A little bit of paradise

A new venture in rural Goa aims to transform how India approaches mainstream education.

Paradise School Goa’s director, Shilpa Mehta, was born and raised in the UK, re-locating to Goa when her daughter was just two-years-old. When India-Fire was of school age, she decided to set up her own local primary school. Shilpa’s approach to education has been influenced by Maria Montessori’s teaching, which she became interested in before she moved to India.

Now her daughter has turned 12, she’s taking on another educational challenge: to set up Paradise School Goa – a secondary school in a 400-year-old mansion based purely on Professor Sugata Mitra’s SOLE (self-organised learning environment) principles.

The seed was sown for her latest venture while attending a conference in Jaipur as a Google Educator in 2015. She realised that schools could be communities of collaboration and support, not just places of mass instruction: this was the kind of school she wanted to set up.

When she discovered Professor Mitra’s TED talk shortly after, Shilpa felt it was ‘just like Montessori – but with computers’ and it spurned her on to create Paradise School Goa, with the aim of bringing SOLEs into mainstream education.

“SOLE is a very simple, but powerful idea,” she explains. “I just thought ‘this can really work – let’s go for it!’”

Shilpa met with Professor Mitra in the UK and told him her story. Inspired by his encouragement (he is an advisor to the school) and support from colleagues at SOLE Central in the UK, she is now a partner in Newcastle University’s dedicated SOLE research centre, helping to gather research data.

The school opened its doors in September, with the dedicated SOLE room officially opened by Sugata on 14th October 2016. Housed in the former ballroom, the space allows for the maximum amount of interaction and movement, which is ideal for self-organised learning.

“India is ready for this new type of education,” explains Shilpa. “Here in Goa, I can carve a creative path, set the example for others. I don’t want to set up just another school but a really good one from the ground up that can make a difference, adding meaning and value to childrens’ lives.”

Paradise School is about giving children the skills for 21st century living, and Shilpa maps the curriculum to the IGCSE curriculum (she will also be aiming for International Cambridge Board accreditation).

Paradise School is located in Aldona, Goa, India.