole concept should be welcomed. But are they have to take exams from 8th std and follow the syllabus by our government or how it works out ?

Sree's Views said...

Hello Ravi..
//I touched upon a similar topic during my initial blog posts//
I'll check it out.

I removed that post for editing.
(Siva post illa..
porul kuttram...Sor kuttram edhuvum varama paathukanum illa :P )
Thanks for your comment!

Sree's Views said...

Hello Srikanth,
Vaanga Vaanga..

They follow the ICSE board and they have exams called 'series' from the 9th standard (which are conducted once in around 6 weeks) which is like our reg. exams.
In the 8th standard its only class tests (weekly). They have to take the board exams conducted by ICSE in the 10th.

Thanks for ur comment ,Srikanth :)

vatsan said...

yes true, but i think kfi has its own charm, ennoda school vittu kuduka mudiyathu. the problem with rishi valley is that its a separate ecosystem by itself, which means students don actually manage to adjust well into society, especially corrupt indian society (this a student of rishi valley told me, while discussing return to india, im not in india too, but will return soon, and he is not planning to) according to my friend, they arent well connected with wats happening in the real world, its an isolated ecosystem, and does suffer from the pitfalls of isolationist systems.

PK treat inimel dhaan vasool pannanom, adhu panniduven :D no problem, he has to treat me and another blogger, aduku agree pannittar.

Ravi said...

Sree,
Kalakiteenga. Just saw Vidya's blog. Infact I remember reading the blog's name in Junior Vikatan. Seri, adhai thaedi ungalukku comment anuppalaamnu nenachen, paartha neenga minnal vegathula kandu pidichuteenga. Adhula sila posts padikaradhukku romba paavama irukkum. Thanks for letting me know the link.

Sree's Views said...

Vatsan,
I spoke to an RVite and this reply is from her.
"His friend is absolutely right..the other day I saw a drunken person lying down on the road..and was appaled..I needed reassurance that nothing wld happen to that guy b'cos I have never seen this before..but my escort found it completely normal and did'nt seem to bother about it.
But I've come to terms with lots of things that I've never faced in RV but am dealing with now.Looks like in time I will fit in , in the system outside of RV. As for corruption..I will try my best to keep away from it.But these are things I'd gladly do for all the great time I had at RV".

Vatsan,
Unga frienda vara sollunga..we need more of such ppl here in India.

Enjoy PK's treat...hmm naangalum ethanaiyo comments pottom :P

Sree's Views said...

Ravi,
Welcome!
//adhai thaedi ungalukku comment anuppalaamnu nenachen//
the thought counts, Ravi !
Innimey anga namba comments pottu dhool kilapida maatom :)

balar said...

@Sree,
There are lot of excerpt in his book..and very useful quotes to students.

There were lot of questions aksed to JK when he started this school.
One of a question is,
/*
"Will you be like the rest of the world?"

"You are going out from this place, so called educated, pass some exams, and go out into the world.

The world . . . is like a jungle, where everybody is against another. Each human being is fighting the other human beings, and society is built like that.

You're going to be thrown out into that world, where you will go to University, get a degree, get married, get a job, and all the rest of it; children and so on and on.
But around you, in your office, everywhere, there is this endless battle going on.
It's really like a jungle.How does one prepare oneself to live in that jungle?
That is really a very important educational question . . . . "
*/

I dont know what is JK's answer for this question...if u get it forward to me

Sree's Views said...

Hey Balar,
I dont think they will be like the rest of the world..I see a marked difference in their attitude and values.
Vatsan has also raised the same kostens that the quotes point to.
Yeah! They have to strive hard to fit in, I think girls are able to cope faster.
I have seen some RVites returning back to RV to teach there. Probably b'cos they miss it too much.
If I get any other answers I will send it across.
Thanks Balar !

Pegasus said...

you should mirror this post on mouthshut.com

Sree's Views said...

Hey P..
I just saw ur comment now :)
I came here to copy the link to put it in reply to ur comment. :)
whatever is mouthshut.com ?

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Anonymous said...

I studied there for seven years. Whatever it is, it's not a "gurukulam" - teachers are very clearly figures of authority as well as your friends, when you are a student. The culture of 'guru' and 'sishya' is something completely alien to the basis of the philosophy of Rishi Valley, or how it operates in actual practice.

Manikandan said...

Some little modifications in these type of Gurukulam makes more perfect in our culture.

We need some change in our culture.
Thats back to our own culture..

So we will approach with Positive taughts............