‘We Do Not Believe in Degrees’

By Surya Venu – KOCHI

Published: 07th January 2014 11:33 AM

An university where one does not require a certificate, or do an entrance exam or get whopping marks to join. An institute where one is not judged or evaluated by the marks one scores but by honest feedback. Is that possible? Well, it is possible says Manish Jain. He is a leader in Alternative Education and co-founder of Swaraj University, based at Udaipur, Rajastan. He was in Kochi to attend the GIFTIVAL 2014.

Excerpts from an interview:

What are the objectives of Swaraj University?

We started Swaraj University four years ago. Our focus is self-designed learning and social entrepreneurship, including programmes to strengthen local culture and ecology. To do this, you do not require a degree or certificate. We accept 80 per cent and 30 per cent marks alike. We do not bifurcate students based on the marks they score.

How different is it from conventional methods of learning?

Each person has their own talents and dreams. Our curriculum starts by identifying those attributes, rather than telling the students to learn mathematics or history or any other preordained syllabus. Based on their input, we provide training.

How do you evaluate a student?

The question is why are we evaluating? I don’t think exams are the right way to evaluate an individual. Everybody is talented. So we evaluate based on the feedback we get. Our current education system does not give any feedback and does not tell you how to improve. That is why we have set up a system where you can evaluate yourself. Thereafter, your friends and colleagues will evaluate you, apart from mentors. It is not only marks. Feedback is critical to learning. Marks wont improve you, but feedback can.

What is the duration of the programme?

Two years. In the second year we introduce the idea of Social Entrepreneurship to our students. Rather than seeking employment our students will be able to create employment without exploiting the planet. We do not take any fees. The students can make a contribution as they please.

What are the courses being offered?

We do not have any course or syllabus. Each student is given an opportunity to design a course and syllabus for himself. You can study any number of subjects as you wish. We have a student who is learning film-making, energy healing, theatre and bicycle power technology. So we have no restriction on the type or number of courses one wishes to pursue. We have a multidisciplinary approach

How many students are there?

Right now there are 60 students. We have over 250 faculty from all over India. And they are not sitting in the classroom and teaching. They are out there in the  community doing real projects and teaching from there.

Does your institution issue any certificate?

We do not give any degrees or certificates, because we do not believe in degrees. People hire our students not based on the degree they have got but on the work they have done. Many companies have come forward to hire our students without any certificate.

How did people react when you came up this idea which is quite a deviation from conventional methods of learning?

We have received a good response from students and parents across India.

There are a lot of parents out there who want their kids to do some thing meaningful. Right now we face a big crisis of having so many unemployed people, and on the other hand, we have companies complaining that they are not getting efficient people.

What are the prospects of this system in Kerala?

The time has now come to imagine and to rethink the prevailing education system. Our education is not only about imparting knowledge. It deals with the complete development of an individual. Keralites are giving a positive reaction towards this approach. That is one of the reasons we chose Kerala to organise the first ‘GIFTIVAL’ of India. At GIFTVAL people share their experiences of living with gift-culture, inspiring others and creating a living-learning experience in their community. All the participants are invited to take part in the spirit of sharing, and become more connected with each other and the exploration of what it means to live from the heart.

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