There are always two curricula in schools: the overt curriculum and the hidden curriculum. In the case of most schools the overt curriculum is high scores in the final examinations. The hidden curriculum is the curbing of any tendencies to experimentation and discovery by the children because this would disturb the functioning of the overt curriculum. It is called “hidden” because of course it is not proclaimed in any brochure and not discussed by guardians or teachers as “curriculum.”
At Vidyashram our overt curriculum is to teach very strong skills to the children that will make them qualified in the future to choose careers of their choice. To this we add strategies of teaching and learning that are the best strategies universally available today to make learning a permanent and autonomous and pleasurable process. We produce children who are better than those of all schools around us, and probably in the country, in English, Social Studies, Science, and so on. They also understand research and writing, debate and presentation, independent study and creative projects.
Our hidden curriculum, then? We pride ourselves on our intellectual strengths and think that we have a certain critical approach to society, politics, and the arts that gives us freedom and agency. No doubt our hidden curriculum is to produce children largely in this image. We don’t want them so much to have answers, even on gender issues, as to be critical and reflexive. We also think that we are humanitarian. The children we produce should be deeply concerned about the fate of the earth, all its species, and especially fellow-humans. We teach this overtly too, but mostly we teach this in a hidden way, through the kinds of speech we prefer, the symbolic actions we choose and the rituals we devise.
In a nutshell: our curricula
(1) gives children the strongest bedrock skills in languages, sciences and arts to prepare them for leadership in a range of careers;
(2) purposefully teaches children to be innovators and discoverers through specific always-being-designed strategies;
(3) politicises them from an early age to care for their environment, animals, and fellow-humans;
(4) exposes them especially through the arts to think critically about society, class, gender, religion, and history, making the critical thinking itself a value; and
(5) sensitises them to understand how India and the world is changing around us, what “change” means, and how to be a responsible part of the change.
Difficult tasks? We think so! We do not underestimate the challenges of educating children in this curricular framework. We believe that everyone can be thus educated, however, with some amount of co-operation from families and a great deal of labour spent by us on research, teacher training and development of materials.