Education Disruptors on Two Continents: Shilpa and Manish Jain

I met Shilpa and Manish Jain (they are siblings) years ago when they were in the Boston area and we’ve stayed in touch. When I met them, Shilpa was interested in creating alternative learning places and Manish was interested in helping the less privileged find suitable educations for themselves. I want to share with you how effective they’ve been with their populist approach to educational change by highlighting their most recent efforts.

Today, Shilpa Jain is the executive director of YES!, helping to run camps and Jams that build community and co-learning experiences. Her next education jam is in Vermont this spring.

Shilpa worked with her brother Manish in India for several years, helping him establish Shikshantar, a resource center for homeschooling and unschooling in Udaipur. Manish has founded many other projects as well, and I want to mention his most recent one: The Hack the Education System Fellowship, an eight-week program in India that also starts this spring. Manish writes:

We are issuing a call to rise up like the child in the story [The Emperor Has No Clothes—PF] and expose the Naked Emperor of Formal Education and Schooling. This is a fraudulent system of learning whose purpose is to convert beautiful diverse human beings into robot-like "human resources" and into stupid global consumers. It is time to stop pretending that schools are spaces for meaningful learning or that they can be fixed. It is time to free our imaginations about learning and living from the suffocating, monoculture stranglehold of factory schooling and the global economy. It is time...

Manish will be familiar to those of you saw the movie Schooling The World, which I whole-heartedly recommend you watch if you haven’t. It is never easy to take a contrarian position about universal compulsory schooling, which most people view as a blessing, not a curse. But activists like Manish and Shilpa Jain remind us that we can educate people without resorting to factory schooling methods and economic models that turn resources away from local families and communities and give them to distant experts and monolithic school systems. Manish writes, “The modern factory-schooling education system is one of the greatest crimes against humanity. One hundred years from now, we will look back at the violence of the culture of schooling and ask how could we have done this to innocent children.”