The first decade (1982 to 1991)

The second decade (1992 to 2001)

The current decade (2002 onwards)


The first decade (1982 to 1991)

The beginnings

In the early years of the decade of the 1980s, a group of educationists and social activists met to discuss the possibility of setting up an institute for educational research and innovative action in the Indian state of Madhya Pradesh. This group had a long association with a pioneering science education project that had started in 1972 and was then running in around 225 middle schools of Hoshangabad district of Madhya Pradesh.

Known as the Hoshangabad Science Teaching Programme (HSTP), this project was a collaborative venture between two non-governmental organisations, Friends Rural Centre (FRC) and Kishore Bharati (KB), and the education department of the Government of Madhya Pradesh.

HSTP had begun as a pilot project in 16 middle schools of two blocks of the district in 1972 and had been scaled up after the initial trials to cover all the schools of the district in 1978. The next step was to scale the project further.

The fledgling group wanted the new institute to take up this task as its immediate objective. But it envisaged a broader mandate of building up a partnership with the Madhya Pradesh government to improve school education.

Under this mandate, the institute would take up innovative experiments in other subjects of the school curriculum from the primary to the higher secondary stage, assimilate the learnings from these projects into the curriculum and textbooks and look for ways to scale up these projects to cover all the schools in the state.

The focus would thus stretch beyond the purely academic aspects to include support systems - teacher training packages, extra-curricular packages, administrative reforms, etc - needed to make these curricular packages working realities in schools.

In short, the institute would evolve systems for macro-level implementation of micro-level educational experiments and act as a catalyst at the state, district, block and school levels to make the mainstream education system more receptive to innovations.

However, while working with the government, it would remain autonomous in its functioning. More importantly, while operating at the state level, it would not be an urban-based institute but would function through a network of field centres situated in small towns and casbahs of the state.

The Eklavya mandate

  • To evolve an educational methodology and curriculum for building up a scientific-historical understanding of the structure of society and its development.
  • To develop problem-solving skills, the spirit of inquiry and scientific temper in society.
  • To explore new directions in both formal and non-formal education for all sections of society, including children, youth and adults.
  • To conduct field level testing of innovative ideas in both formal and non-formal education.
  • To identify and utilise various mechanisms and structures for the diffusion, expansion and multiplication of educational innovations.
  • To train educational and research personnel.
  • To conduct research in both formal and non-formal education and in all branches of social sciences, pure sciences, language and communication.
  • To conduct research in literature, the fine arts and cultural traditions of different regions in order to enrich the educational curriculum.
  • To conduct research into the environmental problems of different regions with a view to develop awareness of the need for conservation and scientific management of natural resources.
  • To conduct research in agriculture, forestry, technology, healthcare and social welfare with a view to relate education with employment potential, the nature of production and the needs of deprived sections of society.

There was a specific reason for choosing an organisationally decentralised mode of functioning. Close contact with the field situation would ensure that any curriculum developed would be rooted in the local environment and the social context of the learners. By responding to local needs, learning would become more meaningful and relevant to the learners. 

The founding group decided to name the institute after Eklavya, the legendary adivasi who had taught himself the art of archery when Dronacharya, the guru of the Pandavas, had declined to instruct him. The name reflects this essential never-say-die spirit, which excites people to persevere, overcome their socio-economic limitations and become life-long self-learners.

During its inception Eklavya was financially supported by Kishore Bharati, through a grant provided by the Sir Ratan Tata Trust, Mumbai, to begin its work and opened its first field centre in Hoshangabad in January 1982.

Its immediate task was to raise money to fund its activities and staff. It decided, as a matter of principle, to raise funds only from within the country and not seek foreign assistance. In pursuit of this objective, it approached the Planning Commission of the Government of India to explore ways in which the government could fund its work.

The Planning Commission convened a meeting in March 1982 in which it urged the Department of Science and Technology (DST), Government of India, the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD), and the Government of Madhya Pradesh to provide the required core financial assistance.

It also urged organisations like the University Grants Commission (UGC), Madhya Pradesh Council for Science and Technology (MAPCOST), Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), Indian Council for Social Science Research (ICSSR), and National Council for Educational Research and Training (NCERT) to provide specific project-based or personpower support.

The DST, an institution for the development of science and technology in the country, broke new ground by initiating a scheme to provide core funding for five years for an organisation devoted to education in general and science education in particular, the rationale being that the inquiry methodology would foster the spread of scientific temper in society.

The Madhya Pradesh government, which had shown its keenness to improve education within the state by providing space for innovations in science education to KB and FRC, agreed to underwrite one-third of Eklavya’s expenditure for five years.

The UGC extended support by permitting university and college staff to join the organisation on fellowship, protecting their salary and privileges during the period of their fellowship. (In subsequent years, the pattern of funding changed, moving away from government funding to corporate backing. Thus while the MHRD also funded Eklavya in a major way for almost a decade, financial support increasingly came from trusts like the Sir Ratan Tata Trust and the Sir Dorabji Tata Trust and, later, corporate bodies like ICICI Bank Ltd and Wipro.)

The organisation registered itself in New Delhi under the Societies Registration Act 1860 in October 1982, with a senior state government functionary as its honorary director.

Seeding HSTP in new areas

The first step Eklavya took was to consolidate the working of the HSTP, improving its administrative functioning, streamlining its field structures and revising and updating its academic content on the basis of the feedback from the field. For this purpose, an additional two field centres were opened at Piparia (1983) and Harda (September 1982)* in Hoshangabad district and an administrative coordination office was set up in Bhopal (May 1982) to facilitate interactions with the state government.

(*Hoshangabad district was bifurcated in 1994, with Harda being given the status of an independent district.)

Eklavya then devised a strategy for expanding the HSTP to new regions of the state by seeding the programme in select school clusters in different districts. The idea was to first familiarise the district education administration with the needs of the innovative programme, orient a sufficient number of teachers to take up the task of mass training of teachers in the new methodology, and form a district-level resource group to monitor and implement the expansion in the district.

The HSTP was thus seeded in school complexes in Dewas (Hatpipalya), Ujjain (Narwar) and Dhar (Tirla and Dhar) districts in 1983; Ratlam (Namli), Shajapur (Agar) and Mandsaur (Pipliya Mandi) districts in 1984 and Jhabua (Meghnagar), Khargone (Mandleshwar), Indore (Sanwer), Khandwa (Harsud), Betul (Shahpur), Chhindwara (Parasia) and Narsinghpur (Gotegaon) districts in 1986.

New field centres were opened in Dewas, Ujjain and Dhar in 1983 to oversee the expansion in western Madhya Pradesh.

New curricular and extracurricular initiatives

Eklavya simultaneously took up curricular development programmes for primary education and for social sciences at the middle school level. The initial explorations in primary schooling were conducted in a few schools in a predominantly tribal block of Betul district, hence a sub-centre was subsequently opened in Shahpur to facilitate this interaction. The social science work was coordinated from the Hoshangabad field centre.

A pilot project for social science was initiated in nine schools of Hoshangabad, Dewas and Bhopal districts in 1986, while a primary curricular package, called the Prathamik Shiksha Karyakram (Prashika), was introduced in seven schools in 1987, four in Shahpur and three in Harda. The number of Prashika schools was scaled up to 25 in 1989 while one school in Bhopal dropped out of the social science project.

Along with the work of developing school curricular packages, Eklavya also pursued its mandate of devising educational programmes for the vast majority of children, youth and adults who are either left out of the schooling system for social, economic and cultural reasons or drop out because of the irrelevance of the education being imparted to them and injustices they face within the school system.

In addition, it took up a range of community and school-based activities that served a two-fold purpose. They supported teaching in schools and helped create an environment in the community that was receptive to new ideas and innovations in education. They also highlighted contemporary socio-political issues of concern, generating a debate on the use of science and technology for development, the objective being to foster scientific temper among the people.

This basket of activities included bal-melas, poster exhibitions, street plays, etc organised in schools, villages and small towns; jathas, public campaigns and touring exhibitions that covered several villages in campaign mode; and creative activity workshops to train children to teach others. In addition, several village level forums for children and youth were set up, including children’s clubs, study groups, youth groups, drama groups etc. As part of this thrust, a network of libraries and reading rooms was also established at Eklavya’s field centres, mohallas in small towns and in villages, most of which were run by local volunteers.  

Prominent among the non-formal and supportive educational activities during Eklavya’s first decade were the setting up of a forum to study local history, culture and traditions (1983-84), for which purpose workshops were organised to discuss research methodologies and related concerns; the ‘Women’s Health’, ‘Bhopal Gas Tragedy’, ‘What Is Science’ and other touring exhibitions/jathas (1984-86), the Andhvishwas workshops (1985) and the Madhya Pradesh leg of the national-level Bharat Jan Vigyan Jatha (1987), which sought to foster scientific temper and generate awareness among the public on science-society, health and gender issues; the Parasia water quality testing project (1987), in which school children investigated the problem of drinking water quality in a coal mining centre; and a three-month contact campaign in remote villages of Dewas district focusing on literacy, employment, school education and environment problems, followed by cycle jathas by students to help set up district, block and village level samitis for intensifying work on these issues (1990).

Eklavya also joined or helped strengthen the incipient people’s science networks (All India People’s Science Network that was emerging in the country in the mid-’80s (1987).

One major initiative during the decade was the setting up of a publication unit at Eklavya’s Bhopal centre (1984). This unit publishes/produces and sells educational books and booklets, textbooks and other learning materials, activity booklets, educational games and toys, etc. It also publishes magazines for children, teachers and the general public, launching Chakmak, the pathbreaking children’s science magazine, in 1985, and Srote, a science feature service for newspapers and the general public, in 1987.

A related development was the opening of a workshop in Harda (1986) to manufacture educational toys, puzzles and science kit items for conducting experiments in schools. The workshop was also seen as a training centre for local artisans, the objective being to relate education to livelihood.

The second decade (1992 to 2001)

People’s science, literacy and technology

The continuing impact of Eklavya’s interaction with people’s science movements was seen in the early half of the 1990s with the establishment of a vibrant network of nearly 100 Chakmak clubs, beginning with the Dewas region and later spreading around the field centres in Hoshangabad district (1992). These clubs, run entirely by local students and village youth, served as out-of-school meeting points for students to pursue creative activities and projects and develop their leadership qualities. The children themselves began organising activities that the Eklavya field centres had been conducting earlier in villages, such as bal-melas, creative workshops, study groups, libraries, etc.

The Chakmak clubs in Hoshangabad were later modified into Bal-samoohs (2000), which are essentially centred around libraries run by village youth from their homes. The activities of each Bal-samooh are managed by a team of three or four youths and this forum, like the Chakmak clubs, provides an outlet for channelising the creative faculties of children in villages and developing the leadership abilities of the organising team.

Continuing its thrust towards closer involvement with the non-school going community, the Dewas centre began interacting with a very old network of Kabir bhajan mandalis in the Malwa region, mostly comprising dalit agricultural workers. The centre organised a broad forum of about 50 of these mandalis, called the Kabir Vichar Manch, with the objective of spreading rationalist and scientific ideas and values among its members (1992). Several troupes subsequently travelled widely over the entire Hindi belt, especially Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Delhi, performing to large audiences. Simultaneously, a discussion forum called the Ambedkar Vichar Manch was established in collaboration with the Ambedkar Institute of Social Sciences, Mhow (1993).

One important outcome of this interaction was a local history project sponsored by the Indian Council of Historical Research (ICHR) of documenting various versions of Kabir bhajans sung across the region. Some of these were collected and published in booklet form (1994).

The people’s science movement had taken up the issue of literacy at this time and the government initiated a nation-wide Total Literacy Campaign (TLC) to achieve 100% literacy in the country. The Dewas centre actively participated in this effort (1994), playing the role of a resource group for the Zila Saksharta Samiti (ZSS) in Dewas district. It helped organise the training of master trainers and instructors and also contributed substantially in developing primers and teaching materials for the campaign. Eklavya also helped plan and initiate the campaign in Hoshangabad district, developing the primer for the district (1995) and building up its resource team.

One other development that opened up possibilities of action was the extension of Panchayati Raj in the state. Eklavya was called upon to help make the new Panchayati Raj institutions more effective by training the elected representatives and office bearers. It participated in the training of janpad and district level personnel at the Academy of Administration in Bhopal and, later in collaboration with UNICEF, began training elected panchayat representatives and panchayat secretaries in all the panchayats of Khategaon block of Dewas district (1995).

Meanwhile, the technology group in Eklavya set up a tannery in Khirkiya block of Hoshangabad district as part of a leather tanning project to organise and help rural leather artisans and tanners in around 50 villages of the block (1993). It also set up a metal unit in the Harda toy workshop to train people in metal work (1994).

One other programme that picked up tempo during this period was the Kishoravastha Shikshan Karyakram at the Dewas centre (1997), which was essentially an adolescence education project that grew out of an earlier women’s health programme that had been pursued sporadically over the earlier years.

Roadblocks in expanding school programmes

Meanwhile, Eklavya’s school education programmes saw the group striving to expand the HSTP to all the schools in the state in the early 1990s and also scale up its social science programme to all the middle schools of Hoshangabad and Harda districts and Bagli block in Dewas district and the primary education programme to all schools in Shahpur block. However, the government chose not to act on the HSTP expansion proposal it submitted in 1992, causing the science and social science programmes to remain in a state of suspended animation for several years. The primary education programme took a different course.

This was the time when considerable funding from multilateral agencies like the World Bank, DFID, SIDA, etc was being directed into education and macro schemes like the District Primary Education Programme (DPEP) were being implemented in several districts of the country. It was also a time when ideas like child-centred education and activity based learning were gaining increased currency in academic circles, to which Eklavya’s work in primary and middle school education had contributed significantly.

In Madhya Pradesh, the state government set up the Rajiv Gandhi Prathamik Shiksha Mission (RGPSM) to oversee the DPEP initiative and the RGPSM permitted Prashika to be scaled up to all the 129 schools in Shahpur block in 1995 as part of a fresh collaborative effort to trial new teaching learning materials for primary schools in the state.

From 1996 to 1999, the learnings from this trial, as well as a parallel trial conducted by the State Council for Educational Research and Training (SCERT), were used to develop the RGPSM’s Seekhna Sikhana curricular package for primary education. This package subsequently incorporated the curricular materials developed by the SCERT for the government’s newly set up network of ‘alternative schools’. The finalisation of a single primary school curricular package for the entire state thus closed the door on any further expansion or evolution of Prashika.

This saw the emergence of two new initiatives in the Shahpur and Bhopal centres. In Shahpur, extensive interaction with local communities in the tribal villages led to the launching of a network of educational support centres across the block in 1999. This community based project of Shiksha Protsahan Kendras (SPK), usually run in the village school itself with a community appointed facilitator, seeks to help first generation learners who find it difficult to cope with the school curriculum and to mainstream non-school going children into primary schools.

In Bhopal, an educational resource centre for primary and pre-primary education was established in 2000, with a resource-cum-reference library for young readers. The centre took up the task of encouraging primary schools in Bhopal to introduce creative activities to catalyse the reading, writing and expression skills of the students, which included production of wall newspapers and revitalising of school libraries. In addition, it also began running libraries in communities where most children had seldom interacted with the schooling system.

The science group, meanwhile, focused on streamlining the administrative and academic aspects of HSTP in preparation for a possible expansion. They revised the science workbooks for the three middle school classes on the basis of feedback from the field and the experiences of the programme over the past decade, published an administrative manual to help new groups run the programme, worked out a decentralised kit distribution system involving local traders and strengthened feedback and training systems like follow-up, monthly meetings and annual training workshops.

The social science group also revised the middle school workbooks, worked on producing an atlas that children could relate to more easily, set up a group to evaluate the programme and conducted field studies on children’s understanding of various concepts in civics, history and geography.

In the face of the government’s proactive intervention in school education, which was circumscribing the space for independent innovations by non-state agencies, Eklavya began focusing on disseminating its innovative ideas in education across the country by acting as a resource agency for other groups and state governments that were working on developing new curricular materials. In fact, this process had started even earlier, from the time the proposal to expand HSTP had received a lukewarm response from the government in the early 1990s.

This campaign saw resource persons from Eklavya interacting with government education departments and educational organisations from Andhra Pradesh, Assam, Goa, Gujarat, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Delhi, Himachal Pradesh, Kashmir, Ladakh, Orissa, Chattisgarh, Karnataka, Kerala, etc. Textbook writers from the SCERTs of many of these states were oriented in the HSTP methodology, as a result of which activity based learning gained increasing acceptance across the country.

The social science group also worked with the SCERT in Madhya Pradesh to review and develop social science textbooks for the state, and, along with the science group, was actively involved with the SCERT and Secondary Education Board of Assam in writing science and social science textbooks for the state (2002).

Various groups in different states initiated science programmes which drew heavily from the HSTP experience. They included Adheyta Kendri Vigyan Shiksha Karyakram (Avishika) in Gujarat (1993), run by Gandhi Vidyapeeth, Lok Bharati and Gujarat Vidyapeeth, with academic support from Vikram Sarabhai Community Science Centre; and later a science education project in Vadodara developed by Shishu Milap, with resource assistance from MS University, Vadodara (2001).

In Rajasthan, the Lok Jumbish (LJ) project’s curricular materials and academic inputs were modelled on Eklavya’s materials in primary education as well as science and social science at the middle school level (1997), with the organisation orienting LJ resource persons in its teaching methodologies. Eklavya also interacted intensively with the ‘autonomous’ District Institute of Education & Training (DIET) in Dungarpur, Rajasthan.

Resource support was also extended to the mathematics faculty of the Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU) for an optional course for undergraduates on teaching primary school maths (1998).

The social science group initiated a programme of interacting with teachers on a voluntary basis (2001). It initially organised orientation workshops on its teaching methodologies, which were thrown open to teachers working in its field areas, and subsequently conducted monthly meetings with these teachers to follow up on their activities in the classroom and establish a continuing link with them.

Eklavya also consolidated its publications thrust during the decade, increasing the number of titles published and making intensive efforts to establish a sales network. This included the opening of sales outlets called Pitara in Bhopal and Indore, organisation of book fairs in villages and schools and active participation in local, regional and national book fairs. As a result, Eklavya is now among the recognised publishers of affordable children’s literature and educational materials in Hindi and English in the country.

Organisationally, one new development was the establishment of a teacher resource centre with a Pitara sales outlet in Indore (2001), following increased interaction with private schools in the city. One new aspect of this interaction was that it was demand-based, with the schools following the CBSE/State Board curriculum but introducing elements of activity based learning into the classroom as per their requirements.

The state government eventually decided to close down the HSTP and social sciences programmes, following a politically motivated campaign in Hoshangabad. The closure, which led to a public outcry from academicians and educationists, proved to be a watershed in Eklavya’s history. The official closure date was July 3, 2002, a little over 20 years after Eklavya came into existence.

The current decade (2002 onwards)

Even as the prolonged drama over the closure of its educational programmes in government schools was playing itself out around the turn of the millennium, Eklavya began an internal exercise of reviewing its strengths and weaknesses and gearing itself up to face the challenges presented by the new scenario emerging on the educational front.

This exercise had a two-fold outcome. The incipient technology group that had grown into the Centre for Planning and Development within Eklavya decided to pursue an independent course and registered itself as a separate organisation. This later took the name of Samavesh. The education group, meanwhile, identified its major strengths as lying in five distinct areas. These include:

  1. Developing curricular materials for all levels of schooling and propagating their use,
  2. Improving the all-round functioning of schools,
  3. Motivating and training teachers to become more innovative in their educational practices and encouraging them to apply teaching methodologies that Eklavya has evolved and field tested,
  4. Working closer with communities to develop need-related educational programmes and activities,
  5. Developing and publishing teaching-learning and other educational/literary materials.

In addition, the Eklavya group felt its 20-year history of research and field experience in innovative education and creating systems for implementing such innovations on a macro-scale placed it in a unique position of influencing and helping other organisations in the country to pioneer their own innovative endeavours. In fact, Eklavya has gained the experience which sees it being increasingly approached by state governments and civil society educational organisations for support and guidance in educational matters. Hence a major current thrust of Eklavya is to play the role of a resource agency in the field of education.

If you wish to know more about what Eklavya is doing in these thrust areas and the specific programmes it is currently undertaking, you can go to the homepage and click the appropriate buttons.

Organisationally, Eklavya presently has operational education resource centres in Dewas, Hoshangabad, Shahpur (Betul), Piparia and Bhopal and sub-centres in Ujjain, Indore, Harda and Parasia (Chhindwara). All these centres function from rented premises, barring the Hoshangabad centre, which moved into its own campus, constructed in 2005.