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    When schools like Akshar Arbol put the power of knowledge into the hands of students

    Children may be rejoicing the end of term, but parents are just getting ready to put the city’s schools to the litmus test, in readiness for the next academic year. With traditional syllabuses competing with alternative education—that extols home schooling and a democratic approach (voluntary attendance, anyone?)—there’s plenty to choose from. Also weighing in is what we’d like to call an education of choice, which gives students an edge in life.

    School21Spoilt for options
    That’s what you’ll find at Akshar Arbol International School, which opened its doors in 2011 in West Mambalam. “Children study five core subjects. Besides English, which is compulsory, they can choose the rest, according to their interests, from a list of 70 electives,” says Jayanthi Thiagarajan, head of the school, which follows International Baccalaureate (IB – from pre kindergarten to grade five) and Cambridge International Examinations (CIE – from grades six to 12).

    With flexible timetables (customised to the subjects each child chooses), highly qualified teachers (they insist on MBAs and MPhils or draw from professionals who are best in their fields), and plenty of extracurricular activities, kids get a well-rounded education. “From grade nine onwards, they can choose two extra subjects—like dance, music, theatre or sports—and be evaluated for it,” she adds.

    Rigorous yet fun
    Kids Central is another school that works along similar lines. Begun 15 years ago in Kotturpuram by educator Valli Subbiah, children School17follow a specially crafted-curriculum that does away with textbooks. “We give experiential exposure to learning that is also very real-world. Children learn through videos, discussions, lectures, field trips, etc,” says Subbiah, adding that they recently added CIE. With emphasis on interdisciplinary learning (how maths connects to arts, for example), building social awareness (even kindergarten students are encouraged to donate to the less fortunate), and helping parents change their mindset towards education (they are encouraged to sit in on classes and turn teachers for a morning), it breaks education free from the constraints of conventional methods.

    Some more, please
    In fact, with choice and variety on hand, Thiagarajan has seen an increase in the number of children wanting to learn more. “To supplement English, they want to do theatre. To supplement medicine, they want to do sports (and specialise in sports medicine later on),” she says. However, many parents still fear that this freedom of choice may restrict options for higher education—preparing kids only for courses abroad. But Thiagarajan says we need to give children more credit. “Those interested in medicine or engineering will choose maths and science as their core subjects. And with Cambridge starting an India exam (in March), they will get their results in time to apply to the colleges of their choice,” she adds.

    Details: akshararbol.com, kidscentralchennai.com

    — Surya Praphulla Kumar

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    • Siva KSS

      it is refreshing to see such schools coming up in chennai… kids will love school like Akshar Arbol and develop intense love for learning for life … way to go… away from rat race of scoring marks and acing exams but scoring in life… kids will put their hearts and heads in alignment and develop in to great citizens of the world and lead a happy and healthy life! Kudos!

    • Arvind Ram Kumar

      Its a refereshing change in the chennai academic canvas, where you are taught how to run the rat race of passing 10/12 with 98%+ doing medicine n eng is the best courses and the rest are a piece of junk….Such schools really add value to the education system, by churning wholly rounded individulas with a thought of their own and are not in the rat race……At last we have some man making education as Swami Vivekananda wanted….Kudos and All the Best !!