Democratising Schools: Empowering Adolescents

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by Priyanka Patel on Sunday, March 3, 2013


Session type

Technical level


Explore the concept of “Self-governance” in schools.

Tapping into the potential of adolescence in schools to empower them with skills required for a more pro-active citizenry.


In a young society such as ours, Education is an area which cannot and should not be ignored. Schools can provide opportunities for pro-active citizenry like no other. First 16 years of our lives are spent in developing skills which are supposed to prepare us for the “real world”.

What world is this "real world" we speak of? Does the current structure in schools allow for hands-on, experiential learning to take place? If not, how can we bring practical implications of larger national goals most simply and effectively in schools?

We tend to ignore the potential each individual has, to make a difference to not just our lives, but the society at large. This ignorance inhibits us from bringing our thoughts into action. If the subjects segregated in the curriculum through specified textbooks had to be explored with more seriousness, maybe we could find solutions to the impending problems experienced by us each and every day.

The purpose of education is to shed light, to dispel darkness. This endeavour of democratizing schools enables us (adults and educators) to help the students bridge the gap between what the book says and what the practical implications are, thus empowering them to be change makers.


An adolescent dream of challenging the norms and re-creating the world. An ignited spirit and an open mind. A concern for society and a desire to create change. A heart and a soul.

Speaker bio

Priyanka is an educator driven to create environments where children can learn better and deal with various social, economic, behavioural and academic issues that work as impediments in holistic development.

She holds an M.A. in Counseling Psychology and has engaged first hand with counseling for sensitive issues including cancer treatment in pediatric wards and at a drug rehabilitation centre.

She has worked at schools in Mumbai with students, teachers and parents integrating arts and education. Her work at Walsingham School involved enhancing communication skills in students using theatre games and techniques.

Priyanka was the resident counsellor at Shishuvan School in Mumbai. During her long dedicated stint, she was responsible for organizing educational trips across the country and conducted personality development and leadership programmes for the school community, including students, teachers, support staff and parents. One of her most valued contribution to the school was designing the Secondary School Charter. Priyanka worked with the middle school and high school students to create a self-sustaining governing body that is of the students, by the students and for the students. While creating this structure, and through the structure, Priyanka facilitated
- Personal Development sessions for students – weekly sessions with every class throughout the year. The curriculum for this was building skills in: (a) communication such as appropriate speech, assertiveness, body language, paraphrasing feedback – giving and receiving; (b) conducting and participating in group work such as facilitating, recording, leadership, participating actively and helpfully, appreciation, questioning skills and self disclosure; (c) peer and self evaluation and appraisal; (d) values identification, exploration and meaning; and (e) public speaking. - Leadership training throughout the year for student leaders in the council and parliament, - Workshops for parents every term on parenting pre-adolescent and adolescent children, - Mediation training for teachers and students of Middle and High School as well as refresher courses for the existing mediators, - Training for Parent Representatives in the Parent Sabha (School PTA) on facilitation, listening and recording, - Orientation for transition classes between departments (Std V and VIII), - Counseling sessions (short term) with students, parents, teachers, office staff and support staff. - An orientation to the vocational guidance counseling for high school. - Reflection meetings for the middle and high school.

In 2011, Priyanka headed the Arts Academy at an NGO, Salaam Bombay Foundation, helping children from underprivileged backgrounds build life skills through performing arts, to stay away from tobacco and other vices.

Taking all these experiences a step forward, Priyanka started her own company called The Looking Glass with her colleague Anuraag Dhoundeyal. The Looking Glass looks at integrating Music, Dance & Theatre at the most organic and humane level. Through the experiential medium of the performing arts, Priyanka endeavours to perpetuate the natural development of an individual, sensitising him/her, and ultimately helping the individual embark upon a journey to finding the Self.