Pokhrama Foundation works to bring quality education to socially and economically disadvantaged students in rural India. Through our School (Pokhrama Foundation Academy) and our two Learning Centers we reach out to nearly 300 children and their communities. In one of the most developmentally challenged areas in India we are bringing transformative education through an international team of dedicated professionals.

The Pokhrama Foundation Academy

How we started

The Foundation began its work in education in 2016, in Lakhisarai, Bihar. For three years the Foundation offered students scholarships to the best regarded local schools of the area. This experiment opened the Foundation’s eyes to many problems relating to school education in the country, and more specifically in the Lakhisarai area and Bihar. Setting up a quality educational center seemed an imperative in such a setting.

Glaring issues with schools in Lakhisarai

Average class size is 65 students/class

60% schools have no more than three teachers

Dedicated toilets for girls – 3% schools

Corporal punishment

Rote Learning

Teaching to Tests

Poor representation of girls in schools

Poorly qualified teachers

The birth of
Pokhrama Foundation Academy

The Pokhrama Foundation Academy (PFA) was started in Village Pokhrama, District Lakhisarai, Bihar in 2019. The Academy opened from temporary premises with twenty-seven primary school students and four teachers. Enrichment classes for 23 more students from higher grades were held in the evening. For the very first time in their lives students were exposed to a joyful and fear free learning environment, where all learning started with questions and curiosity.

Our Children’s Speak

—‘In a day my school takes me to the end of the universe and then back to Pokhrama—all before dinner!’

—‘All work and no play? All play and no work? Neither. My school is all work and all play!’

—‘We like to learn by questioning, and then question everything we learn’

Pokhrama Foundation Academy Today

Pokhrama Foundation Academy today operates from a spacious 7-acre campus. The campus has been designed to be environmentally sustainable, and is being landscaped with five hundred different varieties of local trees and shrubs. We have a beautifully designed academic block, a Special Classrooms block (with art and music rooms and science labs), and a residential block for the all-India team of teachers at school. We are working towards building, our library, performing arts hub, and specialized playing facilities for different sports.

That which truly liberates is education
-“Sa Vidya Ya Vimuktaye”

PFA provides exceptional education to disadvantaged students. We believe in academic rigor and meeting high standards, while always keeping our focus on the whole child. Along with building strength in numeracy and literacy we also emphasize performing and visual arts, computer programming, health and physical education.

We aim for all our children to feel free: free from ignorance, generational overtly, discrimination and lack of opportunity.Hence our motto —sa vidya ya vimuktaye (that which truly liberates is education) Read more about our educational vision.

Our Fundamental Principles

Getting Difficult Balances Right

Excellence is our pursuit. And the pursuit of excellence demands that we try to get several difficult balances right. The first of these is the balance between excellence and equity. This balance of equity and excellence in many ways is the raison de’tre of the Foundation’s work. We wish our school to be a center of excellence that gets the best of teachers and produces wonderfully accomplished, confident and successful students. But we also want to put this excellence within reach of the most disadvantaged and marginalized communities. Reaching students from these groups takes special effort and allocation of resources. But we are determined to do both. READ ABOUT OUR LEARNIG CENTERS.

Another important balance is between schooling and education. The pre-eminent educationalist, Marjorie Sykes, a disciple of Gandhi and Tagore, believed that teachers ought to be first concerned with education, not schooling. Like an able gardener does with plants, or a sensible nurse with her patients, the wise teacher should know when to leave the children alone so that they get on with their own growing, ‘do their own thing’ while the teacher steps back to watch, ‘concerned to understand but not to interfere’. But in stepping back to facilitate, teachers must help their pupils to refine the habit of questioning, something so natural in humans. They must themselves inculcate the spirit of enquiry. Our school, therefore, tries to remain sufficiently ‘de-schooled’, a tight rope balance that is hard to achieve.

There are other balances as well to achieve: between humanities on the one hand and science and mathematics (STEM disciplines) on the other; between English on one side and Indian languages (Hindi, Maghi, Sanskrit, Urdu) on the other; between academic and non-academic curricular areas; and between education for self-discovery and refinement on the one hand and social mobility and employment on another.

Another important aim of the educational experiment at Pokhrama is to disturb the insularity of the area—to bring the world to Pokhrama, and Pokhrama to the world. We therefore consciously promote diversity at PFA. Our teachers are from different parts of India, they follow different religions, and observe customs of their own areas. Teachers bring with them an expansion and broadening of experience and perspective which kids at Pokhrama appreciate and crave.

Abhayadanam The gift of fearlessness

As a teaching-learning community the PFA is marked by the absence of any kind of fear. Abhayadanam or the “gift of fearlessness” belongs with all members of the school body its students, teachers and non-teaching staff. All members of PFA are encouraged to be “self-governing” and respectful of all. Students are commended for asking questions, thinking for themselves and expressing themselves freely. There are no hierarchies and the rules and outcomes are arrived at in consultation between students and teachers. READ MORE about the self-governing structure of PFA.

Educating the Head, Heart and Hand
“an education for life, through life”

Our education, as Gandhiji urged, involves the head, heart and hand. It seeks to create a deep interplay between the cognitive, affective, aesthetic, cultural and physical domains. An active sense of ‘learning by doing’, grasping several concepts across the various curricular areas are important to us. Classroom activities are related to real-life situations. At PFA we provide “an education for life, through life”. We are focused on developing multiple faculties and intelligence and focus on the whole child. Our children come from challenging circumstances, some have seen extreme violence and disadvantage. We acknowledge that, work with it through our curriculum, have daily yoga and meditation and consult with therapists as and when needed.

Our Pedagogy and Curriculum

The School follows the CBSE curriculum at all grade levels, uses NCERT books, and teaches in dual medium—using both English and Hindi. Every effort is also made to enrich teaching through the selection of stimulating materials in various subject areas—above and beyond those prescribed by CBSE. In the middle school, in addition to the texts prescribed, the children have been reading - The Danger of a Single Story, To Kill a Mocking Bird and Shakespeare’s A Mid-summer Night’s Dream.

In the STEM subjects, theory is supplemented with a lot of experiments and learning-by-doing. When studying about issues confronting the world and the country, we connect to the actual lives and realities of our students. We take feedback and implement our students’ ideas, many of which have been catalysts for our outreach initiatives in the community.

Changing Lives
One student at a Time

Pokhrama Foundation Academy believes in changing lives one student at a time. Ours is the close mentoring and nurturing model which depends on small class sizes and highly motivated and trained teachers. PFA is committed to having never more than 25 students per class. There are numerous studies that highlight that as soon as class sizes climb to 30 or beyond, the teaching-learning experience is compromised. In an area where the average class size is between 65-70, for the Academy to stick to 25 students per class seems self-indulgent and baffling to most. However, given the large learning deficits that our children can sometimes come with, it becomes even more important to mentor students closely, know their homes and their lives, and support them through and through.

Our Biggest Resource
Our Teachers

The School chooses its teachers very carefully. Selected from top universities in India, all our teachers have master’s degrees, training in cutting edge pedagogical practices and the willingness and training to serve in rural areas. Pre-service and in-service trainings and enrichment of the teaching staff is fundamental to the way PFA functions. For PFA teachers, mastering their own subject areas and teaching techniques is but one part of what they do. Understanding every student, her/his background, and ways in which she/he can be encouraged and directed to become better learners—is central to the mission teachers set for themselves. Close personal attention and mentoring is painstakingly offered to each student at PFA. For teachers at PFA, teaching is not simply a job. It is a calling!