School Choice National Conference 2018

Alternative Education: Philosophy, Practice & Policy

The conference starts in:

Keynote Speaker:
Dr. Sugata Mitra

Dr. Sugata Mitra is a Professor of Education Technology
at the School of Education, Communication and Language
Sciences at Newcastle University, UK. He is also Chief
Scientist, Emeritus at the for-profit training company NIIT.
A proponent of minimally invasive education, he is best known for his Hole in the Wall experiment and the School in the Cloud. He was awarded the $1 mn TED prize in 2013 for his efforts. This grant aided his efforts to build a School in the Cloud, a creative online space where children from all over the world can gather to answer 'big questions', share knowledge and benefit from guidance from online educators.

Philosophy :
Education beyond conventional

India's existing educational system was introduced
in the mid-nineteenth century, replacing almost entirely
the indigenous educational frameworks of pathshalas,
gurukuls, madrasas and all other pre-existing models of education. But over the past few decades, new models of education have emerged that critique the mainstream 'factory-model' and provide alternative systems that enable each child to learn in a manner best suited to their innate abilities. These alternative models of education move away from the 'rote learning' and process-driven approach, instead focusing on student driven learning mechanisms and application-centric pedagogies. By addressing the various gaps in the conventional schooling system and by providing sound alternatives that cater to the needs of different children, these alternative education models have managed to find greater acceptance amongst parents and educationists alike.
With this in focus, the inaugural panel of SCNC 2018 seeks to examine the drawbacks of conventional schooling system, and understand the theoretical frameworks surrounding different models of alternative education.

Practice :
Experiments in alternative education

The next session excavates efforts to redefine
conventional schooling practices both within the framework
of established learning sites, and outside of it. Drawing from
a rich tradition of alternative educational practices in India,
the session will be a conversation with practitioners in the alternative education space. The session will also seek to examine the scope of key experiments in addressing the key challenges within the education sector. From the Rishi Valley model of education based on the philosophy of Jiddu Krishnamurti, M K Gandhi's experiments with Nai Taleem, Rabindranath Tagore's vision of Santiniketan, Sri Aurobindo's efforts to imbue cosmopolitan spiritualism in school curriculum, alongside western models like Sudbury and Waldorf. The conference will also highlight indigenous stand-alone alternative education models from obscure corners of the country, to address how models of non-traditional education function for children from different sections of society.

Policy Panel:
Examining regulatory frameworks

With the introduction of the RTE, the policy landscape
in school education has shifted decisively towards attaining
targets of enrolment and the public provision of free
and 'compulsory' education. The latter condition of compulsion
has proven to be a contentious ground for parents and advocates of alternative education. Alternative education pedagogies lend greater autonomy and self-direction to children, recognising students as capable of exercising choice in their own learning process. How can we revise the RTE framework to instill this vision of active, engaged learners who can access and participate in varied pedagogical frameworks and modes of schooling beyond formal, recognised models of 'schools'?

About School Choice National Conference

School Choice National Conference (SCNC), started in 2009, is the flagship education conference hosted by Centre for Civil Society (CCS) in New Delhi each year.

Reinforcing the Centre's mission to advance choice and accountability, the day long conference aims to bring together educationists, planners, policy experts and government officials to explore, discuss and debate various dimensions of school education in India. In the past nine editions, the conference has seen many important and interesting ideas emerging from the discussions, during the sessions and on the sidelines of it. The conference deliberates choice in education, by bringing together industry stakeholders to discuss the extant policy framework and to advocate for choice within it.

SCNC, now in its 10th year, will delve into modalities of education that challenge conventional models of state prescribed learning. The critics of the 'factory-model' of schooling argue that such conventional models construct hierarchical student-teacher relationships, denigrate the learner's autonomy, focus on mimesis and rote-learning, standardise learning materials, and delegitimize distinct learning abilities of children.

India has a rich tradition on the philosophy of education and vibrant debates on the mode and purpose of learning, the ontology of the 'learner' as a being and as a member of a diverse society, as well as sustained experiments in alternatives to the school-based model. Philosophers, political leaders, and educationists have examined the role of community, state, adults, history, and socio-economic location in crafting the 'learning experience' of children in India. Through the day-long academic conference we aim to appraise these ideas and experiments in the context of a country in rapid transition. As learning outcomes attained in traditional models of schooling continue to falter, the uncritical adoption of standardised curriculum, uniform pedagogy, passive teaching-learning styles and high-stakes examinations is under scrutiny. The fledgling learning levels of children in India have been well-documented through multiple surveys and reports such as the National Achievement Survey, as well as the ASER . The National Achievement Survey 2017 cites/reports identifies Delhi as one of the worst five performing states. Among class 5 children surveyed in Delhi, only 44% could answer a math question and 52% a language questions. In Bihar, 52% class 5 students could answer math questions, and 57% a language questions. Even in Karnataka, only 67% of class 5 children could answer a mathematics question and 71%, a language question.


  • Sugata Mitra
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    Dr Sugata Mitra
  • Geeta Dharmarajan
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    Geeta Dharmarajan
  • S Gopalan
    Accounts, the Valley School
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    S Gopalan
  • Gitanjali JB
    Co-founder, Himalayan Institute of Alternatives, Ladakh (HIAL)
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    Gitanjali JB
  • Neeraja Raghavan
    Founder-director, Thinking Teacher; co-author, Alternative Schooling in India
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    Neeraja Raghavan
  • Vidhi Jain
    Co-founder, Shikshantar
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    Vidhi Jain
  • Ajay Kumar Singh
    Associate Professor, Centre for Education, Innovation & Action Research, TISS
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    Ajay Kumar Singh
  • Supriya Joshi
    Founder member, Swashikshan: Indian Association of Homeschoolers
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    Supriya Joshi
  • Anju Musafir
    Founder, Mahatma Gandhi International School
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    Anju Musafir
  • Deepa Avashia
    Questologist (School leader), Riverside school
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    Deepa Avashia
  • Santhya Vikram
    Founder, Yellow Train School
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    Santhya Vikram
  • Anil Swarup
    Former Secretary, Department of School Education and Literacy, Government of India
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    Anil Swarup
  • Geeta Gandhi Kingdon
    Professor of Education and International Development at the Institute of Education, London University
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    Geeta Gandhi Kingdon
  • Chandra Bhushan Sharma
    Chairman, National Institute of Open Schooling
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    Chandra Bhushan Sharma


14 December 2018, Friday

Silver Oak, India Habitat Centre, New Delhi

9:00 AM - 6:00 PM