Creativity is what makes a difference in education and there is a school in Bihar which focuses on precisely this. Not a single student who applies to the School of Creative Learning at Nargada is rejected, irrespective of their past records.
This school, which is near Patna, tries to boost creative instincts among its 600 students through many out-of-the-box ways. “In the 21st Century, it is creativity that will make the difference. Only countries and societies which encourage creativity will progress,” says Vijoy Prakash, a retired IAS official of Bihar, who is the brain behind this school. Large-scale dropouts and suicide cases, even in premier educational institutions, point to some problem somewhere, he adds.
“Eminent personalities such as Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Thomas Alva Edison and Sachin Tendulkar were dropouts and non-achievers in academics, but rose to great heights. So, rather than merely focussing on subjects only, we, at this school, try to boost seven core competencies—concentration, power of observation, memory, thinking, imagination, emotional management and power of expression/communication. The objective is to make the learning system efficient.”
“The idea is to cater to all kinds of intelligences, and not merely verbal (languages and social sciences) and logical (maths and science) intelligences, as is done in most Indian schools,” he says, adding that Lata Mangeshkar excelled in rhythmic intelligence of singing; similarly, others could excel in other forms of intelligences.
The unique characteristic of this CBSE-affiliated school, which was established in 1997, is that admission is open to all. “No one is refused admission—not even those who fail in other schools or attempted suicide.” Such children get individual attention to help them learn and focus, says Mridula Prakash, who manages the school in order to implement the thinking and vision of her husband. She quit as principal of DAV Public School in Patna to take up the task.
Prakash has developed teaching materials, games and books for promoting creativity, concentration, memory and imagination among the school students. “Based on yogic methods of learning, a series of exercises have been developed to boost imagination, concentration and emotional management,” he says.
One of these exercises is to go around with a bowl filled with coloured water, without spilling a drop on one’s palm or ground. Another is uninterrupted ball bouncing. “One of our students achieved a record, uninterrupted ball bouncing 55,000 times over five hours, an indicator of his concentration,” says Prakash.
Activities such as ball bouncing, playing cards and tyre racing, which children do at home, have found space at this school. Peer-based learning—learning from fellow students—is promoted, rather than being restricted to only a teacher-based learning.
“Village children fight for survival and thus learn to come up with creative solutions, which makes them innovators. So, we make our students prepare models from waste materials,” says Prakash.
Praveen, Aditya and Ravi, who are Class IV students, had just completed their models of an ATM, a film projector, a headphone and cheque withdrawal machine, all of which were made from waste. “We enjoy making them,” they said in unison.
Prakash felt the need to set up his own institution to experiment creative learning after his many initiatives had to be abandoned, following his transfer as the director of mass education. “Government’s experiments are not sustainable,” he says.
“My experience in formal education showed that 99 % students are unhappy on the day of exam results. I also wanted to do something about it,” says Mridula Prakash. Thus, was born the Association for Promotion of Creative Learning and the Centre for Creative Learning. “Earlier, since he was in government service, we used to discuss the problems, in order to come up with solutions and improve the system,” she adds.
The school now plans to motivate other institutions to adopt its concept of creative learning. It has been selected for the opening of an Atal Tinkering Lab, an incubation centre of sorts, under an initiative of the Niti Aayog.
Quote of the day:“For what it’s worth: it’s never too late to be whoever you want to be. I hope you live a life you’re proud of, and if you find that you’re not, I hope you have the strength to start all over again.” ― Eric Roth