Schooling is an important phase of every individual’s life in the 21st century. It is quite evident that the education system has changed vastly from the Gurukul system practised traditionally in India. Since the British colonised us, we have been confined to classrooms and taught from textbooks rather than practical knowledge.
Owing to the current education system, jobs were redesigned to suit the candidate’s qualifications. Research suggests that this transition towards a classroom system has stifled curiosity and creativity in children.
Thankfully the situations have started to change. Parents have realised the need for schools that offer an education system in which children’s creativity, leadership and curiosity are nurtured. This is mainly because, apart from academic qualifications, employers look for a candidate’s personality, skills and hobbies, which determine how they work as a team.
When and how it all began
I interviewed my school principal, Mr Balamurali, who worked in the software field before starting our school, Greenvalley International School, Trivandrum.
When I asked him the core inspiration for starting our school, he said, “My daughter was born in 2009, and I realised during her initial years that schools are not what they should do. There was no focus on leadership development, and there was no personalisation. It was more of a personal need and requirement than anything else.”
The school started in 2012 with around only ten students. Over time, it has increased to 400-500 students!
Greenvalley: When every child is unique…
The school’s vision is to help at least 10,000 world-class leaders in various fields and domains by 2037. Mr Balamurali adds, ‘Our curriculum follows the ‘Play – The passion and Purpose approach’. It helps children develop their brains well through the initial years, explore various fields, get interested in something, and then work with a purpose in a domain or career later in their later years. It aligns with IGCSE and, to some extent, with IB. But, it is redesigned to support skill development and give personalised attention”.
Greenvalley School does not encourage classroom teaching and lets students explore and earn knowledge through various courses and activities. The education system is split into three stages – iPlay (2.5 to 7.5 years), iDiscover (7.5 to 12.5 years) and iLead (12.5 to 17.5 years). There are individual sessions for each student where the facilitator focuses on nurturing the skills in which the student is weak. This is termed a ‘Personalised Learning Plan’ (PLP) and is conducted after identifying the weaknesses of each student.
The Three Stages of Learning
iPlay – This stage is a research-backed neuroscience program primarily focusing on brain development. Mr Balamurali adds, “Children need to play to develop social, emotional, cognitive (thinking) and physical skills. Play helps children to learn how to communicate with other children, resolve conflicts and solve problems.”
iDiscover – This stage aims to make the child independent and a self-learner. Knowledge is imparted through hands-on projects and creative challenges and encourages students to explore the fields of Mathematics, Science, Humanities and Languages through critical thinking worksheets.
iLead – The last stage is designed to help students identify and prepare for careers in 18 broad fields. Mr Balamurals shares, “The career pathway is chosen after a thorough review based on the learner’s interests, more in-depth explorations of multiple fields/areas, strengths and weakness analysis, and social & family context.”
At this stage, textbooks are introduced to help students prepare for the board exams. Entrance and portfolio preparation for college admission are also taken care of at this stage.
Mr Balamurali says, “To be honest, there were no challenges from outside. My lack of knowledge in infrastructure, finance management, and people management was the most significant challenge. We were in a hurry to get everything right from the beginning, but it took a few more years before we even figured out our approach and curriculum.” On the other hand, it will be comparatively difficult for students from traditional schools to adapt to Greenvalley’s education system. Hence, direct admission after the age of ten is not encouraged.
Another challenge he mentioned was convincing parents about the success of the school’s curriculum. As there weren’t many references and success stories, it was difficult for the management to persuade parents to enrol their kids here. He adds, “Over time, due to the existing parents’ testimonials and, more importantly, the student’s success, it has become easier for us to convince the parents about the school’s success”. Confidence, Independent learning, and Better thinking abilities are a few positive changes the school has brought in children. Parent testimonials about their child’s speaking, reading, and writing abilities compared to other students have helped the school promote itself to a broader range of the community.
The school’s vision, facilitators and, more importantly, the loving children and their hard work is the key motivating factor that keeps him going even in difficult situations!
The main campus in Trivandrum is located in Vilappilsala, Peyad. It has classes from Pre-KG to Grade 12. The other two campuses in Vazhuthacaud and Pongumoodu are exclusively for iPlay. They also have two campuses in Chennai.
‘Greenvalley’, as the name suggests, is covered with dense greenery on four sides. All main campuses are located in serene areas detached from the city’s heart. It creates the perfect environment for kids to work and explore as it removes the disadvantages of being congested and noise pollution in the city. Though they are away from the city, reaching them is easy as the area is civilised.
My Life in Greenvalley
I joined Greenvalley in the 5th grade. Until then, I was studying in a Montessori school which followed the traditional classroom teaching and homework. Initially, I found coping with the new system challenging, as I wasn’t previously exposed to thinking out of the box. My first project was ‘My Family food choice‘. I had to collect data about what each of my family members consumed for 15 days, document it into an excel sheet, find out the nutritional value of every food item and conclude if they were on a balanced and healthy diet. I had a lot of work. Firstly, I was new to MS Excel and MS PowerPoint! I didn’t know how to operate both. But, my facilitators supported me, and they mentored me every day. Another challenge was finding out the nutritional value of each food item because some food we cook at home might not be something common. In these situations, I would have to find the nutritional value of every ingredient used in the dish’s preparation. I never expected to complete the project successfully. But I did it!
From this project, the knowledge that I gained was immense. I learnt how to work on MS Excel and PowerPoint, balanced diets and how it differs for people in different occupations; also, I was getting used to handling pressure. All of these skills are from one project! Later, I had the same project in 7th grade and could complete it more confidently and easily. This is just one example; there’s a lot more that I would love to talk about. For instance, this project is called ‘One Day with a Professional’. In this, I had to choose a profession I would like to take up in the future. Of course, this might not be what you are going to pursue. I chose an artist, and I had a visit an artist’s home. I spent around half a day with him and informally interviewed him about his daily routine and what inspires him. He showed me his workshop and artwork too. It was enlightening because I realised the hard work and dedication behind a person’s career life.
Now, I am in 11th grade. As we have to write board exams in 10th, 11th and 12th, we start preparing for that by attending lectures, practising past papers and involving ourselves in various discussions. This again doesn’t follow the proper classroom system, as students in the same class would have chosen different subjects! We also have another course named ‘Innovation Training’ where we get trained to define a problem and solve it innovatively through a specific process. So even when preparing for our board exams, we don’t let our creativity down. I attended various internship programmes, and that helped me filter out in which field I wanted to be in the future. For instance, in the 8th grade, I was highly obsessed with architecture, and as I had a passion for drawing, I thought I’ll become an architect. So, the school found a course for me to attend, where they were teaching high school students to prepare for NATA. Once I attended that course, I realised that drawing was only a hobby for me, and I would never enjoy it if I had to make it into something formal where others judge me based on it. Similarly, after going through this filtration process, I understood that my area was either Economics or Business, and I am currently pursuing that.
I am very happy at school as it moulded me into someone more valuable than I was when I joined here. It enhanced my creativity, helped me think critically, and made me mentally stronger. I will always be grateful to the faculty here as they constantly support my academic life. It is a pity that I only have one more year left at Greenvalley, but the foundation it laid in my life will stay forever with me!
Contributor: Nithya AS
About our Writing Program Student
Nithya is a grade 10 student studying at Greenvalley International School, Trivandrum, Kerala. She loves reading, painting, gardening and is also a Kalaripayattu practitioner. Besides, she enjoys spending time with nature and is always keen to contribute something to the environment.