Over the last 5 years, we have asked and grappled with many questions ...Can our education experiment be one that questions the status quo? Is there any new knowledge being generated in the local languages? Should the search for knowledge be in the domain of a "mother tongue"? Is the local language which is only oral and has not evolved into a written script sufficient to expose or learn about the new world? Isn't learning about being exposed to an entire world view not just learning to read or write? Shouldn't education be about historical injustices and a quest for a more egalitarian society?
We see education as a way to become a critical thinking person - questioning society and its injustices. At Tamarind Tree, language is immaterial. But we opted for the popular English as a means for children to access knowledge and a global world.
It has been a challenging and insightful experience working with learners whose families either never went to school or went to school only for a couple of years. Moreover the consciousness of these communities has been built with a history of oppression, exploitation and extreme impoverishment. We have often had to struggle with children not being able to look us in the eye, children who speak in only monosyllables and whose body language conveys more than that meets the eye.
What then could education be for them??
We have used a multiple set of ideas, strategies and tools to engage with children and make them curious and interested learners. We have come to understand that all learning is about communicating a a world view. And more often then not, our space is about exposing the student to thinking and ideas that are new.
A simple example - most students on our campus come from families that have no concept of time or age in years. Getting students to understand their date of birth and their biological years is a learning for them that enables them to engage with the world outside. Maybe for us, it is something that we knew since we were 4 years old but for tribal communities the concept of time is not linear.
A far more complex worldview is our idea of a school and how we are building a community space of learning.
To many kids (and they have expressed it) - a school is a place where they hit students. For them to see a school as a place of equality - where we all eat together, chat and share our lives, learn, challenge and push one another is itself a whole new learning.