Tradition of Change
How would my experience on Niswarth change if I began the trip four years after college? I would have some sort of degree under my belt, probably economics or computer science. Perhaps I would have a job lined up and maybe even some thoughts of settling down. My future would be neatly laid out before me. Just from this first week of Niswarth, I already know the trip would not have nearly the same influence on me if I were to go later in my life. With youth comes the liberation of unknown prospects. The future belongs not only to adaptable individuals, but also to adaptable corporations and schools.
Yesterday Niswarth visited the Riverside School. Located on the outskirts of Ahmadabad, the Riverside School broke the tradition model of Indian education by encouraging creative thinking and student collaboration. Adaptability is a strong suit of the Riverside School. Schools, just like students, must learn and adapt. As they grow older change becomes more difficult.
When I first heard of the Riverside School, I was a world away, in the distant bubble of Andover. After taking an exhausting math and physics final on the final day of my Upper year, my friend Dan and I walked to the Andover flower shop to pick up our corsage orders for prom. Invigorated with a newfound sense of freedom that only the completion of Andover finals can bring, we excitedly spoke about our plans for summer. As conversation eventually turned to Niswarth, Dan asked if I knew much about the Riverside School. In Dan's Modern China and India class he learned about the educational reform movement and specifically the Riverside School's radical disbandment from the standard form of rote learning. After a night of committing equation after equation to memory, a reform to a recitation-based education system sounded particularly appealing.
Walking to the Riverside School was a challenge in itself. Because we were required to stay a certain distance from the nearby military base, the Niswarth group had to journey by foot through a back passage. After skillfully navigating a field of menacing thorns and fresh cow manure, we arrived at Riverside. While the journey to Riverside was draining, arriving at the school renewed my energy.
The adaptability of physical space sets the tone for learning. At Andover, for example, the grand architecture and manicured lawns inspire a sense of tradition and regimen. While Andover boasts a long and storied history, Riverside was just recently founded. Youth allows for agility and experimentation. Riverside students beamed as they plastered the wall with a mural of bright green handprints. Classrooms were open, with a unique class set up in nearly every room.
As Riverside grows older, I hope they do not lose this spirit of malleability. Just from my experience on the Niswarth trip thus far, I have realized that the best journeys do not necessarily have a destination. With age comes tradition and often this gives way to routine. I feel an immense gratitude toward Riverside, not only for selflessly serving several hundred students, but also proving that innovation can thrive in a society of stubborn tradition.