VII. Education

Early Childhood Education

In the mid-1990s, the Society began a research project to evaluate new educational methods developed in the USA by the Institute for the Development of Human Potential to accelerate early childhood learning of language, math and general knowledge skills. After sending several teams to study these educational methods, in the mid-1990s the Society sponsored establishment of an experimental school at Arasavanangadu, a village in rural Tamil Nadu, to test the application of these methods for teaching first-generation educated village children. This project has achieved dramatic results in accelerating the acquisition of both English and Tamil language reading and comprehension skills as well as a very broad range of general knowledge of first-generation educated 3-8 year old village children. Initial results indicate that children educated by these methods can acquire the mental knowledge and skills of a sixth standard rural education within the first two to three years. The success of the project received widespread attention after publication of an article in the Hindu by former Governor and Union Minister Mr. C. Subramaniam. The Society also developed a detailed plan for establishment of a teachers training institute to disseminate this approach which was submitted to all the state governments in India.

Farm Schools

In 1981, the Society evolved a novel strategy for improving the transfer of agricultural technology to farmers. The strategy calls for the establishment of a Farm School in each village on lands leased out from farmers. Classes are conducted for young farmers in the field and the students are paid for their field labour, so they can earn while they learn. The income from cultivation covers the entire cost of operating the school. The first farm school was established by E.I.D. Parry & Co. near their sugar factory at Nellikuppam, South Arcot District. One year classes in cane cultivation were introduced. In the very first year, the students obtained a yield of 56 tons per acre, nearly twice the average achieved by farmers in the district. In 2005, the National Farmers Commission of India, acting on the Society’s recommendation, proposed establishment of 50,000 farm schools throughout the country to disseminate the latest technology to farmers.

Craftsman Training Institutes

In 1981, MSS submitted a proposal to the Indian Planning Commission for establishment of a national network of craftsman training institutes to complement the higher level vocational training institutions for industrial skills and engineering.

Development Education

In 1980, the Society presented a proposal to Dr. Maduri Shah, Chairman of the University Grants Commission, for introduction of courses in Development Education at the graduate and post-graduate level in Indian universities and colleges. The purpose of the courses was to impart a practical knowledge to the students about the development process taking place in the country and the opportunities for gainful self-employment as an alternative to salaried jobs.

A research project was undertaken to evolve the syllabus for both B.A. and M.A. level courses. On the suggestion of the UGC Chairman, copies of the B.A. course outline were circulated to the Vice-Chancellors of all Indian universities. About a dozen universities responded with serious interest. The first M.A. level course based on the Society’s syllabus was introduced at Annamalai University in 1982 and was later extended to include M.Phil and Ph.D. as well. Lectures and reading materials were specially developed for the course. The course content was commended by officials of UNESCO in Paris.

In 1982, the Society organized a seminar on Development Education at Madras in collaboration with Annamalai University and the Institute for Development Education at Madras with a grant from the Indian Council for Social Science Research. The purpose of the seminar was to project the need for these courses and examine their relevance in several major areas - undergraduate and post-graduate social science, engineering, agriculture, journalism, management, and public administration. The main theme of the seminar was the need for a re-orientation of the educational system to solve the problem of educated unemployment by imparting to students knowledge of entrepreneurial opportunities and the motivation to avail of these opportunities.

Computerised Vocational Training Programme

The Society has formulated strategies for widespread application of computers as an instrument for vocational training and distance education. One strategy calls for establishment of a national network consisting of 50,000 private computerized vocational training institutes known as “Job Shops”. Society staff conducted discussions with the Union Planning Commission and Government of Tamil Nadu as well as leading companies in the software industry including Microsoft, NIIT, Wipro and NASSCOM, which endorsed the strategy. The findings of this project were presented at the 8th National Conference on e-Governance in Chennai during November 2003.

Primrose School

Primrose School was established in 1999 in an urban area of Pondicherry to demonstrate the efficacy of the innovative methods of child education. The school develops and applies experimental approaches including the extensive use of computers for self-directed learning and techniques developed by American educationist Dr. Glenn Doman for early childhood learning. In recent years, the school has been widely recognized as the most advanced institution for school education in Pondicherry. Primrose is affiliated to Council for the Indian School Certificate Examinations (CISCE). In 2012, the educational programme at Primrose School was extended to include 14 levels from pre-kindergarten up to the twelfth standard.