Kaliyuva Mane abolishes grade system, believes in making children ‘learn’Saswati Mukherjee
This is truly a home for learning – Kaliyuva (learning) Mane (home).
Located at Kenchalagudu village, approximately 15 kms from Mysuru, the experimental school Kaliyuva Mane mostly serves opportunity-deprived children. What differentiates it from other similar schools working in this space is the absence of classification of students into classes based on predetermined notions.
Call it a deviation from the ‘accepted’ system, Kaliyuva Mane assesses each child based on their academic level. Thereafter a curriculum is designed only to suit their needs and help them learn individually. Then a team is formed consisting of children in the same learning ability bracket.
The names of the teams are innovative too. If there is a ‘Chilipili’ (noise made by children) team consisting of toddlers, there is a ‘Chiguru’ (tender leaves) team essentially consisting of new learners. Then there is ‘Chetana’ , ‘Pragna’, ‘Poorna’, ‘Pratibha’, ‘Maitri’ and ‘Shraddha’ team, all representing children at various stages of learning.
Once the child is trained in this school for 15-16 years, he is trained to take on the state level board examinations, where all children who have appeared for it so far, have done well.
“We have consciously done away with the grade system. Often we find that a child is expected to learn on par with a predetermined syllabus, and that interferes largely with his individual learning capability. Though majority of children studying here are from the BPL families who are first generation learners, a few are also from mainstream schools who could not cope up with the pressures there,” says M R Ananth Kumar, founder of Divya Deepa Charitable Trust, which runs the experimental school.
The various facets of a child’s progress
Ananth Kumar strongly believes that each child is different and so are the circumstances in which the child is growing up. There are those that come from broken homes, some who have been unable to cope with mainstream schools, so the learning ability of the child would vary accordingly.
“Our idea is not to make anyone feel inferior by classifying them into grades. We encourage each child to learn and learn according to their ability. It goes a long way in boosting their confidence rather than chiding them at every step for not being able to keep up with other children in the mainstream,” says Ananth Kumar.
So here, keeping in line with what they preach, Kaliyuva Mane allows a child to be at home and build a connect before they start teaching. A free-of-cost school, today the institution boasts of 102 students, of whom 34 stay at the accommodation provided by the Trust itself. The rest are all day boarders.
The method of teaching the children here is very different. There is compulsory education and there is an ‘optional’ curriculum to follow. The optional curriculum helps each child nurture their interests and hobbies.
Biggest challenge is to get teachers
Given that the school believes in being alternative, it’s a tough task to get teachers on board. The founder says that they would all have done their courses before they approached the school and would have preconceived notions about the education system.
“I find it very difficult to convince them to adapt to our non-conventional method of teaching. Once they start subscribing to our ideologies and methods of teaching, it becomes easy,” says Ananth Kumar.
Founder himself a visionary
An engineer by qualification, Ananth Kumar spent a dozen-odd years working in various capacities in South India. He gave it all up to join the Vivekananda Kendra in Kanyakumari for 1.5 years where he imbibed Swami Vivekananda’s philosophy. Greatly influenced by Vivekananda and Sri Aurobindo, Ananth Kumar firmly believes that it is education alone which can transform normal human beings to human resources.
In August 1992, Ananth Kumar settled down in a village, Srirampura, on the outskirts of Mysuru. He started free supplementary classes for the rural school children. He used to work as a part time lecturer at a coaching centre to sustain a livelihood. This is exactly when he personally experienced the challenges of staying in villages and the reluctance on the part of the urban educated people to stay back in their native villages. “It is this grass root level work that helped me to conceptualize my dream school Kaliyuva Mane – a school for the rural ‘Out of System’ children”.
In June of 2005, was born Kaliyuva Mane, with a handful 14 children. Two children from Srirampura joined the school along with Ananth Kumar’s son. His wife started working there as a full time volunteer and the school thus became operational. It was run with the help of personal funds for well over a year in the initial years.
“It was difficult to convince people in the initial years. After all, this was an experimental school. However with time, people did understand the work we were trying to do and gave us due recognition too,” says a proud Ananth Kumar