15 Best-Known Alternative Schools in India

It’s admission season again! Parents of upper kindergarten kids, you’ll be in a scramble to find the best schools to enroll your children into. Worry not, there are plenty of places where your child will receive the education that you’d like for her. Have you decided what’s best for her, though? In order to make the the right decision for your children, it’s important to be well-informed about the different kinds of syllabi schools utilise in India. For that very reason, we created a comparison of ICSE vs CBSE vs the State curriculum for you earlier. But, for the first time, we’d like to discuss not schools on the basis of syllabus, but rather the method of schooling that we think your kids should benefit from.

Enter alternative education. What is this new-fangled term and how does it differ from the ‘regular’ education that your kids are undergoing right now? It’s exactly what the name implies – for the very nature of being different from the mainstream manner of teaching, it’s known as alternative. So anything that doesn’t comprise fifty desks and chairs in a classroom, a teacher droning in a monotone, asking kids to mug up answers for tests and exams without understanding them and suggesting that there’s only one right answer to every question. In essence, these schools contain a fewer number of students when compared to your usual school, work around interactive teaching and greater individual attention, encourage learning beyond the academic, invite introspection and emphasise on qualitative rather than quantitative education.

Most of them don’t go by tests and exams to assess whether their students have learnt their due for the year. Every teacher remains aware of the level of work a student is capable of, and instead of a prepping them for annual exams at the end of each grade, they make sure their children study consistently all year around. For this very reason, these schools promote learning that’s much more holistic in their pedagogy when compared to the learning that your ‘normal’ private schools push for.

Even if your child has already entered primary school, it’s not too late to make a switch even now, if it means that she’ll be exposed to a more rounded upbringing. So, instead of listing the top 10 international schools in Bangalore, this year, we’ve tried to put together the best known alternative schools in India, so that whichever part of the country you’re in, you could consider it for your little (or not so little) one.

The Jiddu Krishnamurti Schools:

“A school is a place where one learns about the totality, the wholeness of life. Academic excellence is absolutely necessary, but a school includes much more than that. It is a place where both the teacher and the student explore, not only the outer world, the world of knowledge, but also their own thinking, their own behavior.”

That was J Krishnamurti on education for you. He was a philosopher who emphasised on the necessity of self-inquiry, which becomes an integral part of what the seven schools he founded practice. Five of these are in India, run by the Krishnamurti Foundation of India, and they’re all known not only for their small numbers, incredible student-teacher ratios and – surprise surprise – lack of uniforms, but also for their campuses sprawled over tens of acres in the greenest regions. They hold no tests or exams from the first to ninth standard (they don’t have kindergarten), introducing their students straight to the board exams in the 10th grade.

The J Krishnamurti schools in India are:

  1. The School, KFI, Chennai

  2. The Valley School, Bangalore

  3. Rishi Valley School, Chittoor District, Andhra Pradesh

  4. Sahyadri School, Pune

  5. Rajghat Besant School, Varanasi

  6. Centre For Learning, Varadenahalli, Bangalore:

Inspired by the philosophy of Jiddu Krishnamurti, CFL is a semi-residential school that explores a non-linear hierarchy. Run by a group of teachers (you read right, it has no principal!), its focus is a self-aware education, encompassing academics, dialogue, pottery, art, ecology, sports and lots of walks for just 70-odd students from class one to 12. Its campus, just like those of the Krishnamurti schools, is set in a deciduous forest about 45 km from Bangalore, and is spattered with rocks that you’ll see students climbing frequently. If you’d like to explore this school for your children, you should know that its teachers expect a high level of parental involvement too.

The Steiner Schools

Born out of Dr Rudolph Steiner’s Anthroposophy, Waldorf education stresses on the necessity of incorporating local cultures into their daily routines. Unlike with the Krishnamurti schools or CFL, most of these take in kids from kindergarten. What this method of education is best known for is its Main Lesson, which the teacher teaches over a period of three to four weeks. It involves a total immersion method, which, according to Steiner, helps in concentration, deepens understanding of the subject and makes use of the natural rhythm of learning. The lower and middle schools are secure spaces that don’t call for exams – it is only in the upper school that students are prepared for their boards.

There are both Waldorf/Rudolf Steiner Schools as well as Waldorf-inspired Schools in India.

Our list only comprises the first kind:

7. Tridha, Mumbai

8. Inodai, Mumbai

9. Bangalore Steiner School, Bangalore

10. Sloka, The Hyderabad Waldorf School, Hyderabad

11. Abhaya, Hyderaba

12. Prerana Waldorf School, Hyderabad

13. Ukti, New Delhi

Other Alternative Schools:

Most other schools that are outside of the mainstream combine various alternative philosophies to come up with what suits them best. Because they have to also align to a syllabus, many schools reach a middle path that allows for standard practices in terms of testing, but teaching systems and lifestyles continue to be alternative. Here are some of those.

14. Prakriya Green Wisdom School, Bangalore. 

Known for its non-linear interaction structures, green campuses and incredible understanding values where the child comes first, Prakriya is home to some of Bangalore’s best alternative education.

15. Pallikoodam, Kottayam.

Founded by activist Mary Roy, writer Arundhati Roy’s mother, Pallikoodam believes in holistic learning and using the body as much as the mind. Almost all graduates from Pallikoodam display talent, skill and the confidence to think independently.

We’ve given you a list; now it’s time to set your brain in motion. What kind of alternative school would you prefer for your child? Each of these makes are affiliated to boards, but they don’t strictly follow the ICSE, IGCSE or CBSE syllabus until they begin preparing their students for their 1oth exams. So, do make an informed choice. Every child deserves the best, and the onus falls on the parent to decide what really is the best for their kids.

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