My wife Girija and I recently visited Isha Vidhya outside Coimbatore, on the recommendation of a friend, Deepak Satwalekar. His description was intriguing: the foundation is using three very different models of education to cater to different sections of society. What we saw turned out to be even more extraordinary than Deepak had described.
Isha Rural Schools:
There are 6 Isha Rural Schools in operation today, with plans for setting up at least 20 more across Tamil Nadu. These schools are set up with the intention of equipping rural children with the skills, knowledge and confidence to make it in life.
Given that speaking English and computer literacy are basic to life in the 21st century, the school uses English as the medium of education and supplements class work with video-based as well computer-based learning. Since English medium schools are not entitled to state funding, Isha depends primarily on donations in addition to modest fees from parents.
We have visited many government-run as well as private schools, but what struck us at the Isha schools was the atmosphere of fun, curiosity, energy and enthusiasm. The teachers were committed and well trained, supporting children to help them learn at their own pace. Undoubtedly, these schools will produce capable students with basic life skills as well as a love of life-long learning.
Isha Home School:
The Home School, at the Isha Yoga Centre, is comparable to a top-notch international school, with children paying full fees. Students are assigned to “houses” where house parents (typically a husband-wife couple) take care of them in all ways. Each house is a complete floor with dorms for boys and girls and a common area where children assemble for learning.
Up to 5th standard, the class follows the Montessori method – combining children of different ages and providing tools to kindle each child’s innate urge to learn rather than imposing information or knowledge in traditional lecture-dominated instruction.
Afternoon sessions are focused on arts, crafts and sports. Beyond class 5, the students go to classes by subjects, with exposure to examinations only in time for the Board exams.
According to Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev, the visionary behind Isha Vidhya, “We will make sure the child is exposed to every little thing in life. He should know how to fix a bicycle. He should know how to milk a cow – he should know everything”.
Interestingly, the Home School does not allow computers in classes, relying instead on traditional methods of library research. The house parent we met said that these kids all have access to their own computers and already know how to Google any subject; it’s more valuable to teach them alternative, more creative paths of research.
There is no doubt that Isha Home School will give its students the solid foundation they require to be the best they can in life – being productive, responsible and contributing members of the world.
Based on the traditional Indian model of ‘Gurukulas’, Sanskriti is a completely different model of intensive and extensive education aimed at promoting excellence in different fields. We couldn’t visit this school ourselves but were briefed by one of the Isha Home School house parents whose daughter is a Sanskriti student.
The kids here are subject to a rigorous schedule of early morning yoga and meditation, combined with traditional subjects like language, math, science and social studies. Hands-on experience in agriculture, dairy farming, along with intensive training in music, dance and arts, make this a unique and exclusive educational experience. All in all, Isha Vidhya is truly innovative in its choice of models and is making a mark in the field of education in India.