Auroville Youth Education, Research and Training

This project aimed to bring education and vocational training to children and youth living in the villages of the Auroville bio-region, who had so far been excluded due to social or economic disadvantage. The project, aimed at children from kindergarten up to school leaving age, targeted each age group according to specific needs. The project objectives were ultimately to improve disadvantaged local people’s access to, and control over, education which is appropriate to their needs, by ensuring that it targeted the poorest in the Auroville bio-region.

The project worked in consultation with local community groups, as well as district and state level education authorities, which gave unequivocal support.

The project was based at 3 existing schools, run by the Auroville Township, which serve many of the Tamil villages in the Auroville bio-region :

Ilaignarkal School

Ilaignarkal School is led by an Aurovilian Tamil woman professor – Meenakshi, who is a trained social worker and a specialist in community development. The school, provides vocational training for 10 -14 year olds and evening school classes for young workers for the villages is run on an interactive basis with its students.

The children attending Ilaignarkal school in the evening benefit from the opportunity to continue learning and upgrading their educational and technical skills. Day pupils are prepared for employment through apprenticeships in neighboring production units linked with classes at the centre.

The aim of this project was to increase the local impact of the school by increasing its intake from its village catchment area and extending its activities within the village communities it serves. To do this the project recruited more teachers and upgraded its facilities.

The old facilities were sadly inadequate, with no covered classrooms, desks or chairs for the students. Classes are taken outside with no lighting – evening classes had to finish when it got dark! Despite these handicaps the achievements of Ilaignarkal School are remarkable.

To tackle this problem the project constructed new school buildings, comprising two classrooms, a multi-purpose hall, mini-kitchen and toilets. The building is climatically appropriate to minimise the need for artificial ventilation and lighting, and was built using compressed mud brick technology developed in Auroville. The landscaping was developed to enable as many activities as possible can still be conducted outdoors.

Isai Ambalam School

Isai Ambalam School emphasises the development of educational methods specially suited to children of illiterate parents, and for children who have dropped out of the normal school system. One section focuses on preparing dropout children, from age 9 – 14, for either work or open examinations. There is also a crèche and kindergarten for children of working mothers. The programme included research into new educational methods appropriate to these children. One line of research was an early reading method, the “Glen Doman” method based on a joyful and playful atmosphere enabling the pupils to identify more than 2000 words in English and Tamil before the age of four. The other method translated and trialled, was the “School-in-a Box” method, developed by the Rishi Valley Satellite School Programme with tribal children (supported by a grant by the British ODA – now DFID). The aim with both these methods was to gradually introduce them into local government schools, thus giving benefit to a wider range of children.

Here the aim of the project was to develop innovative methods of education suitable to the local situation, while at the same time educating increasing numbers of local drop-outs and pre-school children. The project experimented with a variety of teaching techniques for slow learners, and continuously trained and encouraged increasing numbers of teachers to use innovative teaching methods enhancing the integrated development of the children.

The project’s aims were:
  • The six existing buildings made of temporary materials were refurbished using more durable materials to reduce the need for constant repair and maintenance.
  • The “Joy of Learning” method was trans-created into the Tamil language for testing at the school. This enabled skills in Tamil, English, Maths, Science, and Social Sciences to be taught through self-directed learning methods, which could be replicated for use at other schools in the bio-region and in Tamil Nadu State. During the 3 yrs project duration this enabled 70 drop-out children aged 9-14 from needy families to acquire basic learning.
  • The Glenn Doman early reading method was establish within the school’s curriculum to enable 70 pre-school children from needy families to learn to read during the 3 yr duration of the project.
  • Innovative teacher training programmes, training workshops and study trips were set up.
  • Educational materials, training materials and books, as well as First Aid and hygiene materials were purchased.
  • Nutritious snacks and meals were provided each day to demonstrate healthy ways of eating.

Life Education

Life Education Centre is especially for girls, providing training for 30 disadvantaged girls between the ages of 14 – 25, in tailoring, needlework and typing, with an emphasis on counselling and gender awareness.

The project carried out the following:
  • A scholarship system was set up so that the parents of 18 “working age” children (initially) agreed to let them continue in school to follow an apprenticeship programme.
  • Stipends were made available for 75 young women trainees (over 3 yrs) so their parents would allow them to follow vocational training rather than unskilled employment. This focus enabled these girls to learn vocational skills in a gender-aware atmosphere.
  • At Life Education Centre informal training in vocational skills such as typing and tailoring in a 2 year course, were provided for 3 groups of 15 girls ages 14 – 25, in a context of gender issues awareness
  • To strengthen the Life Education Centre facilities, existing buildings made of temporary materials were refurbished using more durable materials to reduce the need for constant repair and maintenance.

New Creation Bilingual School

New Creation Bilingual School is run principally for the children of the adjacent local Tamil village of Kuilapalayam. New Creation is a community of Auroville which, since 1983 has offered free elementary education to the children of Kuilapalayam village. 250 children attend the school, which involves crèche, Kindergarten and Standards 1 to 7.

New Creation had not had the resources to implement effective vocational training courses for those children who needed to earn a living with their hands. This project enabled non-academically inclined children to be directed into vocational courses for part of each day while the academically inclined continued full-time in the classroom. A range of one year vocational training courses have been made available to those children who have shown interest and capability in one of the training areas to be offered. On completion of these, the youth are equipped: to take up work in their home village or in Auroville itself; to work for larger projects in the bio-region; to set up as entrepreneurs and undertake individual contracts.

The project has enabled the purchase of land and the building of four training centres for Woodwork, Metalwork, Tailoring and Electrical training, and the employment of teachers for the training programmes.

It was decided that this project would be the first phase of the development of these facilities, with the second phase being the enlargement of the workshops, providing attached classrooms.

The Pestalozzi Children’s Village Trust

The Pestalozzi Children’s Village Trust had been forging educational links with Auroville for several years and has supported, young people from poor Tamil families in the Auroville area, to take a 2 year International Baccalaureate (IB) Diploma course at Hastings College of Art and Technology in East Sussex, UK. The Pestalozzi International Development Education Centre saw it as crucial to the concept of development awareness that similar linked Centres were set up in different countries. The Trust therefore supported the establishment of links between a local primary school (Seddlescombe School) and New Creation Bilingual School, with teacher exchanges taking place between the two schools, and joint projects undertaken.

Project Summary

Total Cost of Project € 291,843
Date of Commencement January 2001
Date of Completion March 2004
Project Donor Grant
European Commission € 132,477
AVIUK (from its donors, including “Gateway” donation) € 68,200
Auroville Foundation € 79,771
Others € 11,395