Where learning is joy

Thursday, June 10, 2010

: : Thryza Dow : :

“We may become powerful by knowledge, but we attain fullness by sympathy.  The highest education is that which does not merely give us information but makes our life in harmony with all existence.  But we find that this education of sympathy is not only systematically ignored in schools, it is severely repressed.”

Rabindranath Tagore

Tagore’s beliefs on freeing education from the shackles of repression finds meaning in Mumbai’s Muktangan, an NGO working on the field of child education in several municipal schools with a model that emphasizes on child oriented approach.

So a young Nishant, who is in the 3rd standard, can say with a bright smile why he comes to a Muktangan school. “I like to play here,” he says.

muktangan3 So feel small girls like Jyoti and Preeti, all of whom come to the school joyfully just because they feel that going to a Muktangan school is fun.

Here the teacher is not a symbol of fear and corporal punishment. Instead they sit with the students in circles and impart education.

“Simplicity is our hallmark. Nothing is kept locked in cupboards. Children can access their art material as and when they want,” says a Muktangan functionary.

Education is an important indicator of the social development of any country and India has its own history of education with University of Nalanda and Taxila. Today the country has around 300 universities and 45000 colleges teaching various subjects, not to speak of centres of excellence like the IITs and IIMs.

But primary education in India is not all that glorious. With Government struggling with statistics to show consistent increase in enrolment of children  and  decrease in dropout rates, we are in a situation where the quality of education matters less.

It is here that NGOs play a crucial role and take the initiative to boost quality of education in schools.

Muktagan is one such NGO which analyzed this fact way too early and started working on it. It provides low cost education to the economically deprived section of the society in alliance with the BMC schools in Mumbai. They have their own theory of education emphasizing on the learning of each child and an idealist curriculum which is replicated by other educational institutes and NGOs.

Elizabeth Mehta, the founder of Muktangan, has four decades of experience in the field of education and has worked on different levels with various organizations. She understood the limitation and challenges of our traditional education system and acted to come up with a low cost, child effective system which will facilitate overall child development.

muktangan2 The result was Muktangan which started in 2003 as a modest balwadi with 36 students and few handpicked teachers from  the same community. The pilot project later proved instrumental in transforming the educational impartment process whose relevance is now recognised by the Government, other NGOs and community leaders.

“I worked with the education system at various levels for over 35 years. I was frustrated because people didn’t want to realise that children have an innate capacity to learn. With that frustration I started Muktangan to prove as a model that an alternative is possible,” says Elizabeth Mehta.

Currently Muktangan works with 7 municipal schools catering to over 1500 students and 150 trained teachers.

Muktangan’s educational model is based on the belief that each child has its own pace of learning and the education system should be student specific and each student should be given the liberty to choose what he wants to learn.

muktangan1 It uses various innovative ways making learning fun while maintaining the student teachers ratio.

What sets apart Muktangan is the fact that it selects the teachers from the community striking a common chord between the children and the teachers. Its teachers understand the background of the child which facilitates the child’s learning.

What is fascinating is that it has opened doors for the community’s women offering them a career and a new identity.

“I never thought I would be a teacher. Muktangan made it possible. It is my identity now,” says Madhuri Tiwari, a teacher. 

Muktangan also extends its education to differently-abled children, including those affected by spastic palsy and with learning disabilities. These groups are given an opportunity to equip themselves for a normal life and fight the odds.

Today we require more Muktangans to extend joyful and enabling educational opportunities to the children who can grow up as complete people.

For more details visit Muktangan’s website.


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