Majority of the world population has lived self-reliantly in villages for centuries. Communities like the Native Americans, the Bishnois of India and numerous others were always able to live and let live, balancing production and consumption in a sustainable lifestyle. Rather than taking lessons from them, our modern systems including our education system are designed for an urban environment which is mostly consumerist in nature and hence not sustainable. Hence, arises the need for an alternative education system.
Sarang’s activities can be summed up in one word, education, as the practice of life of a modern species that can live and let live. Education happens everywhere, 24 hours X 365 days. Anything that we hear, see, touch, taste, or smell, making a change within us, is part of our education. Movies, ads, news, speeches, performances, people; all that interacts with us is part of our education. In today’s fast-changing world a static system is not the way to real education.
Currently we have two campuses. While the first generation is training a batch of students at the satellite campus to become teachers , the second generation is trying to prepare the main campus on the hills for their return.
Sarang’s curriculum expands according to each child’s need. The curriculum includes ethics & culture, watershed management, natural farming, forest fire prevention, soil conservation & land development, biodiversity conservation, rural engineering & architecture, technology, art, martial arts, languages & dialects, clean energy, human physiology, sexuality & teenage, primary medicine, cooking & housekeeping, sustainable use of resources, politics, basic economics, & currencies, teaching. Sarang’s campus at Attappady has been developed into a ‘textbook’ keeping this curriculum in mind.
The list is quiet long. But in short, Sarang looks at life as the basis for its curriculum. Kalarippayattu (traditional martial art of Kerala), dance, yoga, and music are essential elements in Sarang’s curriculum for boosting self confidence, creativity and a positive vision. A student at Sarang may learn how to extinguish a forest fire, the dynamics of wind energy, potential of natural farming, development of open source programmes or how to become a leader in a democracy. But great importance is given to ethics, for knowledge without ethics is always dangerous. They may reach out to the ends of the universe, but only with strong roots in the earth of ethics.
Sarang believes that to build a world where truthfulness, humanity beyond all prejudices and optimal use of resources are upheld, these values must be inspired in children at a very early age. Emphasis is given to age since the character of an individual is formed within the age of 7. Any guidance in character formation has to be done at a younger age when the child is not yet biased by various man made differences of race, religion, country, gender, language etc.
This training is possible only at a young age within the family. Ideally, parents are the first teachers. Unfortunately, men and women are not trained, for being good partners or for bringing up children. This is typical in the present education system, where many essential lessons are left out, and many that are included are never used in real life. Sarang is modeled as a democratic family, with the Sarang couple as parents and the students as their children.
At Sarang, children travel far and wide to explore simple solutions which have been kept alive by good men and women. They live and learn with ‘Sarang’ families wherever they go. Since, Sarang’s curriculum aims at preparing a child for adapting to any kind of environment without loosing his/her individuality, the children absorb the good from all the different ideas they are exposed to.
Sarang is a rural university in its early infancy which dreams of a society of self reliant individuals. Sarang’s goal is to prepare the next generation to live fulfilling lives using minimal resources. We dream of a rural university, proposing no degrees or certificates, but offering a space to learn to cope with life and all its myriad hues and tones.
Our students are free to decide their path in life. As they grow at Sarang they are prepared for self-study. So, they can also choose to acquire academic qualifications and go into any profession. A few of them may also choose to stay back at Sarang to share their experience with younger children or they may journey on to spread the Sarang way elsewhere in world.
Let all of us who feel our children ought to grow up sensitive and empathetic to their surroundings and not lulled into a sense of false security in their childhood leaving them incapable of facing the realities of life join together. Let us work together to provide our children platforms to flourish in their boundless creativity and energy.
“The school’s not a factory
Nor the teacher a labourer!
The student’s not a commodity
Nor the parent a manufacturer!”