In Conversation With Prashant Kumar, Founder Of The Apprentice Project

the apprentice project happy child
When I was a little girl, I hated school with a passion. Back then, I was unaware of how important quality schooling is for a child and how I was privileged enough to be in a private school. Today, I am fully aware of the dismal state of most government schools in India and how the students enrolled in these schools are set up for failure in adult life.

I have always wanted to do something about this and I got the opportunity to do so when I came across The Apprentice Project on Instagram. The Apprentice Project is an organization in Pune that empowers students from low-income schools through choice based learning. I got in touch with one of the founders, Prashant Kumar, and interviewed him for the blog so that more people can come to know of the amazing work TAP is doing.

How did The Apprentice Project (TAP) come into being?

The idea of TAP originated from experiences during Teach for India fellowships. The grassroots level teaching experience in Government schools was a revelation that brought us face-to-face with the problems of educational inequity in India.

Apart from the lack of quality education, what strongly hit us was the lack of choice the students had. They are mostly resigned to the belief that their current realities determine the limits of what they can be in the future. Also, we realized that the current education system neither builds essential socio-emotional life-skills nor gives much needed real-world exposure to the student. The schools realized that such opportunities are needed, but lacked the capacity or expertise to enable.

We also believed that there are skilled people in society who would be passionate to share their proficiency in these areas with the children keen to learn it. Thus started the story of us piloting this unique initiative in 5 schools in 2016 to give children the option to choose to learn what they are passionate about in Arts & Crafts, Dance, Drama, Sports, Computer programming, etc. This project initiative during our fellowship later blossomed into an organization.

TAP clearly believes in holistic education. Who or what inspired this mindset?

Our fellowship period made us realize that over 300 million children from low-income communities across India are deprived of the choice to decide their path and also the skill and exposure to pursue it, something which we generally take for granted. The trigger for starting something towards holistic education came from these experiences in our Teach for India fellowship. It was rooted in our belief that education should be with the child at the center and must give them the choice to learn what they love.

Also, all individuals should have the option to choose their path and be what they want to be. Understanding the self and deciding the direction to take based on one’s innate interest to fulfill one’s potential should be fundamental to each individual. Our mindset was on the firm conviction that essential socio-emotional skills, real-world exposure, and opportunities to explore aspirations are the cornerstones which empower students to realize who they are and achieve what they want to be.

At TAP, you know the importance of co-curricular activities and impart essential life skills to your students. How prevalent is this in today’s schools?

Government/low-income schools lack the platform for multi-pronged co-curricular learning to cater to different learning interests of children. Most of these schools do not even have a single option for children to pursue outside academic learning. Though Government mandates at least arts in all schools, that also is almost non-existent.
Even if there are art and sports options in schools, it still limits the choice for students who may not be interested in either. And moreover, if at all art and sports periods are there in a school, learning is not focused on building socio-emotional life-skills consciously.

As a society, what can we do to contribute to your cause?

To start with, we need to spread awareness about the importance of holistic education. The sheer mad rush towards academic scores creates an environment of rote learning without any cognitive development. And sadly, it discards students who do not excel in academics as failures.

We should recognize that different children have different learning abilities and interests. If we judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will spend its entire life thinking it is a failure. Secondly, people should come forward increasingly to share their skills to enhance learning for children. In fact, the government is also driving skill-based volunteering through platforms like DigiSevak. We also appeal to people to come forward and support financially to help us propel this movement towards holistic education.

Support The Apprentice Project by donating money to them here.

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