Two institutions in the educational space - the National Institute of Open Schooling (formerly called the National Open School) and the Centre for Learning in Bangalore point the way to some interesting possibilities.
The following is excerpted from the NIOS web site, which is not very user friendly - the Table of Contents is not linked from the home page at all.
- Secondary Education Course: This is offered to those who are desirous of completing 10th standard education leading to Secondary School Certificate
- Senior Secondary Education Course: This is designed for those who have passed 10th standard or equivalent and would like to continue their education for 12th standard. This leads to the Senior Secondary School Certificate.
- Vocational and Stand Alone Courses
This means anyone can take the Class X and Class XII exams without having to go to a conventional school.
Admission Details: Essential requirements for admission to the Open School include:
- Proof of age. The Admission Notice 2003-2004 states that there is no lower/upper age limit for Registration for NIOS Examinations. However, NIOS will not be responsible for Non-Admission to other institutions of higher education on account of the age mentioned in the certificates granted by NIOS.
- Minimum educational qualifications which can be either self-certicate or a certificate of having passed class V for the Secondary Education Course and a pass in the Secondary Examination from a recognised board of Secondary Education for the Senior Secondary Education Course.
- Supporting documents which can be a self-certificate or a Transfer certificate from any school for the Secondary Education Course and an attested copy of the Certificate of Matriculation / Secondary / High School Examination from a recognised Board of Secondary Education.
- Registration for a course is valid for five years from the year of registration allowing nine chances to appear in the public examination held twice a year during this period. A two year gap is essential between passing of Secondary (class X) and Sr. Secondary (class XII) level.
- Choice of Subjects: any five subjects from a given list is required for certification with no compulsory subject/language.
This means one can take the Class X and XII exams at any age as long as one is above ten years of age, though one has to wait for two years between taking the Class X and the Class XII exams - don't know why they want this gap. Choice of subjects is again completely free as opposed to fixed combinations in a conventional school.
There is a list of
- School Boards that have recognised the National Open School Examinations for eligibility for the Senior Secondary Education Course (Class XI and XII).
- Universities/Institutions that have recognised the National Open School Examination fior eligibility for undergraduate college education.
Most state and central boards figure in this list. So presumably anyone passing the Class X Open School Exams can join any conventional school for Classes XI and XII. Most major universities and all IITs figure in this list - so presumably anyone passing the Class XII Open School Exams can join any of the universities and IITs in the above list to pursue higher education.
This opens up a potentially huge opportunity. Here's the idea:
Set up an institution to function as a "school" but without formally being affiliated to any board of education. Take in students from KG all the way to Class XII, and follow an independent syllabus/curriculum, but aim to prepare the students so that they are able to take the Class X and Class XII exams through the National Open School (or ICSE depending on the student's choice) as private candidates and prepare them well so they can crack the exams with high scores. All students who pass the Open School exams can then enter the mainstream (for admission to Classes XI and XII in a conventional school if they so desire and for admission to undergraduate courses in colleges and univesities as well).
The institution has no need to follow the pattern of a conventional school. It is free to set its own educational agenda, innovate in the use of educational methodologies and do things things the way it thinks is best for helping the children learn.
The Centre For Learning in Bangalore shows the way
There is actually a working model on these lines out there in the real world. The Centre for Learning (CFL) in Bangalore does precisely this. They have their own educational philosophy inspired by J. Krishnamurti and they set their own curriculum. They have been in operation for over ten years and moved to their own campus 40 km from Bangalore in the year 2000..
The biggest challenge CFL faces is to find a way of raising enough funds to set up the basic infrastructure and then make ends meet each year. They continue to depend largely on donations and describe their financial situation thus:
Being small, the school cannot meet all its expenses from fees. We have, from the beginning successfully resisted the pressure to limit admission to children from wealthy families alone. Increasing the number of students has not been an option either. Costs are tightly controlled. Salaries for staff are need based. Fees are not discussed before admission is offered. Families are encouraged to view fees as a contribution to sustain the school rather than a fee for a service.We have successfully put in place, with parents' cooperation a fee structure that reflects the famiy's financial situation.
This, of course, exposes the school to constant financial "anxiety"! Currently fees meet approximately 60% of expenses. The income from the endowment fund contributes 20%. We depend on the generosity of donors to help meet the deficit. We would like to augment the endowment fund so that we are do not depend, in the long run on donations, except for infrastructure.
CFL has pioneered the concept and operationalised it, but it still needs to tune the model into a self-sustaining model that can be started with some seed capital and then generates enough income through fees and other means to meet operational costs each year. How can that be done? I will attempt to describe some ideas towards a self-sustaining model in future posts in the coming days.