The Neel Bagh Experiment and David Horsburgh

  1. THE NEEL BAGH EXPERIMENT One idea, many forms Neel Bagh – A school started by David Horsburgh in Madanapalle district, Andhra Pradesh in 1972 which pioneered some of the most important ideas in education and teacher training in India.
  2. Acknowledgement This study on Neel Bagh and David Horsburgh would not have been possible without the support of the following individuals. Their time and efforts are much appreciated. Information, images and insights presented here is owed to them - Vijay Padki, Malathi, Usha, Narsimhan, Rohit Dhankar, Amukta Mahapatra, Prakash Iyer, Varadarajan, Amar Dixit and Nikhil Bangera. All the images used are shared with permission from Vijay Padki. The Neel Bagh Experiment 2
  3. Aim The study has three components – 1. A biographical account of David Horsburgh (see timeline) 2. Identify and analyze his work in education which was a response to a social situation – of poor state of rural education in India in 1960s. 3. Discussion on how social processes shaped his ideas, influence of his work at Neel Bagh on education in the present context. Identify various schools and initiatives that his contemporaries founded later in their lives. The Neel Bagh Experiment 3
  4. Methodology 1. The study used semi structured interviews and discussion based method to piece together historical information and gain insights into the ideas of David Horsburgh 2. Individuals related to David Horsburgh in any manner and those who have spent time with him were identified and contacted. 3. Four teacher trainees from the early batches were identified and approached to conduct interviews. Malathi and Amukta Mahapatra agreed to be interviewed over phone. Usha and Rohit Dhankar were personally interviewed at Sumavanam, Madanapalle and Azim Premji University respectively 4. Correspondence and personal interview with Vijay Padki , Trustee of Neel Bagh Trust informs the ideas on theatre in education. 5. Magazine articles, books and photographs were sourced from various people. The Neel Bagh Experiment 4
  5. “I am going to sit in my little village and try and produce what I think is very good education” David Horsburgh, 1983 The Neel Bagh Experiment 5
  6. Intervention Neel Bagh sought to address the need of good quality education in rural India. The challenge David realized was a bigger one – of catering to the unmet demand of good education of across India. Neel Bagh tackled the problem by creating better teachers through a rigorous training program of two years These trained teachers were all encouraged to start their own schools The Neel Bagh Experiment 6 “High quality education for the under privileged without a high quantity budget” Neel Bagh, circa 1970
  7. Relevance of Neel Bagh Ideas 1. Neel Bagh begins with a point of divergence with the prevailing approach where curriculum decided the future opportunities of children. (circa 1960, working at Rishi Valley School) 2. Neel Bagh experiments with an education process which does not grade or test children. There is no concept of ‘grade’ or ‘class’. Groups of children are vertically aligned with age. 3. Each child learns at his own pace. Approach is to teach how to read and write followed by how to learn. After this is achieved a child needs motivation to continue the process. 4. Approach to children is with unqualified love and expressing confidence in every child 5. Tools and techniques of teaching are a manifestation of values and authenticity of the teacher The Neel Bagh Experiment 7
  8. Key Findings 1. Neel Bagh makes an interesting social intervention due to its unique and effective mode of addressing rural education – by being a pioneer child centered pedagogy, an eclectic mix of arts, languages and activities which makes use of children’s body and mind. 2. A model of developing high quality, well trained teachers who then go back to their respective regions and start new schools. This is how issue of ‘scale’ is tackled. 3. A teacher then can be seen as a social change agent who by the way of education contributes well educated individuals in the community. 4. Teachers trained at Neel Bagh have gone on to contribute to education by setting up schools like Digantar, Sumavanam, Vikasana and more importantly in helping state and central governments in programs like Sarva Shiksha Abhiyaan. 5. Theatre as a method in education also finds its early beginnings in Neel Bagh’s methods. The Neel Bagh Experiment 8