Letter from Kamala Menon, Mirambika School

Freedom to learn.

There have been sweeping changes in education at the school level today. The Right to Education Act has opened the availability of learning to all without any barriers of time and duration. This, in itself, creates opportunities to learn everywhere and all through life. To make the best use of this opportunity and not lapse into the traditional mindset of “I am too old to learn” or “I know what to do, experience is the best teacher“, there is need for a more leisurely and self-paced learning mode.

In the very nature of the 10+2 system or the 12 year school + 3 year graduation +2 year post graduation and 4 year research period is built a very rigid and often unattainable control over learning. In the process of going from one level to another, time is spent on preparing for the run, taking a leap and falling on the other side, only to pick oneself up and run for another leap into nothing of great merit.

If this sort of controlled exploration of the learning process is re-organised in to a more flexible and interest dependent learning experience the whole “ JOY’ of learning would return perhaps. As one grows older, there is more and more need to explore, make mistakes and retrace steps. The 12-year school model offers only an introduction to the whole meaning of knowledge and skills. It is only after the 12 years of “Chhatravas” is over, that there is time to breathe and think through what to do.

Now any pausing or waiting is frowned upon and the names themselves GAP year, taken time off, doing nothing, reflect this. In the earlier days, when the ICSE schools would have their exams in December and the CBSE in March, there was a 6-month period before applications to University could be made. This was however not called GAP. The need to stop and think, reflect on choices, catch up with experience giving opportunities, travel, or just do nothing but self-study and reflect, is what every person wants and should by right get if quality education is to be taken seriously.

What are the opportunities during such a year apart from doing nothing, self-studying and reflecting, is another query that parents and children have. One is so used to having GAP YEAR OPTIONS lined up and different companies seeing the monetary advantage in offering opportunities, including living a rural life, that to plan one’s own choice becomes hard, as no openings may exist for the 16 year-old. Apart from which, is the concern that parents and  guardians have for the care and safety of these teenagers as the areas they choose to work in are not under any jurisdiction of child rights.

It is in such a situation that the concept of Free Progress needs to be a closely examined and institutions like schools
open their doors to those who do want to explore new avenues. It could be these centres in schools and colleges offering resources for music, art, drama, pedagogy, craft, photography, book publishing, masonry, carpentry, weaving, tailoring, English teaching and learning, which may provide space for our 16 year-olds to explore before they choose what they want to do in class 11 and 12 and those who complete class 12 to think about what to do in college and life. Given the safety of the home and resource centre, a year spent in study and reflection would certainly enhance the learning we have in India today.

Kamala Menon

– Some thoughts from a Free Progress Integral School experience at the Mirambika Free Progress School, Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Delhi Branch , Sri Aurobindo Marg, New Delhi

Categories: Gap years, year off | 1 Comment

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One thought on “Letter from Kamala Menon, Mirambika School

  1. mayukh

    I need to get in touch with Mr. Menon; she might not remember me but she taught me Geography for 2 yrs in MIS; need to get in touch with her..

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