Mother’s Service Society
4, Venkata Nagar Extension
TO ESTABLISH PRIMROSE SCHOOL AS A MODEL FOR ALTERNATIVE EDUCATION THROUGHOUT
EDUCATION FOR THE 21ST CENTURY
Early childhood education in India is subject to two extreme but
contrary deficiencies. On the one hand, millions of young children in lower
income groups, especially rural and girl children, comprising nearly 40% of
first grade entrants never complete primary school. Even among those who do,
poorly qualified teachers, very high student-teacher ratios, inadequate teaching
materials and outmoded teaching methods result in a low quality of education
that often imparts little or no real learning. It is not uncommon for students
completing six years of primary schooling in village public schools to lack even
rudimentary reading and writing skills.
At the other end of the social and educational spectrum, children
attending urban schools, especially middle and upper class children in private
schools, are subjected to extreme competitive pressures from a very early age to
acquire basic language skills and memorize vast amounts of information in order
to qualify for admission into the best schools. Parents and teachers exert intense pressure on young children
to acquire academic skills at an age when children should be given freedom and
encouraged to learn as a natural outcome of their innate curiosity, playfulness
and eagerness to experiment. The primary method for this education is
memorisation of standardized texts without any reference to wider topics. There
is no concern to stimulate the creative thinking of a child’s mind.
Rising concern over compulsory learning at an early age is prompting many
educators to advocate dramatic steps to counter the obsession with premature and
forced teaching practices.
Search of a ‘Third Way’
Between these two extreme positions, lie a wide array of mostly mediocre
practices. Rarely do we find the educational system fostering the natural
process of spontaneous, self-motivated self-education in which children learn
just as they play and as a form of play out of their innate curiosity and urge
to acquire knowledge of the environment. Internationally, there have been many
efforts to find a ‘third way’ that suffers neither from the sad neglect all
too common in low quality public education or the compulsive pressures exerted
even on very young children by competitive, career-conscious school systems.
A highly successful alternative approach has been evolved in the USA by
the Institute for the Development of Human Potential, founded by the eminent
educationist Dr. Glenn Doman. Doman’s work is based on the conviction that
learning is a natural instinctive urge in young children that is very often
curbed or destroyed either by neglect and lack of exposure or by compulsory
teaching. During more than three decades of work with both normal and brain
damaged children, Doman has shown that exposing young children to interesting
sources of information for very brief periods each day actually stimulates the
development of the brain cells during early years and fosters a spontaneous
curiosity and natural love of learning in children. Doman’s methods have been
practiced for more than 20 years at the Institute’s school in Philadelphia and
more recently in similar institutions established in South America, Western
Europe and Japan. The same methods have been applied successfully by more than
one million parents around the world.
The Mother's Service Society is a non-profit
organisation registered in Pondicherry on 17th October 1970. The Society's
objectives include a wide range of educational and research activities with
particular emphasis on social science research in the field of socio-economic
development. The Society undertakes field projects for education of the public,
conducts studies and prepares reports for governmental and private
organisations, engages in pure and applied research, holds seminars, carries on
joint educational and research programmes with universities and other
educational institutions in India and abroad, and publishes papers, articles and
books relating to its educational activities and research findings.
The Society first became active in
national development activities thirty years ago when it successfully initiated
one of the first village development programs in India, which was subsequently
extended throughout the country. Over the years, it has prepared numerous
reports for the Government of India on strategies to accelerate development and
is presently participating in the Government's effort to evolve a vision for the
country over the next two decades. The Society considers efforts to improve the
quality of education the most important cornerstone of effective development
strategy. (see enclosed Report on the Society’s activities)
institution of higher education, the income of the Society is exempt from tax
under Section 10(22) of the Indian Income Tax Act. Since 1981 the Society has
been approved by the Government of India as a social science research institute
for the purposes of exemption under Section 35 (i) (iii) of the Indian income
Tax Act whereby donors are permitted 100% tax deduction on donations to the
Society for its social science research activities.
Strategy for Improving Indian Education at the Pre-School and Primary
At the request of Dr. M.
Anantakrishnan, Vice Chancellor of Tamil Nadu State Council for Higher
Education, the Society presented a strategy to the Confederation of Indian
Industry to accelerate primary education in rural areas and computer-based
technical education in urban secondary schools. These recommendations were part
of the Society’s continuing work on alternative methods of education.
Based on close collaboration with an experimental school at
Arasavangkadu, Tamil Nadu, which the Society has been assisting over the past
four years, the Society decided to establish a model school in Pondicherry
applying the 21st Century educational methods that have proved so
successful in Arasavangkadu. Thus, Primrose School was started under the aegis
of The Mother's Service Society.
inaugurated in June 1999 in
the former French colony of Pondicherry, is a pioneering effort in India to
utilize Dr. Glenn Doman’s teaching methods as the basis for a full program of
pre-school, primary and secondary education.
Already several other schools have started adopting the methods
demonstrated at Primrose.
At present the School has a total of
80 students in four grades from pre-KG up to 1st grade, starting with
very young children of the age of 2 years in the nursery section. Every year
fresh students are taken only at the nursery level. It is proposed to continue
expanding the grades upwards until the 12th grade is reached. This
year there are seven full time teachers including a separate teacher for
computer lessons. The school is presently located in a rented building.
The Society has purchased a 4468.49
plot of land in Pondicherry and started the construction of a high school
campus. Eventual plans are to include a computerized library, indoor gymnastics
hall, air-conditioned computer lab with 30 computers and a sports ground. At
present, the funds of the Society will permit it to construct only the ground
floor classrooms up to 5th grade level.
(See Appendix A for details on proposed investment by the Society).
The system of education provided at the Primrose School is based on the
The most important aspect of the approach is attitude of the teacher,
which should be that learning is a form of play which fosters the blossoming of
the child’s natural development. Learning should and can be made interesting,
A large portion of the teaching materials are produced at the school by
the teachers, who customize their teaching aids to suit the interests and
knowledge levels of the students.
Children learn spontaneously when their interest and curiosity are
awakened. ‘Teaching’ is confined to brief periods according to the natural
attention span of each child, which is normally 15-30 minutes daily during the
first two years. It is never extended beyond the child’s span of interest.
The student-teacher ratio is kept very low to enable the teacher to work
with small groups of 4-5 children at a time while the others are absorbed in
learning games or recreational play. The most effective ratio is five students
per teacher during pre-school, LKG (Lower Kindergarten) and UKG (Upper
Kindergarten) and fifteen students per teacher during standards 1 to 5. However,
since the teaching methods are intense, each student actually need attend only 2˝
to 3 hours of class per day, enabling each teacher to effectively handle double
the number of students.
The act of teaching consists primarily of presenting sensory images,
objects and information to the child in a pleasant and interesting manner in the
form of flash cards. This permits the child to observe and inquire about the
subject, without compelling the child to memorize. Coloured flash cards with
large images are utilized as convenient, low cost teaching aids.
Since the stress is on the idea that the
younger a child is, the better equipped is he to learn, the method is focused on
rapid flashing of information through cards. The child is taught systematically
to synchronise two of his sense organs, namely his eyes and ears. Even as the
words are being flashed, the word is called out. The child learns to assimilate
skilfully the two pieces of information being given. The baby is taught to see a
word, hear it and know it simultaneously. The child is taught a word as a
complete unit of sound and its meaning.
Rapid acquisition of basic reading and verbal
skills in multiple languages occurs naturally by exposing the child to whole
words as objects on flash cards repetitively for very brief periods. Story
telling is used to make learning fun and to communicate basic values of
goodness, beauty, harmony, responsibility and right conduct.
is not so much taught a language as much as a skill to acquire and learn as many
languages as his environment will permit. And when
the child is capable of logic he is shown
its various components of alphabets and syllables. Similarly, the child
is taught numerals before numbers and functions in mathematics. Encyclopaedic
knowledge is taught to a child by first teaching bits of
information about any topic. The ring of knowledge is slowly enlarged
until it encompasses and includes other topics too. The ring grows big enough to
move from topics to subject to interdisciplinary ideas. The result is a very
broad based learning, a very wide foundation
to understanding, assimilating and finally creating new ideas.
Information on people and other living things, places, history,
geography, and other cultures are presented to the child in the form of stories,
pictorial information and explanations combined together to present facts in a
living, integrated context rather than as a series of separate divorced
subjects. For this, an extensive range of printed books are used as well as our
own home-made flash cards.
Audio visuals, including video films on nature, science, language
development, etc. and computers using multimedia CDs to teach sciences,
geography and history are also important learning tools.
Rapid acquisition of basic math skills is achieved through the use of
number line method which enables the child to physically experiment and act out
different combinations of addition and subtraction.
In India, the average age of learning to read simple stories is 8 years.
Yet, in Primrose School, despite the very brief time exposure, very average
children are able to read simple Tamil and English stories by the end of 15
months, in lower Kindergarten, or around 4 or 4 ˝ years of age. During the same
period, the children have also learned to recognize all the states of India, the
geography of the country, the continents, peoples of the world and a wide range
of plant and animal species.
By 5 years of age, or upper KG level this last year, most of the
children at Primrose were able to read at least 2000 words in English and Tamil.
Many of the children on entering the school had no prior knowledge of the
In the first year the school engaged four women with teaching
credentials and successfully trained them in these methods. The trainees learned
and now regularly apply these methods for teaching our children and they also
actively participate in the design of lessons and production of the teaching
materials. Every year the teachers undergo further training for the next grade.
This training is carried out by the Correspondent of the school, Mrs. Aruna
Raghavan, a highly qualified former high school teacher who is proficient in
these new methods adapted to Indian conditions.
Although there was initial skepticism about the effectiveness of these
new methods from families of the first year children, parents have become proud
of their children and the school is rapidly becoming recognized as offering the
best quality education available in the town.
Over the past two decades, similar methods have been tested and proven
effective in homes and schools in many different countries and social
environments around the world. The effort at Primrose School demonstrates that
these same methods can be successfully applied in India
with urban children of lower, middle and upper class parents, whose
understanding of education is the prevalent idea of memorization techniques.
of this Project
The Society plans to expand the school
each year to take in new students at pre-school level and progressively add
classes up to and through the 12th standard. This will require a gradual
expansion of the teaching staff and addition of new classrooms each year.
Since the student to teacher ratio is quite high, with optimal levels of
15 students per teacher, the overhead costs of running the school are more than
normal. Most of the best schools now existing in Pondicherry have approximately
65 students per teacher.
Once this school is established as a model and the
results of rapid reading, joyful learning, curiosity, and creativity are seen in
all the students, the surrounding schools in the town will be encouraged to
adopt similar methods of teaching. Doman’s methods can be enhanced by
combining the classroom education that he advocates with computer-aided learning
and with skill-based vocational training for all students of 7 years of age and
older. By this means, students in rural areas would be able to acquire high
levels of both academic knowledge and practical life-oriented work skills before
graduation from High School. This education and training will better equip them
for success in life than the average college educated student in India today.
Already this new method has attracted
the attention of the Indian government. In
July 2000 the Member for Education, for India’s Planning Commission, Dr. K.
Venkatasubramaniam, visited Primrose School in order to assess the method and
its applicability to a wider level in Indian primary schools.
Primrose School will expand only as funds permit.
Already a sum of $95,000 has
been spent on running the school for the first two years, purchase of land and
beginning of construction. A further sum of $150,000 is planned for the
construction of the ground floor this year. (see Appendix A).
The following expansion projects are proposed for the year 2002:
Rapid computerisation of the school is very much desired. A full-fledged
computer laboratory with 30 terminals and a server large enough to handle the
software needed for all 12 grades is proposed to be built on the 1st
floor. It is proposed that each
grade would have access to the computer lab for one hour every other day
starting from 2nd grade.
Doman’s methods can be enhanced by combining the classroom education
that he advocates with computer-aided learning, which accelerates reading skills
and enhances creativity. A computer lab is essential to our school for the
1. Thinking processes: Computer-based
technologies provide support for thinking processes. Technology provides
opportunities for acquiring problem-solving skills -- either through
instructional software designed to teach problem solving or through the many
requirements for solving problems that naturally emerge when one is trying to
use computer tools to accomplish a task.
2. Self-esteem: Technology
stimulates motivation and self-esteem. Technology
is the ultimate carrot for students. It is something they want to master.
Learning to use computers enhances the children’s self-esteem and makes them
excited about coming to school.
3. Preparation for future: Technology
prepares students for the future. Both higher education and the world of work
will be infused with technology in future. Schools have a responsibility to give
students--and especially students from low-income homes--the confidence and
skills in using such technology that they will need after graduation.
gain a sense of empowerment from learning to control the computer and to use it
in ways they associate with the real world. Students, even at the elementary
school level, are able to acquire an impressive level of skill with a broad
range of computer software. They can handle more complex assignments and
do more with higher-order skills because of the supports and capabilities
provided by technology
5. Value of work: Technology is highly valued within the
Indian culture. It is something that costs money and that bestows the power to
add value. By giving students technology tools, we will implicitly give weight
and importance to their school activities. Students are very sensitive to this
message that they, and their work, are important
6. Collaboration: Collaboration is fostered for obvious
reasons when students are assigned to work in pairs or small groups for work at
a limited number of computers. Students who have mastered specific computer
skills generally derive pride and enjoyment from helping others.
Projected cost of Computer Lab:
size: 111 sq. metres at Rs. 5400/sq. metre construction cost
needed: 30 pentium computers @ Rs. 40,000 ea
2000 Server software
conditioners – split type 2 nos.1.5 tons
and chairs -- 30 nos
today’s exchange rate = approx
A library with books from kindergarten level
up to 12th grade will be an essential part of this method of
education. As in education in Western countries, children will be encouraged to
begin researching and writing original essays on various subjects using the
library as resource. This is contrary to the prevalent educational system in
India where children are taught only to memorize particular texts.
will not only be a place for reading and research, but also a place to access to
Internet and expose children to global knowledge. It will be stocked with the
latest CDs in primary education syllabus as well as a full range of textbooks,
fiction, encyclopedias, etc.
The library would require a minimum of ten
computer terminals allowing access to the Internet on ISDN lines.
cost of Library:
75 square metres @ Rs. 6400/sq. metre
computers with Internet connection
UPS 2 kva
equipment (Xerox, printer)
racks (book racks) 8 ft. height x 10 ft
tables 3.5 ft. by 10 ft
1.5 ton split airconditioners
ceiling @ Rs. 150/sq. foot
Rs. 1,850,000 ($ 40,000)
Projected Financials (amount committed by the
Society for construction of new campus)
June 2001 – June 2002
Projected cost of construction of compound wall, ground floor, 6
classrooms, science lab, staff room, toilets (total 8000 sq. ft),
administration block (1100 sq ft.), two bus sheds, playground,
watchman house, courtyard, basketball and volleyball courts, and
Rs. 7,000,000 ($150,000)
Projected cost of office equipment
(computers, printer, Xerox etc ) and furniture for administrative block,
furniture for 5 classrooms, lab equipment, infirmary furniture, staff room
Rs. 1,000,000 ($21,000)