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


June 1998-

Adarshila Learning Centre is an alternative 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 an oppressed people. 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; about fifty live there. Last year, the grades were named after plants, starting with Beej, "seed," the Kidergarten group. This year, each group is named after a famous river, although "Beej" stuck for the first group:

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


© 2003 This page is maintained by Shilpa Kamat on behalf of Jayashree & Amit. Please e-mail us if you have any questions or comments.