Vidyantriksh School, Bhiwani (Haryana) hosted the man we so loved in 3 idiots the real life Phunsuk Wangdu- Sonam Wangchuk at its campus recently. Sonam held two interactive sessions- one with students and the second with parents, teachers and principals.
Interacting with students in Hindi, Sonam told students what they should be doing in childhood. “Syllabus and books is not learning. There is more to education. We must do things practically, explore, experiment and learn in the process. Unless we understand what we are learning it is of no use. So, never by heart your syllabus or rot learn the concepts. Do and see for yourself. Relate what you are learning to real life and you will realise its benefits,” he said. Sonam shared some stories with students to drive home his point. “I was lucky not to have a school in my village, because most schools interfere with learning. I didn’t go to school tilli was Nine. I learnt from my mother. I was lucky that I was allowed to explore the nature and learn by doing,” Sonam said. Citing the example of making tea, he asked students who should pass the exam- the one who can write about how to make a cup of tea or the one who can make a cup of tea in real life? No guesses and the students shouted the answer- the second one. So, he said, you must know to apply, just theory will not help us.
Addressing the second session of parents, teachers and principals. Sonam said, “If there is fear in the mind, there can be no learning. Our system and we as parents, teachers and principals instil fear in our children. It’s not good for learning.” Rot learning things is not going to take us places. Most of our graduates are employable. “The companies have to educate and train them about the concepts they learnt in the graduation. So what is the point in going to a college if you still can’t apply the knowledge when you get a job,” he questioned. Citing the example of Infosys, Sonam said that the company has a separate training wing where it pays students to learn for about a year before employing them. “We first pay fees in college to learn and then, we are paid by the companies to relearn the same thing. What a waste of time and resources,” he said.
He shared his vision for the Himalyan Institute of Alternatives (HIAL), a university he is setting up in Laddakh and Students’ Educational and Cultural Movement of Laddakh (Secmol), an alternative school he set up with his friends about 30 years ago. He said he was very clear about what he wanted to do in life. Although his father asked him to study civil engineering, he was interested in mechanical engineering and he did that. That is why he excelled and was able to make the ice- stupas for which he was recently awarded Rs 1crore as Rolex International Award. “The ice- stupas are based on principles of science taught in Grade 8. So, we should understand the concepts only then we can apply them in our life,” he said. We focus so much of 3Rs- Reading, writing and arithmetic. However for India to be a world leader, we need to focus on 3Hs- Bright Head, skilled Hands and kind Heart. Most of the developed countries have the first two, but it is the third- kind Heart that only India can give to the world.
Later he also answered questions from the gathering. Replying to a query about why schools are not opting for quality education concepts suggested by him. He said that parents need to be aware. If they stop running after marks, schools will be forced to adopt the good teaching-learning practices.” Schools only provide what parents want. If they want marks, schools will oblige. If parents want quality education, they will be forced to oblige. So, parents need to understand the concept of education.” He also talked of strengthening the state education boards. “I have learnt four languages after turning 40. That is because I am very strong in my native language and I have no fear. The child starts learning the mother tongue when he is the womb. So, it is natural for him to understand things when told in the native language. When we force them to study in an alien language like English, it becomes difficult for them to understand. If we are good at our language, we can learn the other languages when we need them.”
This is one of the factors that helped us increase the pass percentage of students in Laddakh from 5 to 95 percent. “When I saw that 95 percent students are failing in board exams, I realised that it is the system that is failing and not the students.” It was then Sonam set up Secmol with friends and started the next learning revolution. They translated the English syllabus into the local language. They related the concept to real life and taught the way students could learn. “If they don’t understand the way we teach, we should teach them they way they learn,” he said.
Citing examples of books using alien concepts, he said that some person wrote the books that we use today to learn alphabets. “Now, A for apple is fine but F for fan and T for Train are not relevant in Laddakh because these just don’t exist there. So, how are children going to relate to what they are learning,” he said.
Earlier Sonam was given a traditional Haryanvi welcome followed by local cuisine lunch. Founder principal of Vidyantriksh Dr Aarti presented Sonam a traditional Haryanvi turban. Sonam planted a Neem tree before meeting the students. Dr Aarti thanked Sonam for the visit and presented him a memento, two good luck books which contained letters written by students of Vidyantriksh wishing good luck to Sonam for HIAL. A scroll with signatures of all the students and teachers of Vidyantriksh was also presented to Sonam. Students, teachers, parents, and principals also donated for HIAL on the occasion. Sonam honoured some of the students who had donated the highest amount.