Chennai: India’s 200-year old education system, which is tuned for making mass products out of students continues to dominate the economy even to this day when the need of the hour is to enable them to thrive in the future. This paradigm shift warrants a complete re-imagining of the current education system.
Taking the lead in addressing the problem, is an institution in Chennai, regarded as a hub for education. Beyond 8, a leader in heutagogy or learner-determined approach to education is at the forefront of re-imagining the current education system, providing a full-time liberal education for learners, 14-years and older.
Besides enabling them to lead purposeful and fulfilling futures, it also prepares them for NIOS (National Institute of Open Schooling), Common Core or Cambridge (IGCSE/A Level) board examinations. At the beginning of their course, learners go through a detailed dream mapping exercise with their facilitators and determine what they want to learn, how they want to learn and where they want to learn. They spend their time reading, making art, cooking, playing, singing or dancing to discover and explore their passions, along with their pursuit of academic excellence – much to the envy of their peers in conventional schools.
Raaji Naveen, Educationalist and Co-Founder of Beyond 8 explains, “At Beyond 8, we aim to bring liberal education into mainstream, so that both parents and children find it easier to adopt and gain the long term benefits and impact of this form of education. Our high school programme is designed to prepare young, teen students to face the complexities of our ever-changing world, thrive in a skilled, knowledge-economy and develop the right attitude to lead a meaningful life.”
At Beyond 8, facilitators are not authoritarian figures who stand before a class and disseminate information. Rather, they enable their students’ learning journeys as coaches and as Imagin8ers. All of Beyond 8’s learning facilitators are also practitioners in their respective such as geology, business studies, fashion, art and history.
Founded by educationalists, Naveen Mahesh and Raaji Naveen, watching their learners emerge as independent, passionate and empathetic individuals after enrolling at Beyond 8 is a dream come true for them. Both of them have followed their own passions as well to begin this venture. They moved on from their well-paying corporate jobs and returned to India from the US to give wings to Beyond 8.
Sharing his experience at Beyond 8, Prahlad Srinivasan, a current learner preparing for the IGCSE examination, says, “As an aspiring cricketer I used to struggle to strike a balance between my studies and sports in conventional schools. After I joined Beyond 8, my time management and world view has significantly improved. Learning is so ﬂexible and fun that I never want to miss a day at Beyond 8; while also enabling me to give cricket coaching the much needed time and practise”.
Shreya Balaji, another learner at Beyond 8 and preparing for the IGCSE examination adds, “I enjoy the meaningful discussions and conversations we have at Beyond 8. They give us so much to think about. I believe they set us on the path towards becoming better human beings.
Beyond 8: Leading the way during Covid-19
The pandemic has exposed the flaws in the way ‘education’ currently takes place, whereas Beyond 8’s model has been perfectly positioned to take the disruption in its stride. Explains Naveen Mahesh, “The pandemic has paved the way for more family time and consequently deeper conversations on issues that impact both parents and children alike. When it comes to education, it is unarguable that strenuous academic schedules and standardized testing guarantee neither professional success nor personal fulfilment. It only goes to show that the pandemic is making families aware that we need to leave behind the current outdated system of education and move towards one that enables our children to thrive in an uncertain future.”
Key elements of the Beyond 8 program:
The Beyond 8 program includes key elements making the whole learning process, fun and exciting:
Self-determined – The very foundation on which Beyond 8 rests
Expert-led – Driven by practitioners and industry mentors
Modular – Packaging the learning materials into smaller bundles
Distributed and decentralised – Learning happens online and offline in spaces such as libraries, formal office or industrial spaces, coffee shops, malls or even docked ships
Dr. Kimberly Johnson of Harvard University neatly sums up Beyond 8’s approach. “Beyond 8 addresses the needs and wants of the students from a holistic perspective and provides opportunities for them to thrive in many areas – this is a program that I can see becoming a powerful tool to keep students engaged in continual learning processes.”