We believe that:
- All children have an imagination and learning capacity that outstrips adults’. They can all learn equally well if the right programmes are designed for them. Schools should therefore be integrated, with all kinds of children studying together.
- The environment of a child is a powerful teacher, both in itself and in how the child is taught to interact with it. So, spaces have to be consciously designed to achieve educational purposes, and children should be given power over those spaces.
- Children should be taught to learn on their own and direct their own learning, to question, challenge and experiment.
- We need to construct a rigorous philosophy and educational practice in India that is excellent and state-of-the-art, but is based on our history and relevant to our children, and is not imitative or mindlessly ‘global.’
Our philosophy can also be expressed as a set of answers to certain questions. At each step we take from philosophers of education from the world over, and at each step, we add to it based on our own research and analysis.
How do children learn?
The foundations are laid in the first few years. Children have to be provided a step-wise guidance, scaffolded in the ways described by Leo Vygotsky. Little children’s play must be taken seriously—it is their work, as Montessori showed. They must be respected for their imaginations at each age, and not judged against an adult scale of success.
What should be our understanding of children?
Children are individuals, just as adults are. They do not exist for the success of their family, community or country. Each of their lives, and their living of it, is valuable in itself, for its own sake.
Are all children equal?
Yes. Children are different, but equal. They should not be discriminated against on the basis of their family backgrounds. There should be the same, excellent, education for all children, not good schools for the rich and poor schools for the poor.
What kind of philosophy lies behind the academic curriculum?
Our curriculum is based on what is called the “classical” curriculum, or the storehouse of the best and richest knowledge of the whole world that all the best educational institutions of the world share. To this we add a “progressivist” philosophy, that is, that the way to learn is through problem-solving and a hands-on approach to knowledge that relates it to everyday life and surroundings. Finally, we add a “postcolonial” understanding of knowledge that questions how we know something and the positions of power and privilege that structure our world.
Is there anything specifically “Indian” about our philosophy?
Yes. We believe that a school should be based on a knowledge of the history and society that it is part of. Thus, we must know our Indian history of education, teachers, childhood, knowledge, and the relationship between all these and the family and society. The symbols and rituals we use in our school are taken from the wealth of these in Indian life. Equally, we are part of the Indian tradition of questioning, criticism, reform, and always giving and taking from the larger world India is inalienably a part of.
What would be a philosophic definition of “success” for us?
Philosophically, the definition of “success” should be left open. It depends on the individual child. Overall, we aim to make each child skilled and empowered as a leader to take charge of their lives. We want them to be learners all their lives. They should be sensitive to the environment and their surroundings. The world should be their home. They should know how to work and how to play. Their lives should be rich with the arts and literature.