BENGALURU: It is one thing for parents to have a say in the running of their children’s schools, and quite another to decide to run them.In Bengaluru, few have taken that leap of faith. One group of parents opened a school because they believed in a system of education, and another because they got tired of a school management tyranny and their erratic hikes in fees.
A Waldorf-inspired school was started by a group of parents whose children went to two Waldorf kindergartens. They loved this system of education and wanted their children to join such a school. However, Bangalore Steiner School in south-east city, the only Waldorf school in Bengaluru, was situated too far away.To cater to children in north-east Bangalore, parents of children in the two kindergartens along with three teachers who have specialised in Waldorf methodology came together to open Advaya Shaale in Kasturi Nagar.
Waldorf education aims to address the physical, emotional and mental needs of a child at different stages of his or her life. For example, there is no traditional homework involved and students needn’t read or write till the age of seven. While teaching the alphabet, children are told fairy tales about the alphabet. The idea is that music, dance, theatre, writing or literature are not just distant subjects but concepts that can be experienced.
Advaya Shaale’s core group consists of five parents and three teachers. Currently there are 30 children in grade one and two. Each class has two teachers, a main teacher and an assistant teacher.Every Saturday the core group meets to discuss the functioning of the school. The teachers are well- versed in the Waldorf methodology and often the school gets international mentors to train and guide them.Diana Samson, a parent who also looks after the marketing of the school, says, “We loved the methodology but didn’t want our children to travel far for it… In Waldorf system, the child is continuously encouraged to work their imagination. They thoroughly enjoy school and never want to skip a day.”The school had its first academic year in 2016-2017 and, the next year, they plan to have 50 students.
Hike in fees, a cause for concern
Citizens Gurukul Playschool (www.citizensgurukul.org) was started in June 2017 by 14 parents who were tired of random hikes in fees and absolute lack of transparency in running of schools. They describe this gurukul in Whitefield as a no-profit, no-loss, transparent and parent-run school, which now takes in 2 to 6-year-olds.
They do not want to turn this into a profit-making venture by enrolling thousands of students and the key management consists of parents of children studying in Citizens Gurukul. It’s interesting that there are trustees who support this initiative, even though they don’t have wards in this school. They
believed in the intent and effort that went into this project and supported it, like many responsible citizens and parents who came forward to donate in cash.
The trustees are hopeful that they will attract more admissions this year because everything is already in place unlike last year where things had yet to be set up. The fees would be proportionate to expenses.
Citizens Gurukul was started under government’s new norm of opening pre-schools by forming a trust and applying for government’s permission to run them.
“The idea is to challenge the present private schooling system,” says Dipankar Khasnabish, one of the founder trustees. “Usually, parents aren’t told how the fees and deposits are being used but here they have access to the school’s financials.”
Abhilash Matlapudi, parent of a child studying in the school and Vice–President of the Trust, says, “We would like this model to be available to anybody interested. We have got a good curriculum designed by our curriculum advisors, 24x7 CCTVs that can be accessed by all parents and proper procedures and controls are in place.”
They hope to make it a full-fledged school for all age groups, and for this they are looking for funding and also a large area of land. Most importantly they are looking for parents who align with the philosophy of the school.
The challenge now is to get good number of admissions for next academic year, expand the school and get enough money so as to run it without incurring a loss. “If state government schools are run in the same standard as central schools and they are available in every residential locality, we wouldn’t have had to start this initiative,” says Abhilash Matlapudi.
Centre run by teachers, parents
Centre for Learning (CFL) is a residential school that is run entirely by teachers with the active involvement of parents. Located on a twenty –three acre piece of land near Varadenahalli, a village close to Magadi, CFL was started with an aim to create living awareness within a student and the teacher. They do not have a headmaster and decisions are made after having open discussions. All the decisions made are open to question and re-evaluation. Students learn through questioning and exploration. The day goes by in a mixture of interesting activities experienced by both teachers as well as the students within and outside the classroom. Language, mathematics, land work, pottery, craft work are all a part of this. On the last Sunday of every month, parents and teachers discuss issues. Says one of the teachers, “Parents are even invited to experience the life on campus at CFL and many of them volunteer to conduct workshops, work in the kitchen and even assist in raising funds.”