The experience I had with ‘The Future of Learning’ module with Professor Mitra and Dr Stanfield instigated my enthusiasm to conduct my educational research around the Self Organised Learning Environment approach. This stimulated my visit to India as I wanted to see how the Self- Organised Learning Environment approach works in a developing country context where the availability of qualified teachers and quality education continues to be a problem.
On the 6th March, I set off on my journey from Newcastle Airport terminal at 1pm. Having left Newcastle snowing that morning, I was looking forward to a warm weather ahead. I arrived in Delhi the next day and this was the beginning of my mysterious journey to the School in the Cloud in Kiageria Village, Chandrakona in West Bengal. After an internal flight to Calcutta and a four-hour car journey, I arrived at the village of Kiageria. I spent the next few days acclimatising myself with the environment and trying to build a relationship with the children and the people I lived with as I observed Self- Organised Learning Environment (SOLE) big questions sessions and Granny Cloud Sessions.
For my dissertation research, I looked at the children’s perspectives of the minimally- invasive learning approach. I collected data through conducting focus groups and interviews with the children and the Lab facilitators and I also met with parents at their homes within the village. In addition, I visited the local school, Bala High School which was 3 km away. This is where the majority of the children in the village attended school. By immersing myself in the environment and blending well with the community, I learnt a lot about the Bengali culture and language which enhanced my awareness and sensitivity towards a different cultural background. I also realised how quickly I could adjust to any environment. This a strength I had never known about myself before!
I had a rewarding experience in the Lab as I saw how the School in the Cloud was being used as a research facility as well as a facility to obtain new knowledge in a world where children have very limited opportunities. I also had a first-hand experience of how poor people in remote areas in West Bengal live during my stay in the village. By the time I successfully completed my task, the children had become so attached to me that it was an emotional moment for all when I had to leave. I certainly felt that time had rushed far too quickly and that I had not had enough time to see more of this beautiful country.
A Self- reflective journey
On my return journey, my flights were delayed both in Delhi and Dubai and I ended up spending 18 hours on transit. I therefore had plenty of time to reflect on the journey I had been on! My journey to Kolkata, my journey to the village, the time I spent in the village, trying Bengali cuisines, my journey on a train to Agra from Delhi and visiting the Victoria Memorial in Kolkata, the Agra Fort, the Itmad-ud-Daulah tomb and the beautiful Taj Mahal. I simply had the most memorable experience of my life!
Khadija is a postgraduate taught masters’ student in International Development and Education in the School of Education, Communication and Language Sciences at Newcastle University. You can read her blogs at https://khadeijablog.wordpress.com/