Isha Vidhya: An Innovative Blend of Modern Education and Traditional Values and Spirit
Part 8 of the series ”Voices from a Path Breaking School” reveals how Isha Vidhya students become strong and joyful human beings through celebrations, yoga and more.
Part 8 of the series ”Voices from a Path Breaking School” reveals how a combination of celebrations, yoga, and other incredible initiatives have made Isha Vidhya students into strong and joyful human beings. Over the course of this series, we will present you with the insights and experiences of an Isha volunteer intent on sharing the stories of transformation brought about through Isha Vidhya.
“Education should not be about molding children the way you want them, but about supporting their natural longing to know.” - Sadhguru
What the Students are Saying…
- “Until 9th standard (a year after I joined Isha Vidhya) I was very weak in mathematics. But the way I was taught here was different, and I soon began to like it and slowly became very good at it. Now I actually aspire to do a Masters in mathematics!” – Kartik U. G.
- “My Tamil teacher paid extra attention to me because I was really weak in the subject. Thanks to her, I passed the subject.” – Gawtham E., son of the land donor.
- “When I see the way my other friends are memorizing, I appreciate even more how at Isha Vidhya we are inspired to learn by understanding, rather than simply memorize without understanding.” Janardhan C.
- “I hated English in my previous school. Here, seeing how playfully it’s being taught, and how we are encouraged to speak in English during class, it is now my favorite subject.” Jagan R.
Revelation: Isha Vidhya’s Academic Success is an upshot of Joyful Learning Not Cramming Efficiency
Celebration and Playtime for Students of All Classes
At Isha Vidhya, all festivals are celebrated traditionally and in full zest by both children and teachers. If you ever ask the children what they like most about their school, the second most common answer is an exalted: “We get to celebrate so many festivals, and we get to wear traditional dresses on those days!”
Unlike many other children in this day and age, at Isha Vidhya, even students preparing for 10th board exams played every single day for at least an hour and a half (including the day before the exam), celebrated fully and with absolute involvement, never studied beyond 11 pm, helped weaker students and often reveled in impromptu dancing and singing, in the six months leading up to their exams. What a way to head to do things!! And they scored well!!
Yoga – A Key Intervention
Students are introduced to Isha Yoga for Children as soon as they join the school. This not only enhances their concentration and focus, but also helps them grow into balanced human beings. Following are a few ‘voices’ that reveal the role yoga plays in their lives:
- Kavita, though utterly poor, was a brilliant student whose grades propelled her into a full scholarship at the best school in Erode – one that prepares children for admission into medical school.Though happy about the prospects of becoming a doctor, Kavita often calls on her Isha Vidhya teachers and comes there to celebrate her birthday. The supportive atmosphere in Isha Vidhya coupled with her exposure to hardship early in life resulted in her becoming balanced and mature beyond her age: something that became palpable in her new school.Recently, her current roommate, who couldn’t take the stress and pressure of upcoming exams, committed suicide by cutting her wrists, while Kavita was away for a class. Kavita was not overly disturbed, but instead started to look more keenly at the downfalls of this kind of competitive pressure in education, and what it is doing to children and teenagers.She expressed her gratitude to Sadhguru for starting a school like Isha Vidhya. A school that not only gives a chance to children who otherwise would have little hope of doing something they are passionate about, but also offers a balanced, value-based education where academics are beautifully weaved into the joy of living.
- “I won’t leave Isha Vidhya until 12th standard because here they teach me Yoga!” Tamilselvan told his father when he asked him to join another school closer to his neighborhood. Tamilselvan is in 7th grade, whose parents pay full school fee, and who travels 40 km a day to be in that school.
- “Sir, why are you so anxious? It’s going to be ok!” said to his teacher who had come to see the students off before the examination. A teacher worrying about his students’ performance and the student comforting him - quite an uncommon scene! Is this magic in the Yoga?
Innovative Initiatives – Honesty Shop
An initiative by the Principal of Isha Vidhya, “Honesty Shop” is a remarkable intervention to inculcate truthfulness among children. A cupboard full of stationery is kept unlocked in one of the rooms (no camera!), with the price list pasted in full view. An open bowl is on the shelf. Students are supposed to simply drop the right amount for the item they choose to buy. I wonder whether a bank would ever finance such a venture in a school full of utterly underprivileged children. Yet it achieves what it is meant to:
“When the school introduced Honesty Shop, I saw it as an unnecessary pressure to be honest. Why should I be honest, if I can get things easier by being dishonest? I argued within myself for several months, and I even took a few things from the shop without paying. And then gradually, I found myself more at peace with this “honesty concept,” and now it is just natural for me to be honest.” – Anonymous, Student Isha Vidhya, Erode.
A Constructive Break from Books
“Halfway through our board exam preparation, our class went to the Tiruchengode hills area to clean the place. It was a surprisingly enjoyable, rejuvenating and fulfilling experience. I don’t think such opportunities are available in any other school,” said Gokulan E.A. The trip was sponsored by one of the administrative staff, Jagadeesh Anna and another Isha volunteer Balaji.
Building for Ambiance, Not Just Shelter
I was pleasantly taken aback to see the aesthetics of the buildings. Wide hallways, doors and walls painted in pastel colors, large boards in the shape of elephants and fishes, walls full of hand drawn paintings by children, mathematics games drawn in corridors, a small garden with different types of nests inviting birds to breed, students studying in the open side garden…just a few things that can easily bring a sense of happiness here.
“I was very scared of my teachers in my previous school, I couldn’t even look into their eyes. When I first joined Isha Vidhya, whenever a teacher would stand in front of me, I would only look at the board behind her. Since the board is in the shape of an elephant, I would feel very happy while looking at it. I also liked the colors in the hallway and the garden. I think all this, and the gentleness of the teachers, slowly made me fearless,” said Narmadha M, 11th grade, who joined the school when she was 8 years old.
Editor’s Note: “Innovating India’s Schooling” is a conference, designed and conducted by Isha Vidhya, Isha Home School and the Isha Leadership Academy to bring together concerned individuals and thinkers from the fields of education, government and industry. Through a series of lectures, debates and discussions, the conference seeks to redefine education as a tool to not just create a highly productive workforce, but also shape an inclusive, responsible and joyful society. The event also marks the tenth anniversary of Isha Vidhya, the rural education initiative of Isha Foundation. Learn more. Follow #10YrsOfIshaVidhya on Facebook and Twitter for the latest updates.