Sri Atmananda Memorial School was inspired by the great Sage Sri Adwayananda, who spoke about education and how to educate a child. Inspired by his vision, several people came together in 1985 to start a registered charitable trust and a school based on what they had understood.
Sri Atmananda Memorial School opened in 1987 as an independent, non-sectarian private school in Malakara village, Kerala, India, with the aim of establishing a balanced education for the heart and mind rooted in the basic Indian cultural tradition.
In an environment of guided freedom, the school’s curriculum is introduced to the children without textbooks or examinations until eighth standard, placing the responsibility on the teacher of finding ways to introduce subject matter through the children’s interests. The children naturally learn in an interdisciplinary way and make connections among subjects.
If a child is keenly interested in cars, he can learn mathematics through calculating speed and petrol capacity and making number plates. He can design a car, if he wishes, or as some of the Lower Primary boys recently did, form a “company” to produce a racing car. Each of the boys had a title and a job, set up an “office” and became knowledgeable about all aspects of the car. The teachers began bringing in the reading/writing/math aspects: a chart they made to compare speeds of cars, writing up “newspaper” articles describing the project, setting up a bank so that the company’s officers could draw their “salaries.”
The English-medium school today serves over 200 children from the area in kindergarten through twelfth standard and is affiliated with the Council for the Indian School Certificate Examinations (ICSE, ISC) as well as the Clonlara School (USA).
Over twenty-six years, the school has become known for its innovative educational approach, being named by The Week Magazine as “one of the top ten innovative schools in India.”
Among the principles followed in the school are
- Creating a relationship of trust between teacher and taught
- Connecting learning with the child’s own experience and interest
- Acknowledging the individual ways in which children learn and develop
The first of these principles is the most important. The child needs a model toward whom his thoughts and feelings can rise. Teachers, for their part, are trained to carefully observe a child and his expressions to understand his natural inclination. Through this inclination, which manifests itself differently in each individual, the child will be prepared to learn. The learning is then grounded in the child’s own experience, with curriculum introduced through the child’s interests so that learning is meaningful and enjoyable.
When the school’s lower and upper primary children alight from the bus and enter the campus, they are in charge of their own school day. They decide what to do, with whom to do it, and which of the myriad activities offered by the teachers that they will participate in. By high school the children are ready for formal classes and the challenges of the external board examinations (ICSE, ISC), but the basis of their learning remains a close relationship with their teachers.
The alumni of the school are known as good leaders and entrepreneurs, since from an early age they have learned to organize, make decisions and work in teams. They have gone on into all fields of endeavour, as they have been allowed to develop their individual interests and abilities. They have a basic self-confidence that comes from having been valued, listened to, and supported by their teachers. As an alumnus from the first batch of graduates expressed it, “I have adopted a lot of methods used in our school to teach and train people under me. The most important of all: never force them to do a work, but rather make them understand the importance of the work being done and provide them a fun way to do it. It has worked wonders. I was able to work my way through different obstacles and move up in the organization that I work with. The school’s teaching and methods have been and will always be a help to me, both in my professional and personal life.”