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banner ah-dahr-shee-lah, "founding stone," the first stone put onto the land to build a house

pic Founded in June, 1998, Adarshila Learning Centre is an innovative school for Adivasi (tribal) children in Madhya Pradesh, India. Founders Amit and Jayashree Bhatnagar titled it "learning centre" to get away from the rigid, didactic stereotype of mainstream schools in India. Their school is far more flexible, with a curriculum that combines academics, world issues, practical skills, and cultural heritage with a lot of fun.

Amit and Jayashree, who believe in Paolo Friere's ideas of popular education, feel that education is especially important for the tribal community. They started the school in an effort to inculcate Adivasi children with a value for learning and an awareness of important issues facing their community. The school is run by an organization named Veer Khajiya Naik Manav Vikas Pratishthan. Jayashree and Amit develop the curriculum. They strive to teach the children from an early age to think critically and to be community leaders.

Learning at Adarshila is hands-on as well as textual. The students do science experiments, seek oral histories, write plays about important issues in their community. When the hand pump was being drilled, they paid attention to what sort of rocks were present in the earth every fifteen feet down. Each student made a chart illustrating the geology of the ground beneath them. Once when they were gardening, some students found a rootspetrified tree root. They interviewed village elders and discovered the history of the land, and how government contractors had come in and massacred the forests that used to grow there. They are making books out of Berali stories, which they have translated to Hindi. The older students read about issues going on in the world and discuss them. Their teachers present them with the information and then let them discuss and debate it themselves. When Earth Summit was going on, the students had an Earth Summit of their own, breaking into committees to discuss relevent issues.

There are 140 students at Adarshila, half of whom live at the school. 32 are girls, and 135 are Adivasis.

The Kidergarten group is called Beej ("seed"), and most following grade levels are named after famous rivers:

1. Beej
2. Yamuna
3. Kaveri
4. Bram Putra
5. Krishna
6. Amazon
7. Nile
8. Octopus

Five teachers and twenty student teachers work fulltime at the school, and three other staff members assist.

While students at Adharshila are assessed through projects rather than through tests, a number of students choose to take the standardized exams for 5th, 8th, and 10th grade. Here are the 2006 exam reports:

Sat for 10th board exam 1. Passed: 1
Sat for 8th board exams 12. Passed: 8, Failed: 1, Re-appeared: 3
Sat for 5th board exam 18. Passed: all.

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© 2006 This page is maintained by Shilpa Kamat for Adharshila.