A four year old child was telling his teacher; “Teacher, did you know that lizards have different coloured eyes? Some have brown, others black or green.” The surprised teacher replied: “No, I didn’t know. Who told you?” “I just saw myself.” The child answered confidently. “Look into the hole in the tree trunk.”
This is Manhal Education – a school in Karachi which is different from most conventional schools. Some of its distinctive features are no exams, no grading, no fixed period duration, no compulsory homework, and no uniforms. Kids learn about nature through exploring nature directly, as shown in the dialogue above. All children regardless of their abilities are accepted in Manhal because it believes in inclusive education. Manhal recognizes children as they are and not on the basis of their academic skills.
Through exploring nature, children learn and retain more than through memorizing facts from textbook. Learning is made interesting and enjoyable by lessening rules and structures, and providing an open environment. By having no fixed period durations, each class goes on for as long as it is necessary, to maintain the students’ interest and participation. Sometimes, science class winds up in 25 minutes and sometimes it takes 90 minutes. It depends upon what the kids want to do.
Once, a parent came to the school to ask about the winter vacations. The school informed him of the tentative dates. The parent seemed a bit disappointed; he had a trip planned and wanted to take his children along, so he asked if they could shift the vacations a week earlier. The school assured him that since every trip is a great learning opportunity for children, they could consider this time as good as school time.
Manhal was inspired by ERDC’s ideology and revisited its vision. The school has abolished exams, adopted a flexible approach towards curriculum and created a child-centred environment. By having no exams and tests, children learn at their own pace without any pressure. This reduces the stress on students as well as teachers. Children do not have to worry about getting positions, as they are not ranked or graded. Learning is fun for students and the teachers don’t get burned out.
Written by Iffat Faruqui  who is an educational consultant and has attended ERDC’s STRATEGIC SCHOOL LEADERSHIP COURSE. She can be reached at iffat.faruqui@gmail.com Manhal Academy was launched in 2012 is located in Gulshan Iqbal, Karachi. To explore more about Manhal Academy, visit https://www.facebook.com/manhaledu/