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  • Writer's pictureMihir Pathak

Elective Courses, Freedom to choose.

At our school, we go along with the students’ decision no matter what. [When we started the school,] We believed that if students were forced to study subjects that they hated or felt inadequate to tackle, then they would probably fail to learn anyway. We preferred to teach things that were of interest to students rather than coerce them to study material they hated.
Over the years, we learned that not coercing students into learning had more far-reaching consequences than we had anticipated. We found over the years that many students not only devote time to learning what they love but choose to learn subjects they find distasteful or boring. They not only do not choose the path of least resistance, but actually seek out the path that is most difficult for them. This phenomenon is widespread through all age groups, but manifests itself only after the students realize that their destiny is in their own hands and that their direction in life depends on their own actions.
It’s human nature to test one’s mettle, to seek excitement in exploring the unknown and enjoy solving problems. The children at our school have time to do all that and more. They climb their personal Everests every day with courage and vitality.
– Excerpts from book “The Sudbury Valley School Experience”

Elective courses for the semester are kicked off this week. Like other elements in BeMe environment, electives bring certain exposure, stimulation to children. Children choose to sign up (or otherwise) one or more electives. By the very term, elective means it is optional. As a faculty, we never recommend a child to sign up for an elective. We also do not hint a child to signup for an elective even though the child might have shown interest in the particular topic of the elective in the past. As a parent, you may have the question, “Has my child opted for a particular elective?” If he/she has signed up, we would say, “Be happy”. If he/she has NOT signed up, we would say, “Be ecstatic”. He/she has exercised the choice.

The electives offered in this semester are slightly academic oriented. This is based on the pulse of the community at this time. The offering is in line with needs expressed by children and as felt by the faculty team. There is no ideal set of electives to offer. We aren’t attempting to come up with a standard set of electives.

Children who have signed up for electives are looking forward. They want to test themselves where they are. For one elective, when we recommended watching Khan Academy videos, they said, “Aunty, we know all this. We don’t want to watch videos. We want to take the practice test.”

Electives bring mainly two kinds of exposures: (1) Content / Skill (2) Expert as personality. Some children get hooked to the content or skill the expert bring in. Some children pick up something from expert’s personality. And some absorb a mix.

We also one category of electives: Guided Navigation and Self Exploration. Where in, an expert would be available for children for any clarification of doubts, taking tests etc. Children study on their own at home or at BeMe. They come to this slot of time to consult the expert.

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