January 18, 2020
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Sonam Wangchuk

The man who led education reforms in Ladakh talks about innovation and Indian education

Sonam Wangchuk
Sonam Wangchuk

Why did you return to Ladakh for work?

Once I realised how my work would positively affect thousands, it was easy.

What were the problems with Ladakh’s education system?

Teachers posted from outside lacked training and sensitivity. They didn’t know our language!

Does Operation New Hope aim to address these issues?

Yes. ONH aims to bring reforms in government schools by making the curriculum relevant, training teachers, encouraging people’s participation.

Why did you have trouble with the Leh authorities in 2007?

We had started exposing malpractices, and our popularity among the villagers made bureaucrats/politicians perceive us as a threat.

How have you revived Ladakhi culture?

By incorporating Ladakhi language and way of life in the curriculum. Instead of just the Qutab Minar, students learn about the Leh Palace too!

What hampers innovation in education?

We Indians are constantly looking at foreign practices for replication; also parents discourage children from thinking out of the box.

Did any innovation in a school curriculum inspire you as a child?

We had Socially Useful Productive Work sessions where children create crafts out of waste. It taught us to respect resources.

Aamir Khan’s character in 3 idiots was based on you....

I wouldn’t say it’s based on me, but the character’s life is similar to mine.

Tell us about sustainability projects you have undertaken currently.

At our ‘alternative school’ in Ladakh we use solar power for all our daily needs.

How do you plan to take your style of education forward?

We give students who are unable to fit into the rigid education system another chance.

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