About Us

Shikshantar, a Jeevan Andolan (life movement) was founded to challenge the culture of schooling and institutions of thought-control. Today factory schooling and literacy programs are suppressing many diverse forms of human learning, intelligence and expression, as well as much needed organic processes towards just and harmonious social regeneration. Schooling is the crisis.

In the spirit of Vimukt Shiksha, we are committed to creating spaces and processes where individual and comunities can together engage in dialogue to:

  1. generate meaningful critiques to expose and dismantle/transform existing models of Education, Development and Progress;
  2. reclaim control over their own learning processes and learning ecologies;
  3. imagine (and continually re-imagine) their own complex shared visions and practices of Swaraj

Shikshantar is based in Udaipur, Rajasthan, India. Our core team works in collaboration with local and trans-local partners through dynamic processes of participatory conceptualisation. To learn more about our efforts please contact us.


After fifty years of so-called development efforts, and despite great scientific advancements, India (and the rest of the world) finds itself mired in a paralyzing socio-cultural, environmental and spiritual crisis - overwhelming in its scale, intensity and rate of growth.

While education has been framed as the cure to this crisis, in reality, the factory model of schooling is part of the problem. Around the world, education systems have become commercialized 'businesses' which serve to stratify society, glorify militarism, devalue local knowledge systems and languages, manufacture unsustainable wants, breed discontent and frustration, stifle creativity, motivation and expression, and dehumanize communities. The 19th-century model of factory-schooling today stands in the way of building organic learning societies for the 21st century.

There is an urgent need to start thinking differently if we wish to do things differently. This starts with facing the reality that the problems that threaten to overwhelm and destroy India arise from the 'schooled', not from the so-called illiterates. Thus, simply expanding or reforming the existing system of factory-schooling (whether through schools, distance education, literacy classes or non-formal centers) will not solve the crisis. It will only add to it.

We believe that it is necessary to engage communities in regenerative modes of lifelong societal learning which grow from a larger understanding of and respect for human potential and human dignity, dynamic learning processes and relationships, pluralistic identities, traditional knowledge systems and cultural contexts, the human spirit and its connection to the web of life. 

We invite you to join us in this process

Swaraj Concept

Swaraj (self-rule, rule over oneself, or rather, harmony of the self) is inspired by Gandhiji's Hind Swaraj, a call for people to lead and create their own models of development that are holistic, pluralistic, ecologically regenerative, liberating, collaborative, socially just, and anticipatory. By highlighting and connecting the following three vectors into a framework of Lifelong Societal Learning, we seek to create generative environments that empower communities in building their own visions of Swaraj-development.

Innovative Learning

recognizing the infinite potential of each human being; and enabling people to continuously 'learn, unlearn, and relearn' by developing their capacities for deep thinking, reflecting, feeling, understanding, sharing, creating, and taking personal responsibility.

Cultural Articulation

stimulating cultural confidence and cross-cultural sharing; and nurturing the imagination, knowledge, symbols, languages, relationships, values and tools necessary to challenge dehumanizing, exploitative institutions and to create new meanings and practices of development.

Radical Spirituality

redefining the meaning mainstream society gives to existing political, economic, and technological institutions beyond notions of 'profit' and 'efficiency'; and envisioning new conceptions of progress which allow people to realize their inherent goodness, to live in peace, to re-entangle ourselves with the natural world, and to discover what it means to be fully human.

Building on the work of great visionaries

Education for what?

"True Education is that by which character is formed, strength of mind is increased, intellect is expanded, by which one can stand on one's own feet."
- Swami Vevekandanda

"I would develop in the child his hands, his brain, and his soul. The hands have almost atrophied. The soul has altogether been ignored."
- Mahatma Gandhi

"Education must be of such a quality that it will train students in intellectual self-reliance and make them independent thinkers."
- Vinobha Bhave

"Education is not just to pass examinations, take a degree and a job, get married and settle down, but also to be able to listen to the birds, to see the sky, to see the extraordinary beauty of a tree, and the shape of the hills, and to feel with them, to be really, directly in touch with them."
- Krishnamurti

All education is, on the one side a search for the truth, on the other a pursuit of social betterment.
- Radhakrishnan

Education how?

"We have to recognize that all education is and must always be an experiment. We must be prepared to develop, modify, and adapt it to meet the divergent needs of town and village, of industrial and agricultural areas and of the different parts of the country. . . We must also recognize that there are differences in the taste and aptitude of children and there are some who are practical-minded while others have a greater predilection for abstract or artistic activities."
- Maulana Abul Kalam Azad

"For true education is to realize at every stage how our learning and knowledge have an organic connection with our surroundings."
- Rabindranath Tagore

Education when?

"Education encompasses the entire vista of mans life on earth, from conception to cremation, if not before and beyond it."
- Mahatma Gandhi


Supporting Views

Doing more of the same is not the solution. 
A national level mandate exists for Radical Changes in Education

"In fact, what is needed is a revolution in education which in turn will set in motion the much desired social, economic and cultural revolution." 
- Report of the Education (Kothari) Commission (1964-66)

"There are moments in history when a new direction has to be given to an age-old process." 
- Introduction to National Policy on Education (1986)

"Education in India stands at a cross-roads today. Neither normal linear expansion nor the existing pace and nature of improvement can meet the needs of the situation. In the Indian way of thinking, a human being is a positive asset and a precious national resource which needs to be cherished, nurtured and developed with tenderness and care, coupled with dynamism. Each individual's growth presents a different range of problems and requirements, at every stage - from womb to the tomb. The catalytic action of education in this complex and dynamic growth process needs to be planned meticulously and executed with great sensitivity." 
- National Policy on Education (1986)

"The existing schism between the formal system of education and the country's rich and varied cultural traditions needs to be bridged." 
- National Policy on Education (1986)

"One fundamental reason for failure has been that while we go on making radical protestations, our education to this day continues to be governed by the same assumptions, goals and values that governed it in the days of the British Raj. It is clear that the present system of education, in terms of education for the people, has outlived its utility, whatever it ever had. But before we have a new pattern of education we must have a new model of development." 
- Preface to NPE 1986 Review (Ramamurti) Committee (1990)

"Our Committee was concerned with one major flaw of our system of education. This flaw can be identified briefly by saying that 'a lot is taught but little is learnt or understood. It would be correct to say that this neglect of understanding has gone so far and deep in our education system that a child can pass almost any examination without any understanding of the phenomena she has been told about in books or in the classroom."
- Report of the National Advisory (Yashpal) Committee on Learning Without Burden (1992-93)

"We believe that these problems [of the 'knowledge explosion' and the 'catching up syndrome' in our current system of education] cannot be fully addressed through easily manageable administrative actions. They need wider discussions because they are centrally connected with images of our civilization, self-esteem and societal goals." 
- Report of the National Advisory (Yashpal) Committee on Learning Without Burden (1992-93)

"As things stand, teaching methods are mercilessly stultifying, and it is a miracle that children survive them without entirely losing their creative abilities and independence of mind. The need for radical pedagogical change, however, applies throughout the schooling system (even in privileged urban schools), and not to deprived children alone." 
- Public Report on Basic Education (PROBE) in India (1999)

Are you ready to take up the challenge?


Manish Jain

Has spent the past nineteen years as Coordinator of Shikshantar Andolan. He is also a co-founder of Swaraj University, Udaipur as a Learning City and the Creativity Adda. He is very excited about organic farming, slow food cooking, cooperative games/group facilitation and filmmaking. He is a founding member of the Indian Multiversities Alliance, the Giftival Network, Ecoversities Network, Vikalp Sangam, Learning Societies Unconference, Berkana Exchange. Before co-founding Shikshantar, Manish spent two years serving with UNESCO Learning Without Frontiers transnational initiative. Prior to that, he worked as a consultant in several countries in the areas of educational planning, policy analysis, research, program design, and media/technology with UNICEF, UNDP, the World Bank, USAID, the Academy for Educational Development and the Harvard Institute for International Development. Manish also spent two years as an investment banker in the belly of the beast with Morgan Stanley working in the telecom and high technology sectors. He has spent several years trying to unlearn his Master's degree in Education from Harvard University, and a B.A. in Economics, International Relations and Political Philosophy from Brown University. <send an email>


Vidhi Jain

Vidhi has been a Learning Activist with Shikshantar on the Udaipur as a Learning City process-project for the past nineteen years. She works with the Families Learning Together and Unschooling initiatives, as well as on community media and expressions in Udaipur as a Learning City. She is interested in traditional knowledge and is working on the Grandmother’s University. She is very passionate about slow food and helps support the Hulchal Saturday Café and many local food festivals. Vidhi and Manish are unschooling their daughter Kanku. Before co-founding Shikshantar, Vidhi spent two years working for Lok Jumbish, a grassroots project in Rajasthan. In this capacity, she designed and ran a program in rural villages to raise awareness and design inclusive schooling services for children with special needs. Prior to that, Vidhi worked directly with children in Delhi with Spastics Society of Northern India..< send an email >



Wasif Rizvi

Presently, Wasif is the President and Founder of Habib University. He has worked as senior advisor to the Institute for Development Studies and Practices, in Quetta, Pakistan, and with Aga Khan Education Services, Karachi. Before co-founding Shikshantar, Wasif spent a year in Pakistan working as a social-policy development consultant in the areas of planning, policy and organizational analysis, research, program design/development, and program evaluation with USAID, DFID, CIDA, NORAD, Asian Development Bank, the Asia Foundation, PEN TV, and Philips Academy. Prior to that, Wasif worked as Operations Manager and Chairman of the Planning Council for Aga Khan Education Services, Pakistan, where he was in-charge of conceptualizing, designing, and implementing Educational Development Programs in schools. <send an email >


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What lies have you been taught by your school? How have you been trying to unlearn them? 

Interview with Mr. Santosh Padwal, documentary film-maker and co-founder of the ‘Bindaas Community Media Academy’ in Fatehpura, Udaipur, to learn more about this initiative and his vision of community media.

We dream of creating a zero-waste Udaipur. We are a fair-trade social business which offers eco- products and services, such as upcycling workshops and sustainability walks. We believe in localisation. You are invited to visit us and share your upcycling ideas.  

John Holt describes why he gave up on trying to reform schools and started advocating that families liberate their children from schooling.