Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Art and Alternative Education

- Divya Ail
Someone had very humorously once said “Your education starts after your school ends!”, and frankly I agree with this quote to a certain extent in spite of the sarcasm. The kind of education that we get conventionally might equip us to get a job and ‘earn a living’ but it definitely does not teach us to ‘learn living’. To learn living in the true sense one ought to take pleasure in the intricacies of life – art, music, poetry, literature etc and develop some form of self expression in order to exercise ones’ individuality and stand out
from the crowd.
Today conventional education has become a rat race for students, wherein their intelligence is determined by fractional differences in marks. Their intellectual capabilities have been reduced merely to their ability to learn by rote and reproduce the same in examinations (much like parrots). There isn’t any scope for creative self expression at all – even the little chance that is given in the form of extracurricular activities is taken away by the parents (they want their children to be a part of the rat race after all!) And a child who does not fit in his scheme of education and does not score the highest possible marks is termed a loser. And if he fails to rise to the challenge that an unforgiving society has put forth, he continues to carry that tag throughout his life.
The scenario looks worse from the administration point of view because for universities education has become a business. The more they make the students cram during exams, the more they score. The more they score the better is the schools reputation indicating a sky high demand and an even higher donation in the future. The fact that all this is done at the cost of a child’s dream is unpardonable. Like most of us I have also been a victim of our conventional system of education (never termed a loser but was definitely a rebel most of the times) A rebel because apart from the regular curriculum a lot of things interested me like – art, music, dance, sports poetry etc. And I pursued these interests with equal zest and seriousness as my academics.
When I first heard about the concept behind Kaliyuva Mane – An Alternative School, it almost felt like an idea that came out of my mind. And the entire idea of educating children from different backgrounds at their own pace appealed to me greatly. I always feel that a child should be allowed to learn through curiosity, and should be allowed to experience the joy of discovery. I sincerely wish to congratulate Mr. Ananth Kumar for
his great venture that is on its way to changing many lives. And this is the most important reason that made me join Kaliyuva Mane as a volunteer. I have been teaching here for quite sometime now and it would be an understatement if I said that my experience has been great. The response from the kids was overwhelming.

I have been teaching them art and craft over the weekends (and at the expense of sounding immodest I must say they enjoy my classes!! ) I have always believed that art is an effective medium of teaching through exploration because art tends to evoke our senses and channelize them into creative self expression.
One of the reasons is that art brings out the creativity in a child which is necessary to solve problems in life and also enables them to think out of the box in times of crisis. It not only teaches hem to be patient and calm but also allows them to look at things from different perspectives. This is an essential attribute in a world wherein people still live with narrow views and personal prejudices. So a child learns to respect others views and develop a broader perspective.
And last but definitely not the least art bring out he best in a child and makes him a winner. Art is something that is very individualistic – a person might find a work beautiful while someone else might find the same work detestable. Art imbibes this same quality into a child and makes him an unique individual who might not be good at academics but might be good at sports or vice versa. In any case he is special. Creative thinking boosts a child’s confidence because the most important lesson learnt here is that each child is different, special in his own way, and has to be nurtured differently, for like every piece of art finds an appreciator, every child has his own special abilities and his own special place in the world. 

And these things that I said about art are not just meant to look good on paper. I have actually noticed these changes in the children over the past few months. The classes have definitely worked wonders on their confidence level, for their attitudes have changed from “I can’t do it” to “I will try” to “I will do it”. And though a gradual change it is exemplary. They are not only keen to learn new things but now they also try to improvise on what I teach them, try o experiment with different colors and are more positive about the results than before. I must add that their enthusiasm is infectious, they inspire me to learn more everyday and they have made my experience as a volunteer very enriching and a truly joyous one, for which I will be forever grateful. And through their example they have strengthened my belief that – art is indeed a very effective method for alternative education!