Eduationalists are looking at unconventional teaching methods, aimed at adults, to help them with better parenting techniques, and children, to encourage independent thinking
Attempting to transform the education system in the city, educators and facilitators are looking at unconventional teaching methods, aimed at adults, to help them with better parenting techniques, and
children, to encourage independent thinking and supplement theoretical knowledge. Substantiating this need is New Delhi-based, homegrown Child and Clinical Psychologist, Ann Simi John, who says, “We need to keep learning from other sources owing to the deficiency of the education system that we have created and rely upon. We absolutely require it. What we know about life and parenting is only a hand-down of how we were parented and that’s surely irrelevant to pass on, as times have changed greatly. The psychology of the child and risks are all different, and we only have limited perceptions. More knowledge gives you more power to cope.” We take a look at institutions that are working to make learning a continuous process.
Coimbatore Parenting Network
Initially just a part of the Breastfeeding Support for Indian Mothers, Sharanya Sargunan, Swati Jagadish, Aishwarya Raj, Minu Gnanamoorthy, Kumutha Chandrika and Gothai Haripriya on Facebook renamed and formed in 2014, a separate NPO called the Coimbatore Parenting Network, with a current membership of close to 2,000 between the ages of 25 and 60. The group organises monthly meets and engages regularly on social media, addressing new and to-be parents in and around Coimbatore (Erode, Tirupur, Pollachi, Madurai) on topics like breastfeeding, babywearing, gentle parenting, cloth diapering and baby led weaning and informed birthing among others.
Following guidelines from the World Health Organisation (WHO), they have internationally certified lactation counsellors, early childhood development professionals and other experts as guides. In these interactions, common myths or stereotypes are broken using scientific facts creating greater awareness among new mothers. This could include anything from removing the sexual stigma attached to breastfeeding in public to educating mothers on feeling comfortable and unashamed.
This organisation also aims at giving holistic family solutions where fathers/husbands are integral to provide moral support and sharing responsibility. “With such an initiative, women have shown greater confidence to move out of their homes and share experiences and learnings openly,” says Sharanya. Speaking further on the impact, we inferred that more and more families are opening up to integrate as a community and help each other from one’s own experience. “With so much input, we have picked the best of traditional methods like say not using plastic diapers like the olden days and availing from modern science, for example, more hygienic menstrual cups could last 10 years than the unhealthy, ineffective pads as a solution.”
As a need to compliment school education with soft skills development, mothers Sneha Parmanandka and Meenakshi Todi centred an exposure-hub in Tiruppur in 2016. It provides socially-relevant monthly workshops using interactive tools like presentations, rhymes, role plays, worksheets, games, art and crafts, and non-gas cooking for children between the ages of 5-16 years. Reaching about 250 kids through school and institutions, they raise awareness about sensitive topics like bullying, sexual harassment (good-touch bad-touch workshop) and safety (Taekwondo workshop).
“As a part of society, it is our responsibility to contribute and we teach them that giving back in terms of time is as important as material giving.” Sneha says as she talks about the Art of Giving workshop that saw children from various backgrounds come together to play and share a meal. With topics like Around the World, (registering a fun-fact) traditions/festivals of India, health and hygiene, table manners and social etiquette in their workshops, the parents are given feedback forms to record response and handed copies of material for reference.
“It is the hardest when parents themselves are unwilling to accept and unlearn their beliefs which hamper their parenting capabilities,” she adds when asked about the challenges faced. Not stopping to face challenges she explains, “When they see their kids bring home a set of new skills, openly communicate, pick up manners and facts that are rare in other children who go to the same school, parents and even teachers have asked for more such training.” Encouraged, they have stretched out to Karur and Pollachi to make a greater impact. Next, a library with its own book club is in the pipeline, with a donated collection of well-handled books that could be rented out for nominal rates and keep the ‘bookworms’ alive.
With the aim of bringing what they love to children in an interesting way and shaping self-learners, science and technology enthusiasts, Arumugham S and Obuli Chandran R founded Mango Education in May 2016. Placing focus on enabling children to educate themselves and encouraging them to seek careers locally in the future, this platform aims at reducing the brain drain in the country. With added team members Ameer Khan, Aasif Iqbal J, Samyuktha, Karthikeyan K C, Dinesh Kumar and Vinothini V that serve as educators and administrators, Mango Education has worked with about 700 kids across ages of 10 to 16 through a series of 50-odd workshops.
“Conceptually connecting themes through projects and real-world examples, in an environment of like-minded facilitators and experts, encourages curiosity in children and eliminates the fear of asking why things work the way they do,” admits Arumugham. Activities and events like the science of angry birds, field trips, young astronomer’s programme, technology and computer science for game development, 3D animation, farm visit for animal autonomy and food quality, carpentry for applied math and design thinking, nature photography and bakery science programme that studies ratio and proportions give the children effective learning through inference from experimentation.
As a system that isn’t meant to measure the intake but to gradually instil the mind works for thinking, there are no tests, to examine what kids like in schools or at tuitions. “We are moving away from the mark and certificate-centred focus to a portfolio of skills that are reflected in the work done. Then, quality and confidence won’t be lost on people or their pursuits,” reasons Obuli. “We have had parents who say this isn’t for their kids as it doesn’t function like a normal tuition centre. But, others are realising that kids need to imbibe knowledge, not for the sake of exams but for application in life. And they want to fill up that gap in formal education. This allows us to support all interests and channelise them professionally with skills, and not just papered degrees, no matter what the age,” joins in Arumugham.
Workshops start at Rs 550.
Under the umbrella that has 180 ventures, Innovators Lab and Learnerspark are two such research, learning and entrepreneurship-oriented initiatives that welcome any member of the society (5th grade till industry) with a curious mind and a determined attitude to apply gained knowledge as a solution to many societal issues. As a platform to enable learnability itself, founder and educator, Balathandapani K R, 47, asks for a shift towards portfolio building rather than mark and certificate pursuits. “Today’s education is systematic slavery that is funded by parents,” he says, substantiating that education must create an open mind that is capable of creating productivity.
Researching and mapping the framework of physics, maths and chemistry he realised that understanding anything from the basics to the details, may it be — acceleration, complex numbers, calculus, the theory of relativity or quantum physics — a couple of days are all it takes. While Innovator’s Lab concentrates on making, inventing and patenting of products; Learnerspark is more of a content learning and workshop (Collaborations with Mango Education and Realworks Studios) oriented venture. For all the learning or services rendered, payment is by the means of fixed pay, gift pay and pay forward (when you can do for others, what someone did in kind, for you).
As a bootstrapping or holistic-sustenance-creating organisation for entrepreneurs, he believes that Coimbatore should set up a 24/7 research park that provides access for satisfying the dependency graph (covering everything from basics to in-depth information and technology). Interestingly, this vision must be supported by the society locally, he believes. “I don’t believe that we can achieve dreams by ourselves. Science literacy and productive social thinking must be encouraged as a community. We have seen so potential entrepreneurs who have come here with just vague ideas and ended up solving their problems through products, skills, networking contacts or creating their own startups,” he says with a smile, hopeful of the changing era.
Rs 2,500 onwards for a two-day workshop.
Winds of change
Besides teaching language and sciences to children, MAD is making a strong case for developing pratical life skills in underprivileged kids across the city
Make A Difference (MAD) is a youth-driven NGO that works to extend support to kids between grades 5-12 from shelter homes and enables them with equitable outcomes. Amongst 22 other cities, Coimbatore centres — Don Bosco Anbu Illam, PSG Sarvajana Manvar Illam and Seva Ashram, with 190 volunteers — see each of them spending two to 10 scheduled hours a week for creative and fun learning of english, math and science and soft skills with 150 kids.
Dream Camp is a two-day vacation where kids are exposed to experiences that are rare, for example, getting chocolates by the pillow — like one would be welcomed at the resort. Here, intense bonding activities like River of life that make them accept and share the reality. Some of their other events are Backathon that raises awareness to reduce illiteracy and MAD Hunt Fundraiser.
“We take pride in seeing our kids go on to become equipped to face life and create a space for themselves by earning with their own skills and starting life afresh,” says Millesh M, Senior Volunteer, when asked what motivates him to keep going. “Sometimes our own lives get in the way, but as long as we remember the impact we create on these kids with each session, our consistency will remain strong.”