Project DEFY : Design Education For Yourself
Show how you can learn by yourself, and how schools can exist without a teacher. A philosphical statement on definitions of education.
We created a school, very close to Bangalore, in a village. However, this school is different - it has “no teachers”.
The school is a complete democracy where people of all ages and backgrounds learn what, when and how “they” want to, and also run the school themselves. An interesting mix of cheap technology, small space and community spirit, showing people how to teach themselves. It is so different that we won the Global Junior Challenge from among 1600 school and education projects in Rome, Italy.
I will be telling the story from the bare beginnings of how we came up with this concept of a complete alternative, and where we are going next. And most importantly - HOW IT AFFECTS ALL OF US!
Brought up in Mumbai, school was not our only source of education; and of course, education doesn’t just mean books and exams. We learned how to travel safely, to speak fluently, even that teachers were not always right; all this not only from the school, but from friends and people we met, and situations we were in. Movies, plays, night-outs, camps, Internet, gaming sessions, traveling, picnics, sports, walking around the city – everything added something. School-life was amazing, not because of the school itself, but for how we were discovering new things, and ourselves, each day outside of school.
I wish I could say the same for college. A fancy place, with thousands of students from all over the country, in a town in South India. Yet restricted in thinking with limitations on what we study, when we go out, what career choices we make. The real problem was that students tolerated it and believed it was okay to live this way. Their goal to ultimately get a job, after four years of proverbial “jail-time”. Their school-life was much different from mine, so they found nothing wrong with the college system.
In my tail-ending college period, I developed many projects, always keeping social impact in mind. I created a $500 ambulance in Uganda, a $25 water-less urinal, an app for detecting car-accidents and more. My classrooms did not help me here.
But, I had Internet. I could find courses and great teachers there. I learned everything through my unrestricted laptop-screen. I began believing that future schools will not be in a classroom, with a teacher on the board. After college, I worked at an IT company for 6 months and quit. I moved to a village outside Bangalore, and started building the school I imagined; my first makerspace in Banjarapalya village. A makerspace is a creative environment for community collaboration, with no strict definition, where people explore, discover, build, cook, paint, play and have fun.
I wish a world where more people are ready to take challenges and not jobs, and an education system built on this notion