Part Two. 2


Radical pedagogists, such as Paulo Freire, Neil Postman, bell hooks, and Henry Giroux, challenge the conventional concepts of a classroom teacher and pedagogy vis-à-vis schooling and larger political-economic systems. They argue that teachers must fight the rigidity and conformity of schools and create genuine spaces for learners to explore and develop their diverse capacities and talents. Teachers should also use their teaching power to question and subvert oppressive and exploitative institutions, policies and relationships in society. Giroux describes his vision of progressive teachers as those who "are also concerned in their teaching with linking empowerment the ability to think and act critically to the concept of social transformation. That is, teaching for social transformation means educating students to take risks and to struggle within ongoing relations of power in order to be able to alter the ground in which life is lived . Acting as ‘transformative intellectuals’ means helping the students to acquire critical knowledge about the societal structures, such as economy, the state, the workplace, the mass culture, so that such institutions can be open to potential transformation."

However, Postman describes, "The trouble is that most teachers have the idea that they are in some other sort of business. Some believe, for example, that they are in the ‘information dissemination’ business." Others see their only duty as creating clever bureaucrats or preparing consumers to further corporate agendas. Many don’t have a vision of what they are doing — their primary pre-occupation is on their salary. The few who do realize the irrelevance and inherent damage of schooling feel powerless to change the System.

Teachers must start to recognize the power they have within their classrooms. Rather than simply making student memorize the syllabus, they can critically question along with their students "what is being taught and why?"; "who has decided that this should be taught and what legitimacy do they have?"; "how does this relate to local realities?"; and, "what other perspectives exist?" Teachers can also demystify the ‘sacred Truth’ of textbooks, I.Q., classroom discipline, teacher-student dichotomy, competitive examinations and degrees, as essential elements of the learning process. A ‘subversive’ classroom can be identified by the frequency with which students ask meaningful questions, their search for and tolerance of diverse answers, and their challenges to assertions made by other students, teachers or textbooks.

Teachers can also create new spaces of power by inviting others into authentic discussions on education i.e. "what are the problems faced by communities"; "what should be learned by youth today?"; and "how does schooling support global exploitation?". Giroux describes that teachers "will have to open every aspect of formal education to active, popular contestation and members, parents, support staff, youth advocacy groups, and others with vital interest in the schools." Teachers can also involve the students into exploring community issues as well as other spaces of learning in the community. Both above processes require that teachers stop seeing themselves as the ‘great experts’ and communities as ‘illiterate’ or ‘backward’. Postman suggests that as teachers redefine themselves and their roles, "great strides can be made if the words ‘teach’ and ‘teaching’ are simply subtracted from the operational lexicon."

Source: Postman, N & Weingartner, G. Teaching as a Subversive Activity.Delacorte Press, New York, 1969.

Giroux, H.A. Pedagogy and Politics of Hope. Westview Press, 1997.


"Everyone talks these days about quality education for all. But quality education for every child, is an absurdity, a contradiction in terms. Most parents, when they say to S-chools, ‘Give my kid a quality education’, they mean, ‘Do something to him that will get him ahead of all the other kids.’ In short, make him a winner. Not, a winner along with all the rest; that won’t do him any good. They mean, make him a winner in a race where most kids lose..."

- John Holt



Nai Talim was crafted in 1937 by Gandhiji, with a vision of resistance — both against the British model of schooling and against the larger colonial political-economic structures. Post-Independence, Vinoba Bhave took up the agenda of Nai Talim as a vehicle for dissolving the model of governance in India, like the "worm that devours the wood in which it is born. He also viewed it as a constructive initiative to facilitate ‘village industries, equitable distribution of land, destruction of caste/sectarian barriers and the learning for life." The evolution of this new social order was to be an iterative process, beginning with the dismantling of the existing parasitic systemic frameworks and institutions.

To these ends, Shiksha was to be geared around self-sufficiency (individual and socio-economic), dignity of labour, fearlessness and non-violence. Says Vinoba, "We can live rightly only when we earn our livelihood by bodily labour. If we do not do this, we are a burden for other people to carry on their backs, and our lives cannot be free of violence." This meant that institutions introducing modernized forms of class distinctions (particularly between physical and mental labour) were to be challenged. Simultaneously, social cleavages — on the basis of religion, caste, etc. — were to be bridged. Nai Talim teachers were to be proactive on both of these fronts.

The crux of Nai Talim lay in overcoming distinctions between learning and teaching, and knowledge and work. Vinoba discusses the need to redefine the relationship between teacher and student, "they must each regard the other as a fellow worker..." As opposed to schooling, Nai Talim was to give a secondary place to having individuals exclusively to ‘teach’ and to learning only from ‘textbooks’. Instead, the ‘teacher’ was to be skilled in a kala/hunar (and to derive sustenance from this and not a teaching salary). The student was to live, work and grow with the teacher and his/her family. In this process s/he would learn the kala/hunar — the skill as part of a way of life, code of ethics, web of relationships, etc.

The emphasis on craft has led to several misconceptions. Nai Talim was not about merely giving children some handicraft to learn (as an extra-curricular activity), or learning a skill in exclusion of larger knowledge-sharing and thinking processes (vocationalization). Rather, knowledge and work were to be seen as an organic whole. Vinoba clarifies, "The business of stitching a fragment of knowledge on to a fragment of work is not Nai Talim."

Vinoba suggests that each village gram panchayat develop its own curricular content and children become acquainted with local geography and history. Ignoring this emphasis on contextual learning, a standardised project called ‘Basic Education’ was replicated by the Government throughout India. By binding this generative ‘seed-thought’ within the walls of rote learning, examinations and certification, India has achieved what Vinoba feared — the defining of Nai Talim as a prescribed and stagnant model.

Also, Nai Talim was misinterpreted as only being for the villages/villagers. Vinoba is emphatic that the ends of education cannot be met if "village children (are brought up to) serve the country while town children are brought up to loot their country!" While, the learning processes in towns were to differ from those in villages, the ends were to remain consistent — reinforcing the interdependent and nurturing relationship between towns and villages.

Today, several groups around the country are trying to revive Nai Talim. Unfortunately, their emphasis remains only on the ‘rural poor’, and on vocationalization for income generation. They fail to realize that unless the vision and practice of Nai Talim is liberated from the Western techno-economic paradigm of Development, Democracy, and Progress, their efforts will remain sterile.

Source: Bhave, V. Thoughts on Education. Sarva Seva Sangh Prakashan, Varanasi, 1996.




"For about a century mankind has been suffering from a disease which seems to be spreading more and more, and in our days, it has become most acute, it is what we may call

Source: Bulletin of Sri Aurobindo International Centre of Education, Pondicherry, 1960.



Experiential Learning typically involves either outdoor, physical activities, or it engages learners in various work/apprenticeship and service projects. In both cases, the idea is that people learn best through real-world experiences, instead of in the de-contextualized and irrelevant vacuum of a classroom. Experiential Learning not only integrates school and ‘real life’, but it also prepares learners to better understand the rapidly changing world around them.

Service Learning is one form of experiential learning. It connects academic inquiry and self- or group-reflection with practical social value education. It seeks to respond to individual and community needs, by creating opportunities for students, teachers, and parents to learn and work together to build and sustain a caring community. These service experiences require the practical application of knowledge and theories, and they integrate processes of questioning, creating, reflecting, sharing, and evaluating. Together, schools and their students learn more about and with their larger communities.

Unlike voluntary extra-curricular activities, Service Learning is actually integrated into the academic coursework of the school. And unlike ‘mandatory public service’ or practical course placements, the entire process of Service Learning is conceived of and managed by the learners themselves. Also, the activity focuses on a holistic learning process, instead of just a single skill or objective. It requires participants to synthesize various types of knowledge, creativity, concerns, and commitment, in order to grow at a personal level and to do something unique and meaningful for their communities.

Some examples of Service Learning projects include: documenting and preserving native plants, designing neighborhood playgrounds, testing local water quality and then cleaning water, building wheelchair ramps, developing urban community gardens, and starting school recycling programs. Service Learning projects should:

1. Closely integrate academic learning and the service activities. There should be many opportunities to learn new skills and experiment with different roles;

2. Involve youth in conceptualizing, planning and decision-making;

3. Make skilled adult guidance available. This involves preparing all supporting staff with the tools and training necessary to properly facilitate a meaningful service learning experience;

4. Include both preparation before and critical reflection after the activity. Underlying this should be systematic assessments by self, peers, coordinator, teacher;

5. Make an authentic contribution to the community.

Effective service-learning programs have been developed with learners of all ages, from five to eighteen. They have helped students to learn critical thinking and problem solving skills, improve communication skills, build teamwork, foster civic responsibility, acquire vocational and computer skills, and conduct research.

For more information:

The International Partnership for Service- Learning

815 Second Avenue, Suite 3 1 5

New York, NY 10017

Fax (212) 986-5039; e-mail:

Source: Guilford’s Summer Institute ‘98, ASLER Standards, National Service Learning Cooperative’s Essential Elements of Service Learning.


"Let all the students leave their universities and colleges for a year and plunge into the movement. Bapu had called for the students to come out not merely for a year but for good. And students joining this movement will get a unique and priceless education out of it even if it fails. One does not get knowledge merely out of books, lectures, and examinations... I would like to share my experience with you and tell you that the education that I got during the days of the non-cooperation movement was the most valuable that I ever got, if by education one means the building of character and the development of personality. Whatever I am today is a product of that creative experience."

- Jayaprakash Narayan, Total Revolution, 1974



In his book, Free from School, Rahul Alvares describes how he took a year off from school after class X to pursue his interest in learning more about reptiles:

"I started out by working as an assistant to a friend of my parents who ran an aquarium fish store in our town. I did this job for 2 months during which the owner taught me how to make fish tanks, repair air pumps, set up aquariums for people in their homes and offices, medicate sick fish and so on. I then visited the Wynad Wildlife Sanctuary with my father. In addition to spending time with nature (particularly the wild elephant herds), I attended a workshop where I listened to experts discuss the necessity for farmers to switch to organic farming, problems they might face in the initial stages and the dangers of chemical fertilizers, pesticides, etc. All this knowledge made me rethink the science lessons we were given in school where ‘modern’ is always shown as progress and improvement on the old.

Next, I set out for the Pune Snake Park. I stayed 3 weeks there handling non-venomous snakes and Monitor lizards. Then I went to the Earthworm Institute. My daily routine included textbook studies, keeping field notes, and tending the vermiculture pits. At the Centre for Indigenous Knowledge Systems, I learned techniques for raising giant crab spiders which are a non-toxic way of controlling cockroaches, as the spiders feed on the roaches. My tasks included feeding the spiders, checking their moulting, cleaning the containers and removing any dead ones. The best part of my sabbatical was working at Crocodile Bank at Mamallapuram where I spent a full month with poisonous snakes, turtles, crocodiles, iguanas, and monitor lizards.

I gained a lot during my ‘break’. It was more than I would have ever learned if I had gone straight to 11th standard. I learned to travel on my own, sleep anywhere, eat different kinds of food, handle money, reason out my decisions and feel responsible for them. Although most other students may not be as lucky as I was to have such supporting parents or so many contacts, I would definitely recommend a one-year sabbatical after the 10th or 12th for every student. It certainly need not be a program like mine — for example my brother who has taken a break after Standard XII is learning music and cooking. The ‘break’ program also should not be career-oriented. Keeping your mind open and trying out different things is the key to enjoy the sabbatical."


"Many self-styled revolutionaries are victims of school. They see even ‘liberation’ as a product of an institutional process. Only liberating oneself from school will dispel such illusions. The discovery that most learning requires no teaching can be neither manipulated nor planned. Each of us is personally responsible for his or her own deschooling, and only we have the power to do it."                                             - Ivan Illich



Today, in the United States, more than one million children are being ‘homeschooled’. Broadly defined, homeschooling is when families make conscious decisions to remove their children from (or never enroll them in) the formal institution of school. Instead, they chose to take responsibility for their children’s learning and development. The ‘homeschooling’ movement is actively growing in the U.S. and in many countries around the world, including the U.K., Canada, Australia, New Zealand and Japan.

Why Homeschool?

In the U.S., there are a wide range of reasons for homeschooling. Some parents want to raise their children with certain religious or moral perspectives that are excluded from schools; others are trying to nurture children who lace particular mental/physical challenges or have special talents. However, the vast majority of homeschooling parents point to the limiting and destructive current school setting, as their reason for not enrolling their children in formal schools. They believe that schools neither respond to their individual child’s strengths, interests, or aspirations, nor do schools encourage them to be creative, independent, responsible members of society. Also, many families realize that what is taught in schools cannot be transferred to the outside world and is, for the most part, useless and irrelevant. Therefore, instead of sending their children to schools, families would rather encourage and support their children in developing themselves and making their own choices about learning and learning environments.

What Do Homeschoolers Do?

The content and processes in every homeschooling situation are unique. Some homeschoolers completely mimic schools, reproducing school-like methods at home. In this subset of the movement, parents typically follow traditional teaching methods e.g., organizing the day into ‘class periods’, using a ‘canned’ curriculum and textbooks, and testing their children on subject matter.

On the other side of the movement is the ‘unschooling’ subset. Unschooling parents do not prescribe that their children read or do multiplication by a certain age. They do not structure their child’s learning in any rigid form. Instead, these families take learning as living, and living as learning. A child is encouraged to explore his/ her interests. Because children are responsible for and authentically engaged in their own learning, they work hard and consistently. And because parents trust children’s natural and diverse curiosity, they do not feel the need to compartmentalize life into ‘subjects’.

While these strands of homeschooling may seem vastly different, what connects them is the fact that parents and children are deciding together what, when, why, how, and from whom they will learn. "No one knows better than me what’s best for my child," is phrase repeated over and over by parents.

Both categories of homeschoolers seek out a variety of resources to create their own unique learning environments. Parents primarily aid their children in these processes, by helping them to uncover materials and reading with them. Children’s learning also often comes from interacting with other places and people: museums, libraries, historical areas, the marketplace, nature settings, voluntary associations, businesses, etc. Many homeschoolers also look to technology, particular the World Wide Web, to find ideas for supporting the children’s learning (for some excellent learning resources, see<>; <>; <>). Homeschooled children also have plenty of time to play with friends or alone.

Criticisms of Homeschooling

Critics oppose homeschooling on two main grounds. First, they say it distorts the proper socialization processes of young people. They claim that homeschooling prevents children from interacting with their peers, and therefore, children become anti-social and maladjusted members of society. However, research has shown that homeschoolers — who often learn with older and younger siblings, as well as adults and the elderly — benefit immensely from these intergenerational interactions. Avoiding age segregation — that is, not dividing children up into rigid age groups — can actually enable homeschoolers to be more poised, socially mature and emotionally stable than their schooled peers.

Second, critics say that allowing people to choose their own learning undermines public education and creates a citizenry that is not culturally literate, integrated or disciplined. To avoid undemocratic chaos, universal compulsory schooling — not homeschooling — is necessary. Homeschoolers respond to this criticism by questioning the premise of citizenship. Is a democratic citizen only a voter, taxpayer, or consumer? Or, is s/he a maker and shaper of society? If the latter is true, then being a self-motivated, self-disciplined, creative individual is crucial. Homeschoolers also point out that today’s schools do very little to create good human beings, who care for one another and who do things to benefit society (instead of just themselves).

To further understand homeschooling, try discussing the following:

- How do you think homeschooling/unschooling would benefit/ hinder your family or community?

- Do you think it would be possible to homeschool/unschool in your family? Why or why not?

- What resources exist in your community to support families who wish to homeschool/unschool?

Source: Adapted from <>.



One parent shares his experiences with unschooling:

"My wife and I did not begin with the notion that our son would not go to school. We assumed that he would find an alternative school at age five. What we did begin with was a conviction that we would help him in any way possible to realize his potential... By the time he was two, we found that we literally couldn’t stop him from spending his day in learning. He read very well by two, and by four moved onto continuous lessons in nature, history, science,etc.

By the time he was five, he was so used to getting up in the morning with the ecstatic prospect of learning all day long that I hated to change his belief that learning was natural by sending him to school. Still, I took him to a few schools and asked him to make his own decision. He said that he thought it would be like going to jail which he said that he preferred not to try... So during his early years, my wife and I and a couple of friends taught him all he wanted to know — and if we didn’t know it, which usually was the case, it was even better for we all learned together.

Many defenders of compulsory schooling and compulsory learning have asked me: ‘How can a child know what he needs to learn?’ I have always said that though the child may not know what he may need to know in ten years, he knows, and much better than anyone else, what he wants and needs to know next. In short, what his mind is ready and hungry for. If we help him, or just allow him, to learn that, he will remember it, use it, build on it. If we try to make him learn something else, that we think is more important, the odds are good that he won’t learn it, or will learn very little of it, that he will soon forget most of what he learned, and what is worst of all, he will soon lose most of his appetite for learning anything."

Source: Growing Without Schooling: A Record of a Grassroots Movement, Volume One, 1997.



This poem is dedicated to all those courageous learners in India who have chosen not to go to school or to leave school to pursue more meaningful, creative and just paths of learning, living and becoming.

Don’t impose on me what you know,

I want to explore the unknown

and be the source of my own discoveries.

Let the known be my liberation, not my slavery.

The world of your truth can be my limitation;

your wisdom my negation.

Don’t instruct me; let’s walk together.

Let my riches begin where yours ends.

Show me so that I can stand

on your shoulders.

Reveal yourself so that I can be

something different.

You believe that every human being

can love and create.

I understand, then, your fear

when I ask you to live according to your wisdom.

You will not know who I am

by listening to yourself.

Don’t instruct me; let me be.

Your failure is that I be identical to you.

        Umberto Maturana, "The Student’s Prayer"



The following has been excerpted from Dayal Chandra Soni’s "The Ills of our Present Education and Gandhian Basic Education as a Remedial Measure" (April, 2000).

"When India adopted her present Constitution, it was laid down in its Article 45 that ‘the State shall endeavor to provide, within a period of ten years, from the commencement of this Constitution, for free and compulsory education for all children until they complete the age of fourteen years.’ The general public opinion, largely, is that this is a very good provision in the Indian Constitution. But, in my mind, this is a very wrong provision in our Constitution. My arguments are as follows:

1. Nothing, which is imposed by a Government as a compulsory exercise, can be truly called education. Compulsion is anti-education.

2. This Article is silent about defining the concept of education. The Article implies that anything that one does in a school is right education and anything that one does out of school is non-education.

3. The Government is not a safe and qualified custodian of education. Education is an organic process, which is based on mutual love and respect between the guru and the learner, and a Government cannot be a mediator between the guru and the learner.

4. This Article does not lay down that private interests should not be allowed to introduce class distinctions in the schooling system and the rich and the elite parents will have to send their children to the same schools in which the children of poor parents get their education. This is the most serious sin of this Article. It exempts the elite class children from undergoing the same educational process which is provided for the poor children. Thus, class distinctions are introduced and/or reinforced, even at the initial stage of life of the future citizens of India.

5. My final objection to this Article of the Indian Constitution is that it does not define any concept of an educated person nor does it indicate the values which it aims to nurture in the so-called educated generation. This education restricts itself to giving only information and functional skills to its students. The development of human beings who will maintain moral values in their conduct or who will strive for doing excellent work in their accepted job is totally ignored. According to our present education, it does not matter whether the ‘educated’ person exercises morality in his work or adopts immoral means to achieve his ends. The degrees of B.A., M.A., or Ph.D. will safely stick to him, irrespective of his conduct."


"Suppose a man is sucking a lump of arsenic and you warn him that the stuff is poisonous. Would he be considered sane if he countered by saying that he must first be given a cup of nectar; otherwise, he would not give up whatever he had?"

Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, responding to those who foolishly argued that one could not give up poisonous educational institutions that created slavery until new models were provided.

Among the South Asian individuals and organizations consciously thinking about and creatively working on resisting factory-schooling are:


The present mainstream education system, which stresses conformity to a pre-set standard, places unnecessary pressure on individual children to meet this standard. In the race to keep up, children lose the pleasure of learning. Many drop out in frustration because of their inability to cope. Some are "streamed" out of the mainstream. Several groups have been working quietly to create alternative forms to challenge this kind of education. These experiments, however, typically tend to be small and isolated and the persons involved often feel overwhelmed and occasionally discouraged in the face of the seemingly monolithic nature of the dominant educational paradigm. As Ramdas from Vidyodaya School (Gudalur) describes, "There was some knowledge of what and where similar things were happening, occasional coming across each other at seminars, but no real joining of hands, no sense of fraternity. Isolated, we run the risk of being incorporated within the mainstream educational system and society one way or another. In fact, it would not be amiss to say that each of us has compromised her/his ideals and vision in order to ensure a space to continue and survive."

Thus was born the idea of a network. Today, the Network is an informal group of around 35-40 individuals from the Indian states of Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Pondicherry and Kerala who are active in the field of education with an ‘alternative viewpoint’. Individual members of the network belong to institutions (schools or similar educational programs which are small in size and do not receive government funding), but do not ‘represent’ them. The Network meets each year for 2-3 days. Although a theme is chosen for discussion, it is less of an academic seminar and more a free flowing sharing of concerns and views. Some of the issues that have repeatedly re-surfaced are: the relation of alternative schools to the mainstream and the relationship of the school to the wider community. Underlying the discussions is a continuous tension between the desire for deepening radical commitment to creative education and being bound by the constraints and demands of a particular context. However, what has been important for the discussions are our efforts to retain a sense of search (and to not feel under pressure to produce definitive answers).

Most members leave the meeting with renewed hope and enthusiasm. Sometimes one gains a few insights, at other times the churning of ideas and themes that occurs at the meeting seems troubling and one feels a year must go by before the muddied waters become clear again! Smaller partnerships and synergies have also grown out of the annual get togethers. For example, Poorna Learning Centre in Bangalore visited another network school, Kanavu at Wynad (Kerala). One outcome of this has been that a group of eight children from Kanavu (working predominantly with rural tribal children) came to Bangalore to spend 6 months with the urban middle-class children at Poorna. Some Poorna children will later stay a few months at Kanavu as part of the

continuing exchange program. Such exchanges, visits, and various modes of sharing form some of the most exciting aspects of the Network.

For more information, contact:

Indira Vijaysimha, Poorna Learning Centre

1627 C Block, Sahakarnagar, Bangalore- 560092

Email: <>


Further Reading and Resources —


Holt Associates: <>

Educational Heretics Press:<>

Homeschool Zone: <>

Ivan Illich: <>


Articles and Books

Please stop by 21 Fatehpura at your convenience to check out the books, articles, newsletters, and unpublished original research in our Resource Center.

Gatto, J. T. Dumbing Us Down; The Hidden Curriculum Of Compulsory Schooling. New Society Publishers, 1992.

Gorder, C. Home Schools: An Alternative. Mesa, AZ: Blue Bird Publishing, 1996.

Hern, M. Deschooling Our Lives. New Society , 1996.

Kohn, A. Punished By Rewards. Houghton Mifflin, 1999.

Levinson, B. A. et al The Cultural Production Of The Educated Peson. State University of New York, 1996.

Ong, A. Spirits Of Resistance and Capitalist Discipline. State University of New York Press, 1987.

Prakash, M. S. & Esteva, G. Escaping Education. Peter Lang Publishing Inc., 1998.

Rahema, M. & Bawtree, V. The Post-Development Reader. Zed Books Ltd., New Jersey, 1997.



The Peoples’ Institute for Rethinking Education and Development

Shikshantar, a not-for-profit movement, was founded to challenge the monopoly of factory-schooling as the primary means of supporting human learning and just, people-centered development in society. We are committed to creating spaces where concerned individuals and organizations can come together to: (1) generate meaningful critiques to expose and transform existing models of education and development, and (2) elaborate (and continually re-elaborate) complex shared visions and practices of lifelong societal learning for Swaraj in South Asia.

Shikshantar is based in Udaipur (Rajasthan, India). Our core team works in collaboration with local, state, national, and international partners through a dynamic process of ‘research for action’. We are closely linked to the Institute for Development Studies and Practice in Karachi (Pakistan) and The Swaraj Foundation in Chicago (USA). To learn more, or to find out how to join our efforts, please contact us at:


21 Fatehpura, Udaipur 313004

Rajasthan, India

Tel: (91) 294 451-303

Fax: (91) 294 451-941


We welcome and encourage your reactions, questions, suggestions, and support.