The students of Gyaan Ghar celebrated Children’s Day in a festive show of song and dance. The function started with the singing of the national anthem, a shabad, and a song. Each student dressed in traditional Punjabi garb and, as a preliminary exercise in public speaking, presented a short introductory statement about her or himself. The group performed a Bhangra dance as well as many poems and songs in small groups.

Notable guests included Malwa Public School Headmistress Dhariwal and the parents of most students. Also in attendance were Professor Bedi and Doctor Sharma.

As return gifts, the students received personal cleanliness kits, complete with towels, toothbrushes, and combs. We hope that this token will remind them of the importance of our first extra-curricular subject, Health and Cleanliness. Students left the ceremony with a sense of accomplishment, and feeling refreshed for school the next day.


The students of Gyaan Ghar have completed their exams and will return to school on the 5th of October. During the holidays, they attended lower-intensity morning classes followed by Bollywood dance lessons in the afternoon. Their report cards will soon be issued and we plan to obtain copies of these as well as earlier report cards to track their long-term progress.

Since the 1st of October, we have instituted our first unit of extra-curricular focus, with the Rose Group (Lower Kindergarten to 2nd grade) studying the Body and the Lotus Group (3rd grade to 6th grade) being taught about Health. Radhika and Amanpreet alternate daily in teaching the two age groups. Students enjoy these subjects and appear to be taking them seriously, although they recognize that these topics will not be covered directly on their school syllabi. This is an important sign of progress, as there was some resistance to this initiative before, because parents were skeptical as to the practicality of these topics. Increased communication seems to have promoted a better understanding of the usefulness of these extra-curricular initiatives.


Radhika and Amanpreet have divided the class into a Junior section and a Senior section and alternate daily between teaching the two. Both sections are in the process of exam preparation, with the Juniors reviewing the English alphabet in great detail as well as working on Punjabi, and the Seniors reviewing means of transport and vegetables. Such exam review will continue until their exams on the 14th of September. Both groups also revise their poems and short stories daily.

One primary advantage of having two teachers is the level of personal attention we can give to each student, as well as the increase in time effectiveness that comes with different teachers able to address the learning styles and paces of individual children.


This month, I had the extraordinary experience of spending time with the students of Gyaan Ghar and getting to know them at a personal level. From helping Sonu review the Hindi alphabet after he returned home from his village to teaching Sarita how to use my camera, my interaction with the students was incredible. Though they were shy at first and my initial “ice breaker” activities were received as formal assignments, after a few days, we were shouting our ABCs and playing “rock, paper, scissors, soos!” so loudly that the whole neighborhood could hear us.

Each day’s lessons commenced with Radhika supervising students as they completed the day’s homework assignments. I would then lead an activity for the day. These included songs, games, and occasionally choreographed dances. At the end of class, Radhika would guide the students on what to review for the next day at Malwa Public School.

After class every day, Radhika and I held planning meetings to discuss strengthening communication between the students of Gyaan Ghar and the students of Flint Hill, as well as between her and myself. We plan to increase our communication via email and to institute a tradition of chats over webcam between Gyaan Ghar students and students here in America.

During this time, I also held interviews for another instructional position, hoping that the employment of another teacher would open doors for increased differentiation in the classroom, as well as uninterrupted learning time. After meeting with a few candidates, I selected Amanpreet Kaur on the basis of her thoughts about creative teaching methods, her achievements in extra-curricular fields such as music, and her interest in teaching underprivileged children.

Registration activities were completed this month, with the Memorandum of Association approved and signed by all members of the society.

What struck me most about the students of Gyaan Ghar was their passion for learning. It was not uncommon for some of them to show up for class up to an hour early, eager to learn something new. At the end of class, few ever wanted to leave. They are fascinated by anything and everything that is new and somehow foreign to them. This drive is extremely inspirational, and the enthusiasm I have observed on countless occasions before this is what led me to start the Gyaan Ghar initiative, and it is what keeps the school going.


This month, the students are preparing a number of poems and short stories in English, Hindi, and Punjabi, which they can be called upon to recite in class at any time. They also took a day-long field trip to the Rose Garden, where they picnicked and played a number of games.

There remains a male fraction of our student body. I have decided that, given their strong interest, I am willing to compromise on the earlier policy of only admitting girls to the learning center. This allowance will, however, further the goal that this center be a tool for the empowerment of women, as it will build the girls’ confidence to compete with and do as well as or better than the boys in class activities both at Gyaan Ghar and in their primary schools.


This June, the students participated in a number of creative activities including pottery, singing, and an introduction to Bhangra dance. Radhika’s sister assisted as the class was taught to paint delicate pottery. As a hired musician played the Dhol, Ms. Prableen Singh taught Bhangra, giving the students a chance to communicate with a teacher close to them in age. At the end of the month, students received recognition at an awards distribution ceremony hosted by Society Chairperson Amrit Kaur and husband Gurbachan Singh. Extra-curriculars are being balanced with core curriculum to foster an interest in those subjects not easily available in primary schools, and yet infinitely beneficial to the creativity of our youth.

Also this month, Ajay Chaudhry sent me the Memorandum of Association for Gyaan Society, to which I made some changes to prepare the documents to be signed by society members in order to finalize official registration and apply for tax exemption. This slow process of formal registration has shown me how difficult such matters can be in developing countries, and strengthened my belief in education as a tool to empower citizens and provide them with resources which would be otherwise unattainable.


This month, I conducted my first formal fundraiser for Gyaan Ghar. I made a fifteen-minute presentation at Town Meeting on the 8th of May, during which I discussed the state of primary education and explained the goals of Gyaan Ghar. The following Monday, Flint Hill School allowed me to hold a free dress day, on which students did not have to wear uniform if they paid five dollars. Many classmates and teachers participated and made generous donations, earning a total of more than 2,500 dollars. This is about half of what is required to run the learning center for a year. I am now in the process of brainstorming other potential fundraising initiatives to be conducted at Flint Hill and in the area next year.


Now that the number of students regularly in attendance at Gyaan Ghar has stabilized, I find it very important to keep these young scholars and their families aware of the importance of their experiences at the learning center. I plan to hold meetings between Radhika, Amrit Kaur, myself, and the parents of each of the students to stress the value of continued attendance at Gyaan Ghar. This process will also consist of communication with the teachers of Malwa School to gauge the improvement they have noticed in the students of Gyaan Ghar.


The number of students had earlier decreased from twenty to less than ten, due to the rising popularity of private tuitions over free instruction at Gyaan Ghar. However, attendance this month has risen to a new high, with thirty students enrolled regularly and about twenty-five studying during their vacations. Radhika has received a full-time job at the Malwa School, to which most of our students belong, which has allowed the children’s parents to observe the quality of her instruction and built their confidence in our organization. This has also given her a clearer view of the types of activities from which our students may benefit.

Although most students of Gyaan Ghar are presently on holiday, they continue to attend class voluntarily from 10:00-12:30 and the learning center has therefore tailored its curriculum for this time to be both instructive and entertaining, allowing the students to discover creative approaches to learning. For example, students participated in a drawing contest one day, and constructed table lamps from discarded material another. During the academic year, they also explore crafts such as knitting and embroidery alongside their basic school curriculum.

One teacher, Silky, has gotten married and moved to New Delhi and the other, Radhika, is engaged to be married within the next few months. She will continue to teach until that time. To find a new teacher, I plan to contact the promising interview candidates who were shortlisted but not selected during the interview process in August.


Gyaan Ghar is currently experiencing a severe shortage of students. Because parents of Malwa School students prefer private tutoring over group classes, many children have dropped out and returned to their individual tuitions. Parents have also expressed a concern that subjects covered by the learning center are not in conjunction with Malwa School’s curriculum.

To address the first issue, we have contacted the Camp School as well as the primary school supported by a local Gurudwara. The Camp School has agreed to select a group of promising students to be educated at the learning center. Because of the Camp School’s distance from Gyaan Ghar, these students will be provided transportation. In response to the second concern, we ensure that our teachers focus upon the primary school syllabus as set in place by the Punjab Board of Education. This includes three languages (Punjabi, Hindi, and English), Mathematics, Environmental Studies, Social Sciences, Work Education, Art Education, and Health and Physical Education.


The new year brings hopes for the future of Gyaan society. We have received offers of collaboration from Bharati foundation based in Ludhiana and the branch of Pratham based in our town, who are also interested in the theme of providing underprivileged primary school students with the tools they need to succeed in a creative and competitive world. We hope to expand our school in the future, whether in our town of Ludhiana or in other cities of India.

November and December

While I am trying my best to manage the curriculum, activities, and events of Gyaan Ghar from my computer and telephone in Washington, D.C., I also realize that I, sitting here, cannot fully control every aspect of the learning center. However, I believe that loss of control is a reasonable price to pay to ensure that the school runs smoothly. I believe it important to empower those running the center locally, allowing them to have a stake in our decisions.

That being said, Radhika and I continue to collaborate in brainstorming ideas to promote balanced development, including lessons in public speaking and speech delivery.


The students who have been working with our teachers since August have shown notable improvement in their performance in school examinations, as well as a rise in the level of their confidence and self esteem. Above all, passion for learning is being kindled in each of our young scholars. This progress and the currently stable student population have brought to my attention the need to establish a personalized baseline of educational achievement to measure students’ academic growth and improvement over time. I plan to acquire and/or develop a standardized test by which to measure the academic achievements of our students with those nationwide as well as internationally.


Students spent the month of September preparing for their exams, which ended on the 22nd. The headmistress of Malwa School expects that academic progress will be made visible on the exam results, and will report this progress to us after the tests. As the weather was pleasant this month, students walked to our house for class. We plan to keep this system in place until the need for organized transportation again arises. Some students arrived early and received additional instruction from Society Chairperson Amrit Kaur, who stressed the importance of good penmanship, especially in Hindi and Punjabi. There were in attendance three to five boys every day, whom we have decided to allow to stay on while the student body of Gyaan Ghar is becoming established. Although the students’ holidays are approaching, many would like to continue daily classes at the learning center during the break. This may be a possibility, depending on the availability of Radhika and Silky.