MORE THAN JUST A SCHOOL: VIKRAMSHILA’S EXPERIMENTAL SCHOOL IN BIGHA
In 1995, Vikramshila started a rural school in Bigha, a village of roughly five thousand inhabitants, based on the belief that education has the power to transform individuals, and schools embedded in community can provide a starting point for greater social change. We believe that a teacher’s interaction in the classroom has to go beyond the school compound into the lived realities of children. Our definition of quality education finds its foundations in this philosophy that links life and learning. Education becomes relevant and meaningful when there is a close connection between what happens in the classroom and what the child experiences outside. Only then will education provide skills for life and livelihood, and education can become a conduit for sustainable development. The main idea behind the school was to make school curriculum relevant in a child’s life- to make it child centric, context specific and life centric. Over the years, it has become more than just a primary school, taking on the role a resource hub for the community. The educational resource centre at Bigha has been a product of a long endeavor of our team to build a model resource centre which could serve as an instrument for change not only in the community it works with, but the government primary schools in the neighboring villages as well.
The school has always believed in strong mutually enriching interaction with the community- where the community knowledge and school knowledge integrate to create new knowledge for students to construct and discover. The community inclusive of, parents, Panchayat members, youth groups, farmers’ groups, fishermen’s groups, village elders, mothers’ group, adolescent girls groups, is integrated with the school in knowledge sharing. Due to our efforts the local health centre is working full time, farmers and fishermen have changed their traditional practices to adopt newer and more organic methods, and two of our alumni students are in the business of pisciculture after finishing their graduation, and are doing quite well. The students of Bigha School have been performing well consistently for the last 15 years and several girls have broken intergenerational barriers to
pursue post graduation studies. Over time, this inter-relation has expanded to create a new integration with the government school system and the anganwadi system, where our practices are shared and learnings exchanged in a bid to address the goal of equity and quality education for all children in the spirit of the Right to Education Act.