Amidst a breathtaking view of the snow capped Himalayas, lies the self-sustaining campus of Aavishkaar. It has an office space with a mini library adorned with customized handcrafted furniture from the in house wood-works facility, a pantry, a dainty gazebo under construction and an enormous potential to learn anything that you set your mind to. A close-knit team of the organization is working to deliver quality Science and Math education in our country.
Its base of operations is Kandwari in Palampur constituency of Himachal Pradesh where we attempt to enable young minds to see logically and scientifically all around them without limiting Science and Math discussions to their classrooms. We teach without textbooks here. When an Aavishkaar team member walks into the room, one can observe the light in the eyes of children. They look at us as their saviors from the mundane daily lectures, as people who play games, solve puzzles and have fun with them.
“Bacche sochte hain aapki class padhne ke liye nahi hoti. Unhe lagta hain koi jadugaar apna jadu ka pitara le aaya hain aur abhi hume khel dikhayega,” said a Science teacher at a Government High School where we go to interact with students.
The magic box that he refers to, is one of many such at Aavishkaar that have been meticulously assembled to explain various concepts through everyday objects. I have been teaching elementary mathematics only for two months now. But one of the alarming trends that I have observed is that the idea of questioning and asking ‘why’, causes discomfort among children. They are quick to grasp the ‘what’ part of the subject: labeling diagrams, writing formulas and memorizing new words.
Information certainly helps to navigate learning and building on prior knowledge. But what does it mean to be educated? Are rhymes, vocabulary, facts and figures all that we learn from educating ourselves in schools? The prime focus of our curriculum lies in building a procedural fluency in any subject. Why are we stifling our curiosity? Do students understand what it means to multiply and divide? If your answer is yes, I would urge you to pause and reflect if you really do.
It is difficult to rethink our ways in a system that has catered to millions of us for more than sixty years. With the rapid pace of our ever-changing lifestyles, it is mind boggling to imagine the next millennia. With times like these, designing a dynamic education that fulfills our needs of tomorrow would mean prescribing a pill without diagnosing the patient.
Education is not only for job seekers. It is for everybody. Developing critical thinking, cognition and problem solving can be our superpowers for the unknown.
Enforcing any pedagogy is as cruel as today’s one size fits all strategy. Our team members are the outcomes of the same system. It is important to realize that embracing change is not for everyone. Expecting a swift adoption of a seemingly novel approach is a laughable fantasy. We have to search for a middle ground and advance with caution without disregarding the benefits of our existing ideologies of teaching.
Aavishkaar’s attempt in revamping educational outlook might be a tiny ripple in the vast deep blue sea of this sector but if it suits you, put your curiosity caps on, jump on board and sail along to imagine a better future.