I will be honest. It was not love at first sight for me and India. Or rather, not love at first sight for me and Delhi. I have yet to see more than this city, so I will reserve judgement on the whole massive country until I have more information to work with. However, today was amazing and went a long way toward endearing me to this country. Where else can you go where in the span of one day you will be laughed at and then complimented by a 7 year old for having curly hair, eat lunch for less than 30 pence, participate in an education protest, and leave a fancy hotel only to be told by the security man to stalk a speedy Indian gentleman to the metro. Every time I travel it takes a bit for the new environment to really sink in and I think I am finally getting comfortable enough with Delhi where the eccentricities are becoming enjoyable…if not understandable.
We started the day by heading out to a school called Kunskapsskolan in a suburb of Delhi called Gurgaon. This is a Swedish school that opened 3 years. The pedagogy is unlike any school I’ve ever seen before. The school building itself was build with the intention of creating an open atmosphere. The classrooms have glass windows and doors so the whole school has a very open and inviting feel to it. The teachers here are also referred to as ‘partners’ and ‘coaches’. Each student arrives each day and begins in the Base Group classrooms with about 20 of their peers. From there they plan their day, which typically consists of English, Hindi, Math, Science, and an additional language of their choosing. They have what is referred to as ‘Workshop’. These are scheduled throughout the day and the student uses the time to complete independent study. They are expected to set weekly goals for themselves in each subject area and then work toward completing those goals with the help of their teacher.
For our morning at Kunskapsskolan I shadowed a Class V Base Group teacher. She is also responsible for teaching English to Class II and III students. She was so gracious and willing to answer all of our questions about the teaching style. In such a progressive setting, it was interesting to try and wrap my head around all of the freedom the students seem to have. From this teacher’s perspective, it is a beneficial setting for students to truly learn in. She even sends her 10 year old son to the school. Kunskapsskolan is a CBSE school, which means they do adhere to the same requirements as other Indian schools and when the students reach Class VIII, they will take the same national exams as the rest of the students in India. One big difference worth nothing is that Kunskapsskolan students will not receive number grades at all during their education until Class VII. Before that they just receive feedback and notes from their teacher/coach. I still have a bit so skepticism about the affective as of this model in India long term, but it was fascinating to experience and I have a feeling I will be processing for a long time to come.
Best part of the day:
Me sitting at a desk waiting for the kids to come in. A boy sits at the desk across from me and starts giggling uncontrollably. So I say ‘Hi! I’m Celete’, to which he replies: ‘YOU HAVE CURLY HAIR!’ I laugh and say something like yea I do, isn’t that crazy! And he replies (looking at me like I’m an alien) ‘It’s not crazy, it’s AWESOME!’
Kids are the best….and apparently so is curly hair 🙂
When left Kunskapsskolan around 1 and started to make our way toward the metro when we spotted a delicious looking food stand. We had been warned against eating street food, but it was just too tempting to pass up. We went for it! I have no regrets. For 30 rupees (like 30 pence/50 cents!) we ate amazing Indian food. So far none of us have had bathroom emergencies, so I’d say it was a good decision 🙂
With full stomachs we went to Jantar Mantar where CCS and the National Independent Schools Alliance (NISA) had planned a demonstration on behalf of private schools. We weren’t completely sure where we were headed, but immediately after exiting the metro station we could hear chanting. We wound our way through the streets and soon found ourselves amidst an entire street full of various tents, posters, signs, and stages with speakers advocating for their cause. Jantar Mantar, we had failed to realize, is an area of Delhi where every single day people gather to protest about injustices. From 9am to 4pm every single day the street is active. This street is sandwiched by the Parliament building on one end and a police station on the other side. It was truly a sight to see and one of the most significant indicators that as large and beaureaucratic as the Indian government may be, they certainly have the right to free speech.
The demonstration wrapped up around 4pm and on a recommendation from our Professor, we went a block over to grab drinks at The Imperial Hotel. No matter how much time I spend in developing countries, I don’t think I will ever adjust to the abrupt shift from street living to the posh high life in the span of one block. The Imperial is gorgeous. It felt like we had stepped into a London bar for a drink. It is such a strange transition. The drinks were great and we killed several hours there chatting before heading back to the hotel. On our way out we asked for directions to the metro and the security man yelled to a guy down the block to ask if he was headed that way, he was, so we proceeded to run/walk behind him all the way to the metro. Hilarious 🙂
We hit up McDonald’s for dinner on the way home. Don’t judge us; it was late, we were tired, and McDonald’s is literally a block behind our hotel. It felt like a good idea after a couple glasses of wine haha. They don’t serve beef in India, so we enjoyed chicken burgers and fries of course.