Most people from villages who get a good education leave the village – leaving the place talent impoverished. Most people from small towns treat education as the fastest route out of the towns, and onto the big cities
However, I am going to make a different choice. Not out of compulsion, but out of conviction.
Before that, let me take a few lines describing my school experience. I am a student of class XI in the Levelfield School, Suri (a small town, 200 km from Kolkata). Our school is noted for its unique educational philosophy. In our school, we learnt history through movies and literature and learnt math using Japanese puzzles. Our classroom discussions were free-flowing. We learnt by working: we wrote articles on Medium, expressed our opinions on Twitter, build Android apps for the school, and managed the school blog.
We did our IGCSEs and most of us got all top-grades. Some of us who took SAT this October got 1550+ scores – enough to get them into any top university in the US. With my profile, I also could have chosen that path, but I have chosen to stay back to help the founder of my school to spread this method of education. So after 12th, I will do a distance degree in Economics from the University of London, staying here at the school itself, beginning to work here alongside my studies. After completing my graduation, I will, of course, continue to work at the school full time.
Over the last couple of years, as I am on the cusp of adulthood, I spent more time thinking about what I want to do in my life. As I thought and thought – I came to understand that how my education has been a stroke of luck – a Cambridge board school in a small town, where students speak English fluently, where Sapiens of Yuval Harari is taught in the 9th standard! Such is the school is rare all over the world, and I have been just plain lucky that this was set up here during my childhood.
But the planets may not be so aligned for many others. I see most of my age-group children joining the mad race of private tuitions and coaching centres but learning nothing of significance. Most of my cousin brothers’ and sisters’ abilities are rusting due to the assault of our outdated school. I thought it is my responsibility to give back part of what I have been so fortunate to receive. I was sure I wanted to help spread this education so that many more students can benefit from it.
In our school, we have always discussed that being an insignificant ‘cog’ in a meaningless corporate wheel is not a great idea. In many cases, you may end up adding to the excess of the world and at the same time yourself leading an unsatisfied life. Running a business, rather a ‘social’ business is a better idea — but I knew it was a tremendously difficult task.
From many of the articles our school’s founder wrote, I was acutely aware of the challenges he faced, and what a herculean effort it took to overcome those. I did not want to go through that, and I’m not arrogant enough to claim that I would make it through the process. But what was the need to redo the same thing anyway? If I want to lead a life of significance, and if I want to contribute to the society, what is better than working in the very school which I believe is the best school in the world?
I would have been very happy to join the school as a mere teacher. Our classes are great fun and I would have liked nothing better than teaching kids Animal Farm, or Mughal Series, or showing them movies like ‘The Lives of Others’. I joined Levelfield from a Bengali medium school in class V, and initially, I struggled a bit with English. It would have given me great pleasure to help students learn to speak, read and write better English.
However, in our school, teachers are much more than traditional teachers. Here, some of us who have chosen to stay will be semi-entrepreneurs, working alongside the founder, helping him run the school. We know that our school responds to change fast, and every year we do something new. It would be great to be part of a place which is always thinking and changing. It would be great to design and implement new ideas in response to changing situations.
I would also be leading a ‘campus life’ throughout my life. Instead of an anonymous and lonely life in a city, I would be part of a community — a community of like-minded people who all have joined (and will join) the same path as me. I know I spent some of my best times with my friends in school, and in here I can continue to have their company.
I would also be living in the school with this community. I imagine playing badminton or TT in the evening after a hectic day at school. I imagine sitting down in the library with a hardcover book. I imagine having dinner with my friends in the newly constructed large dining area, bursting out in laughter just as we do during our lunch now. I imagine taking a walk on the tennis-court road, discussing Harari’s new book, or some new plan that we are going to launch.
I know I am not going to miss the commute in the suburban trains. I will live in a place with absolutely modern infrastructure, but from my room, I will be able to see green fields. I will not worry about polluted air. I will not worry about money either, because money will hopefully come if one contributes meaningfully.
I will have to work hard, as I already do, but I hope it will make some real difference. I hope to continue learning, continue playing and continue having fun. I hope to be happy, as everyone does.
I hope all of you also choose your path prioritizing happiness, of yourself and others, over everything else.