As India prepares to embark on a new nation-wide educational revolution, a mini-revolution is already taking place in parts of the country – one that, though smaller in scale, has a more dynamic process, extending beyond the current worldview.
“Subject mastery is not the destination, but the means to understand our existence and the larger order.”Ashok Thakur, Founder, Muni International School
India’s new National Education Policy revamps the country’s approach to educating its future generations. The NEP departs from the old colonial approach of attaining degrees to flatter, and instead walks a new course, with the motivation of helping every child understand their purpose in life. It also ventures towards merging western education with Indian culture and wisdom to form a holistic curriculum.
Watch: Salient Points of The New National Education Policy 2020
Many of the changes the NEP 2020 intends to bring align with alternative methods championed for quite some time by visionary educators like Ashok Thakur. Thakur sees the draft policy as a step in the right direction for the country that “inaugurates many new developments and marks many departures”. However, what makes him particularly pleased is the way in which the NEP “resonates with the vision and practices that the Muni Group has been implementing for over 15 years now through its schools”.
Among the feathers in its hat, Muni has been praised by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) for its methodology. It has won recognition as a “Change Maker” School by Ashoka Foundation, USA as well as “Excellence in Education Award” by Eureka Global Assessors. Japan selected Muni International as it’s only partner school in India for the student exchange programs.
The NEP 2020 aims at identifying and fostering the unique capabilities of each student through a new initiative called Parakh. Muni International School has been doing the same for years with a program called Swadharm or SPF (Student Purpose Finding), where it explores all possible methods from ancient to modern times. The NEP aims to achieve foundational literacy and numeracy for all students by the third grade. MIS achieves it three years earlier under the No Child Left Behind policy, when a child is still in UKG (Kindergarten). In fact, it has designed a breakthrough method for achieving it in just two months. The method has been successfully tested by several governments in different states.
Be it holistic education, conceptual understanding, creativity and critical thinking, innovation, ethics and human values, or synergy in curriculum across all levels of education, the Muni Method is a model tailormade for the vision that is now mirrored by the NEP. Below are some of the standout aspects of the NEP, which are not just indispensable pillars of the way Muni International School educates its students but also go beyond the general understanding of schooling that has been ever prevalent in India.
The overarching philosophy of education
The NEP suggests a holistic approach to education with synergy in curriculum across grades and flexibility in the learning process by removing separation in subjects and emphasis on vocational courses. It also talks about developing ethics and human values. At Muni, these are not two different sets of problems to solve.
Ashok Thakur promotes a philosophy where educating a child aims to maintain a dual focus on Upyogita (Utility) and Purakta (wholeness). Humans are not just meant to earn wealth or consume value. There should be an aim to be a part of the larger order of universalism – of being one with the harmony inherent in our idea of society and nature. He explains, “Mainstream education breaks knowledge into artificial categories and makes them subjects – language, science, mathematics, social science, etc. This breaks up the universe for a child, the knowledge of which should be captured as a whole by an absorption of its holistic logic.” The curriculum at MIS successfully executes fusion of subjects where students are taught to find their answers to questions in a variety of subjects in one object, like a tree, in their practical life.
Mainstream education breaks up the universe for a child, the knowledge of which should be captured as a whole by an absorption of its holistic logic.
Muni emphasizes developing an environment where a child is encouraged towards a process of self-realisation. Along with it, a process of self-competition is promoted to eradicate bullying from the environment. Ashok Thakur explains that it is vital for “children to be able to themselves determine their essence and relation to others, thereby venturing on a path to find their place in the society,” and to contribute towards greater harmony as adults.
Deep focus on individuality and the individual trajectory of every child
Focus on qualities like conceptual understanding and critical thinking that leads to innovation is something that has been largely missing from the education system not just of India, but the entire of South Asia. This is also the reason behind India being treated as the market for cheap labour by the western countries. The Muni Method does not aim at merely producing a skilled workforce, it prioritizes values, reason and logic before skill development. The institution does this by helping students choose their own course of learning right from day one, formulating methods of teaching based on their individual ability.
MIS promotes UPLC, shifting focus from the ‘rote and write’ examinations to practical aspects like application, exploration, and rationalization. It has invented system to promote innovation called the Aiklavya Method where a child is able to teach herself by merging different learning methods into a single fold.
A Glimpse of the study pattern at Muni International School
The government has also stressed evolving research and development of higher education through a focus on high school students. While Thakur hails this step as a “major breakthrough”, he feels that it “still falls short”. He contends that, “In our experience, research and development should start right from primary education so that students are capable of molding their career from an early age.”
The NEP’s move towards identifying and exploring student behaviour has been a focus at Ashok Thakur’s Muni International Schools for over a decade. “We have a dedicated Research & Development division that serves to monitor and find solutions to learning obstacles faced by students,” he says. “By treating each child as a case study, we evolve teaching strategies to align with individual learning ability. Classrooms at Muni International Schools have been R&D labs for the last 15 years, helping each student to learn in their own unique way. We have been able to come up with novel ways of skill development and value inculcation in students.”
Breakthrough methods for imparting wisdom along with knowledge
Incorporating the traditional Indian methods in today’s teaching and learning culture is one of the highlights of NEP 2020. For over a decade, Muni International Schools have run on the idea of collaborative learning, drawing from traditional Indian Gurukul techniques to encourage peer to peer learning. It uses the age-old Indian practice of discipline called Sadhana to help children learn in three stages – Shravan (hearing), Manan (contemplation) and Nidhidyasan (assimilation).
To measure the capability of students and help strengthen their possibilities to excel, MIS uses traditional Indian forms of knowledge, comprehension and evaluation like palmistry, astrology, and family history along with modern forms of evaluation like psychology and graphology. The curriculum has a perpetual focus on happiness of children. Ashok says, “The eventual aim of education is well-being and happiness – children should be taught to keep away workload stress and anxiety which automatically leads to greater efficiency and a more fulfilling adult life.”
The eventual aim of education is well-being and happiness.
It is also noteworthy to mention in these times of medical emergency that ‘health’ is a compulsory subject at MIS where each student is comprehensively taught techniques like acupressure, CPR, yoga, naturopathy etc.
Watch: Health Education with CPR and First Aid
Nationalism – Pride and love for India
Many aspects of the NEP 2020 aim to cater to a long-time debate in India around nationalism and multilingualism. Similarly, another marked new ask from the education system is the inculcation of constitutional ethics in young citizens.
The Muni Method takes care of these aspects right from childhood, through a blend of unique systems and programs. Unlike any other centres of learning, Muni International Schools are run by Student Parliaments that build skills for the 21st century like leadership, teamwork, empathy and critical thinking. The school as a country. Every classroom is like a separate state with its own MPs, MLA for smaller groups within the class. Monthly elections ensure that every child gets the opportunity to be part of the governing body. There’s even a Judiciary in every group, as Ashok Thakur explains, “Every classroom has a high court and on a particular day, or on demand, a Supreme Court is set to tackle any threat to the school environment. Stakeholders are summoned to the Supreme Court as eyewitnesses.”
How to make learning easy for students – with Muni International School’s Ashok Thakur
In alignment with the NEP’s idea of multilingual schools, MIS encourages its students to learn not just regional languages but also foreign languages and Sanskrit. However, Ashok believes that bringing regional languages into the education system is not enough for instilling nationalism. To make children fall in love with their country, Muni International Schools run a program Bharat Bodh that imparts knowledge about Indian traditions and achievements, right from junior classes till the end. As Ashok puts it,
“Learning in the regional language is not enough. You have to form an emotional link to the motherland from an early age.”
The Muni Method – Not similar to the NEP, but similar to the idea of the right world order
Ashok Thakur’s approach perceives each child as a case study. The idea of education at Muni International Schools is to make “thinking individuals rather than puppets”. For over a decade the model has seen success in creating individuals who are members of the community first and whose actions align with the greater good of the society.
An aspect of education that the ecosystem at large has just started to realize.