Leaving the dollar path, to make science learning fun(Feature)

April 29th, 2008 - 11:03 am ICT by admin  

By V.N. Balakrishna
Ahmedabad, April 29 (IANS) He could have lived the dollar dream. But Sarat Chandra decided to follow his heart instead after completing his management course in the elite Indian Institute of Management-Ahmedabad (IIM-A) and opted to spend his time making science fun for children. From corporate to commitment, Chandra made the switch with ease and, along with friend Praveen, launched Butterfly Fields, an organisation promoting activity-based learning through workshops, partnerships with schools and developing activity kits and science museums to make learning science a fun-filled task for kids.

What made him trade a lucrative career for education activism?

While on an exchange programme to Germany in 2004, Sarat happened to visit a Waldorf School and it was an eye-opener. “In these schools there is little reliance on standardised textbooks and learning is imparted through visual and plastic art, music and movement,” Sarat explained to IANS.

“I realised that Indian students too had a right to access such education systems. It could help them as well as the country if we adopted these systems. Hence, when time came to put my money where my mouth was I took the plunge,” Sarat, 28, said.

He has been impressed by the system developed by Rudolph Steiner in the early 20th century.

“A number of studies have been conducted across the world and it has been established that the Waldorf system, or experiential learning, helps in all-round development of the child.

“Unlike learning by rote, activity-based learning helps the child to develop other faculties like imagination, taking initiative, public speaking and team building, which are extremely important to survive in this competitive world,” he said.

On the other hand, the current Indian education system crushes individual talents and promotes a very bookish learning process, according to Sarat. “The child is never able to explore how much he or she can accomplish, given a free hand.”

He knows the Indian education system well, having had his schooling and higher education here. He also worked in a premier consulting firm before joining IIM-A.

“My objective in joining the IIM was to do something beneficial for society, as well as become an entrepreneur. I have not yet achieved these goals, but with Butterfly Fields I know that I am in the right direction,” he said with a smile.

The Butterfly Fields programmes are designed to open the eyes of both the child and the parents to what is achievable. “Through workshops we show the parents that every child is exceptional and every child is gifted.”

The organisation charges a nominal amount for participation.

Sarat is from Hyderabad and has been concentrating his efforts there. He has partnered with more than 20 schools in the city. With his help, the schools have set up facilities to train teachers in experiential learning.

He is in Ahmedabad to promote his first workshop outside Hyderabad, being held for five days from Monday at the new IIM-A campus.

Ahmedabad was an emotional choice for Sarat, mainly because of his association with the IIM-A.

“In a way I am trying to return to society what I have taken from it. Ahmedabad is also a good choice because there are multiple initiatives here like Riverside School, which have already established the usefulness of experiential learning and hence the job looks seemingly easier,” he said.

“My workshop deals with hands-on learning. Today students are exposed to lots of theory and tutorials in schools simply to pass exams. We are trying to focus on practical aspects.”

Sarat would like to see a pan-Indian presence this year for his venture.

“Once we stabilise our operations in Ahmedabad, we plan to start operations in five or six major cities across India. Currently, our student output is around 2,000 per year and this year we plan to triple it. Apart from the issue of raising resources, the challenge is setting up processes and systems in place,” he said.

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