The Heritage School, Gurgaon


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The Heritage School envisions a learning community where each is free to be and grow towards the realisation of his/her highest human potential through a harmonious integration of spirit, heart, mind and body. The Heritage dharma revolves around 6 core values- Authenticity, excellence, respect, inclusion, attentiveness and freedom. What this manifests in is a community where each individual feels valued and at ease with who they are, while constantly trying to “find” themselves and evolve.

The school stands out for its achievement in making experiential learning a reality not just in primary or middle school, but also in high school amidst the pressures of standardized testing and grades. Another seeming contradiction that the school is able to bridge effectively is the gap between 21st century skills with “softer” skills like morality, ethics to develop more holistic skills such as collaboration, and ability to absorb multiple perspectives at a much deeper level of analysis and thinking that will see them succeed in life, work and play. 

EACH Alignment at THS is extremely strong and manifests across the school and all its stakeholders. In classroom practices and pedagogy, be it Pre K or Class 12, focus is on learning from everyday experiences. For instance, in the pre-primary grades children learn numbers and alphabets by seeing and observing them in their environment instead of learning them through drill. From the middle school onwards students go on an experiential learning retreat every year, which is designed to enhance and bring alive a contextual issue they are studying. Even in the higher grades, when most other schools tend to become extremely generic and conventional, Heritage manages to retain the authenticity in learning. Speakers and professionals from various fields regularly come and interact with the children, bringing with them practical nuances of application of various contexts. Students regularly do role plays and debates, which helps them see a problem from multiple perspectives and allows them to come up with workable solutions to real problems.

School practices and values allow for the EACH culture to thrive and get embedded across the whole school. Empathy for instance is inculcated in subtle ways through the school years. From sharing fruits in pre-primary, to participating in socially relevant plays, to discussions on topical social issues, and making change through the active citizenship center – school practices nurture thinking from multiple perspectives and also provide a platform to voice these perspectives. The classrooms themselves are organized based on a “crew” system, with six students to each crew, shifting the responsibility of teaching from the teacher to all students and from the individual to the group. However, the standout characteristic of the school is the enabling and empowering culture that it continuously provides its students. When sixth graders in the school wanted to change the food served in the canteen, based on a nutrition and sustainability study they conducted, the school facilitated the process and provided all the necessary supports. Similarly, when middle school students conducted a green audit of the school and found it lacking in several aspects, the school went to lengths to revamp their buses, move to 100% water harvesting, changed all the lights in the school and installed solar panels.

And this unstinting support is extended by the school even beyond its boundaries. Students saw that a stretch of road in Gurgaon did not have street lights and was therefore potentially dangerous and unsafe. They identified the government authority for the stretch and found that two different bodies were responsible for it. Through persistence and repeated effort and the school’s intervention, they were able to get one government body to put street lights in their stretch of the road.

Teachers and parents of the school are as much of changemakers as the students and this stems from the school’s philosophy that unless teachers themselves are empowered they cannot possibly empower students. Heritage teachers spend as much as 300 hours per year in training and development and go for regular camps and offsite workshops which are aimed at enhancing their creativity as teachers. New teacher inductions focus on ‘awakening the teacher within’ and are targeted at knowing oneself better, rather than teaching practices or classroom management. An example of teacher changemakers is the “I am a Teacher” initiative at Heritage which acts as a teaher training and development center cum innovation lab. We also heard a story of how special needs teachers, during a school evacuation, took off their duppatas of their own accord and used them as shields to protect the children from the scorching heat. The story really stands out as an example of the deep love, care, and responsibility teachers feel for their students.

 Parents, too, are active influencers and torch bearers of the school vision. They actively advocate Heritage’s still relatively new and unconventional approach to teaching and learning to their acquaintances and the relative merit of this approach to the more traditional form of schooling prevalent in elite schools in North India.

 

Manit Jain, the founder of the school, is a thinker and a doer. He comes across as someone who is quietly passionate about the idea of reimagining education in India. A reflective individual, for him education is about unleashing rather than leashing, about connecting to your authentic self and as much about teacher empowerment and transformation as student. The school’s ethos of having a clear vision, having a working plan towards that, being unafraid to step out on to the balcony to get a clearer view of the progress, and re-creating everything if it doesn’t fit or improving oneself constantly all seem to be an embodiment of Manit’s own personality and way of working. Manit does not just wish to create a great school, but for schooling to transform in totality. He has succeeded in creating a working model for a Sudbury-like education that works at scale. 

The Change Team at Heritage is so aligned with the vision of the Change Leader that it is actually hard to point to a single Change Leader within the school. A sense of ownership and pride is clearly evident across the entire change team, but in addition to that two aspects really stand out – their ability to reflect and their desire to constantly be open to ideas. The team is the first to admit that they have only achieved a fraction of what they set out to achieve and that their biggest failure would be boastful and content with what they have managed to achieve thus far.

 

Their specific mission for the next five years is to build a scalable 21st century education model in the mainstream, so that it allows for a systemic change. In this model, students will be:

1) architects of societies that are socially, culturally, economically as well as environmentally sustainable 

2) able to engage others in constructive change and in making it happen

3) ethically conscious and aware