The School’s Educational Approach
Sri Atmananda Memorial School was inspired by the great Sage Sri Adwayananda, who spoke about education and how to approach a child to foster learning. 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 culture.
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 interests
- Acknowledging the individual ways in which children learn and develop
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. With proper support, the children naturally learn in an interdisciplinary way and make connections among subjects. For example, If a child is keenly interested in cars, he can learn mathematics through calculating speed and petrol capacity and making number plates. Or, as some older boys recently did, they can form a car “company” and set up an “office” where the reading/writing/math aspects naturally come in: a chart to compare speeds of cars, “newspaper” press releases describing the project, setting up a bank so that the company’s officers can draw their “salaries,” and so forth.
To support this kind of learning, teachers have to know the children well, be alert to their interests and observe how they are prepared to learn. Trainee teachers are paired with senior teachers in a three-year training program to learn this educational approach, with a training year on each of the three campuses.
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 or which of their own activities they will pursue. 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. The school’s teaching and methods have been and will always be a help to me, both in my professional and personal life.”