As an academic investigator I had visited Shikshantar, an NGO in Udaipur, to see their work on alternative education. Shikshantar believes in zero-schooling, which means not admitting a child into a school at all, but letting him/her learn on his/her own if and when the child is interested.
Shikshantar is also associated with ‘Swaraj University’, a new concept in today’s world, though an old concept if you look into ancient history. Swaraj University does not give any degrees, believing that a degree is not necessary for one to become successful in life. One can successfully practice a trade/ profession/ occupation to meet one’s livelihood needs without a degree. Students who join Swaraj University come from backgrounds and may even be school dropouts. Called ‘Khojis’, or seekers, these students interact with various experts from varied fields, seek to find out what they are most suited for themselves, and then train as apprentices under an expert in the field to learn the skills of the trade, so that they can earn their livelihood.
A stock of adjectives used with education illustrates the variety of interests in what is perceived to be pillar-stone of any society. From the days of studying professions or pursuing vocations, adjectives have been added to this natural activity of a community. Study had been restricted to the domain of religion; renaissance brought it to secular domain. In a feudal structure, only the curious pursued it and found it strangely illuminating their minds and liberating their consciousness from immediate concerns of here and now. The enchanted mind could transcend the bounds of history and geography and soak his thirsty soul in perpetual fount of knowledge. It was with his blessed state as a model that education found its truest epithet. Liberal education existed till almost the final decades of last century, but paradoxically the political change it formulated and realized – burgeoning of democracy – could not support this ‘feudal’ ideal and it gave way to several of its avatar-s, each of which tried to replace it fully and failed. Well, failed to hold their own, but together they almost succeeded in flushing it out.