Tapping human potential

A Chennai-based education consultancy is on a mission to institute fundamental reform in India’s education system, shifting the focus to developing what they call each child’s ‘human potential’, rather than just job readiness. Currently, mainstream education systems focus on cognitive development with respect to subject-based knowledge. But Chrysalis is working on centering the narrative around integrated thinking on meta-cognitive (thinking about thinking itself), social and emotional levels.

Divergent thinking

They note that divergent thinking, responsible for creativity, drops from 98% (ages three to five) to less than 2% by the mid-20s. Their goal is to prevent this type of lateral thinking from falling through the cracks over the course of traditional education. Their framework has been 16 years in the making, developed based on various primary and secondary research, including landmark studies by social scientists such as Jean Piaget, George Land, Beth Jarman and John Biggs.

“In most mainstream education systems, there is no relationship between the learner and the learning, with only perfunctory connections between the teacher and learner, morals are taught without perspective, rules are enforced without debate and there is little space for meaningful bonds to thrive. This inhibits growth; learners cease to think or question, and as a result, there is no joy in the process of learning and discovering the new. Children are the victims of this inadequacy in the system, which focuses on rote and application at best, thus depriving them of their own human potential,” explains Chitra Ravi, Founder and CEO.

Examples of the company trying to counter this in their material include ‘Look Deep’ questions, designed to bring self-awareness and elicit expression, such as “Why do you get backaches even though the human spine is curved in such a way as to keep our backs in a neutral and pain-free position? How does it affect your mood?” In another departure from existing educational material, the company recently completed a gender audit of their teaching aids. “We ensured that our material was gender neutral. We have attempted to remove all stereotypes from our curriculum. The material is designed to lend a growth mindset to students and teach them to embrace diversity,” says Ms. Ravi

However, they don’t attempt to entirely replace the existing syllabus and testing systems and are tackling the formative years, up to Class VIII, first. She outlines, “The syllabi prescribed by the education boards suggest age-appropriate topics in each subject for students to ascend to the Class X Board examination. Their solutions are aligned to such syllabi but also ensure that the learning outcomes enable the students to get a deep understanding of the strands and topics in the core subjects. We have designed an academic programme that is board agnostic.”

To make this a success, of course, teachers need to be sensitised to existing issues and trained on how to best use the company’s solutions. They have sent delegations of Indian school leaders to Finland and New Zealand, whose unorthodox but wildly successful education systems have drawn global praise. There, the delegates are exposed to progressive ideas and gain expert insights into their pedagogic methodology.

So far, they have partnered with several schools across India, including Kautilya Vidyalaya, Mysuru, Indus School Kurnool, IRIS World School Karimnagar, Telangana, and Prasan Vidya Mandir, Chennai.

By 2018, they aim to make their framework open source, so interested educators, in both public and private spheres, can benefit from the groundwork they have laid. As Chitra puts it, “We are not in the business of education; we are here to remove business from education.”

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