manish jain

manish b w

first met up with him via Carol Black‘s schooling the world.

then kept falling in love with his work with  …

swaraj site

or that of …

shikshantar site

founder of Shikshantar:

[Zaid writes for Shikshantar]

see it here – via a recent article..profile by Christian Casillas:

What matters: The intention of Shikshantar and Swaraj University are to directly challenge harmful values that the founders feel are ingrained in the modern world’s approach to education and development. For these visionaries, school need not be compulsory nor based in competition. They challenge the idea of a superior “mono-culture,” (we all need to know the same things), and ask people to reconsider the power of corporations, the allure of consumption, and the monetary-basis of transactions. They do this work by nurturing both thought and action regarding the roles of collaboration, gift-culture, self-designed learning, and environmentally sustainable ways of living

On ed and his daughter, Kanku..

Amidst the chaos (and often contributing to it) is Kanku, Manish and Vidhi’s young daughter. Kanku is an un-schooler. Unlike a homeschooler, who still follows a standardized curriculum, Kanku’s emerging interests comprise her curriculum, her community is her teacher, and her environment is her classroom. Kanku knows what she is missing. Manish points out they’ve taken her to visit schools, just like one might take a child to visit a zoo. He is no shy critic of the conventional education system (of which he sees homeschooling as just another permutation). He likes to point out common aspects found in most schools that he finds unnatural, and often damaging: they are compulsory, based on competition, nurture a singular culture and viewpoint, and are geared towards equipping people with skills that support a consumption-based economy.


article jan 2014:

manish article

Unlearn everything you have learnt and you might stumble upon a whole set of new truths about yourself. Stripped of social conditioning, the world would seem a much better place, says Manish Jain, co-founder co-ordinator of Shikshantar Andolan, a people’s institute for rethinking education and development.

Shikshantar, in its 15 years of existence, has helped bring about a certain degree of respectability to home-schooling, Manish says, as a lot of parents have taken to it. “I’m not saying it’s a flawless system. Those who have tried it are living experiments. We learn as we go along.” Manish and wife Vidhi, too have tried homeschooling their children.

Another of the campaigns, ‘Year On’, encourages students to take a year off from school. “It is more targeted at parents. To tell them that they are not actually losing a year, but gaining.”


article may 2014:

manish and vidhi

For Shikshantar, rethinking education and deschooling our lives means re-looking at and experimenting with our energy, media, waste, food, water, healing, agriculture, transport, money, to name a few, in an intergenerational learning setting. The co-learners are exploring Udaipur as a Learning City, looking at ways to utilize and regenerate the city spaces to enable new forms of learning and relationships to flourish. This includes, for example, creating ways to bring people of different ages together in order to share knowledge and wisdom across generations. Another objective of Shikshantar is to encourage people to learn from “the small, the slow, the inefficient, the messy things that exist in the margins of our communities” – in other words, those things that – in our ongoing quest for a world that is newer, bigger, faster, cleaner – we tend to overlook or discard. The spirit of play, storytelling, laughter, silence, creativity, magic hugs, dance, infuse these explorations.

In the end, the challenge with which we are faced is not only one of re-thinking education, but of re-designing whole societies. 

“What was so powerful about listening to Manish and Vidhi was that they really spoke to something inside me – inside all of us – that yearns to do something different, to break out of that mold. They’ve given us a glimpse of what can be done if you really believe in yourself and hold onto what you think is important.”


nov 2014:


…modern education is one of the greatest crimes against humanity? Its purpose was to carry out epistemological genocide. I can no longer accept a narrative of education that sorts, ranks, standardizes, and condemns millions of beautiful, brilliant, talented children as failures.

I can no longer accept a narrative of education that sees links to my land, local languages, seeds, rivers, trees, histories, body, inner voice, all as a barrier to modernization and development.


subscribe to the Shikshantar newsletter here:

shikshantar newsletter

How can you co-create this movement with us?

Over the last 15 years in Udaipur, we have seen Shikshantar organically evolve into a leadership (un)learning community, an incubator for radical educational experiments,  a center for unschoolers, a gift culture café, a dariya dil dukkan freecycle store, a community media center, a zero waste center, a self-healing center…and a jeevan anand-dolan engaging with diverse people, from all around India and the world. This has been made possible by the contributions of friends, who have given their time, talents, energy, resources and caring spirit. We are grateful for all that we have received, and in turn, for all that we have been able to share with our wide web of friends, families, organizations and movements.

We invite you to continue to help co-create this life movement this year. Please consider starting up an innovative self-designed learning experiment with your family and friends, writing some reflections on your own unlearning journey, sharing ideas for new connections and collaborations, walking out of something that you do/consume that doesn’t support your deepest values, or making a financial donation to Shikshantar to support fellowships for local emerging young leaders. We invite you to write to us


walk out’s magazine:

[you need to scroll down to Swapathgami Magazine (all in PDF form)]:
walk outs magazine
or find english version here and hindi version here.

brother to Shilpa.

husband to Vidhi.


Manish on what swaraj means:

Manish Jain on Swaraj from Deborah Frieze on Vimeo.

For the past 9 years, I have been trying to explore what swaraj means today in the context of my life and my community in Udaipur, India. I have been trying to understand dignity, wisdom and imagination in new ways that stem from the mundane, the small, the slow, the inefficient, the invisible.


from Economics of Happiness: Modern Schooling and the Corporate Agenda

localization isn’t about ppt presentation, research in the un, it’s about being.

the hidden curriculum:

1. hierarchy of knowledge

silencing voices that don’t have the said credentials

2. commodification of learning 

play becomes a commodity, water becomes a commodity

3. fragmentation of knowing

creating fragmented beings/communities

competition – my winning has to be about your losing

compulsion – that people aren’t intelligent enough on their own

a story about all

shikshantar/swaraj as seen in a vision of city as school.


year on


written in 2007, great insight (from and) into Manish, swaraj, and being the change:

I have spent the past nine years trying to understand how to live my values today rather than waiting for the system to change. My search for the roots of deep transformation have led me to re-engage with the seemingly mundane, the small, the slow, the inefficient, the unorganized, the invisible.

graphic below links to entire article…

manish - being the change


most recent works:

learning societies uncon


giftival manish


what if conferences/experiences – like Matt?


rethinking modern schooling:


posted on fb

Friends, i am working on a Declaration of Decolonizing Education. Would love to have your inputs on it.
10. I can no longer accept a narrative of education which teaches me that my village grandmother was illiterate, primitive, backward, stupid, uneducated, underdeveloped, uncivilized and not capable of managing their own affairs.

9. I can no longer accept a narrative of education which standardizes, sorts, brands, and condemns millions of beautiful brilliant talented children around the world as ‘failures’ and as ‘slow learners’ and teaches us that the head is more important than the heart, the hands and home.

8. I can no longer accept a narrative of education that sees my links to my land, to my local languages, to my seeds, to my rivers, to my trees, to my histories and herstories, to my body, to my inner voice, to my community all as a barrier to modernization and development which must at best be destroyed if we are to progress, and at worst be condemned to a multicultural day festival in school.

7. I can no longer accept a narrative of education that teaches me that physical work in the fields, in my home, with my animals and in my community is ‘drudgery’ and my children’s salvation lies in consuming corporate advertising messages (such as drinking coca cola, eating mcdonalds, using fair and lovely face whitening creams) and chatting on Facebook..

6. I can no longer accept a narrative of education that teaches me that I have to compete against others in my community and against peoples from other countries as part of the survival of the fittest.

5. I can no longer accept a narrative which teaches me that learning is a commodity (along with the air, water, land, food) and that knowledge is the property of individuals.

4. I can no longer accept a narrative of education that teaches me that we are poor in education because we don’t have schools, trained teachers or scientific knowledge. So we need more foreign direct investment, we need more foreign aid, we need more public-private partnerships, we need more free trade agreements, and we need to always trust the Experts over the wisdoms of our communities.

3. I can no longer accept a narrative of education that gives power to the Ministry of Human Resources to define what it means to be human.



Manish Jain, Shikshantar 2014


shared by Manish jan 2015 – written by Courtney Martin

View at


jan 2016 – the creativity adda – an unschool at a government-aided school in Delhi – written by Manish


jan 2016 – interview with Vidhi (married to Manish)


feb 2016 – parrot’s training

The Parrot’s Training (retold) | Shikshantar
We are pleased to announce the release of the first book in the Hacking the Education System series. This book looks at the education system as a cage. It raised fundamental questions on how to begin decolonizing our imagination.
have a look at our new publication. u can order it oniine from banyan tree

notes from book:

p 6

take a closer look at the invisible..

we’re being stressed by what we’ve repressed..

an invitation to our wildest imaginations

p 38

the parrot today is taught to question within the system, but not to question the system itself.

how we are dealing with the crisis is part of the crisis

p 39

to the point we can’t see the cage or we don’t believe we can live w.o it

p 44

(from original story)

the method was so stupendous that the bird looked ridiculously unimportant in comparison.


april 2016 – on eco versities

we began a process of finding or inventing a language to speak to and learn from each other


aug 2016 – on exams

View at


essay by Gustavo shared on fb/medium by Manish:
check out this very powerful essay by Gustavo Esteva – Unlearning the Pretension to be God in our upcoming book In Praise of Scaling Down.
I was fully educated in the conviction of being underdeveloped. I was thus fully domesticated in the religion of scaling up.

Four lucky encounters, almost at the same time, changed my mind.

1\ The first was Leopold Kohr, the master of E.F. Schumacher. …….Let us replace the oceanic dimensions of integrated big powers and common markets by a dike system of inter-connected but highly self-sufficient local markets and small states in which economic fluctuations can be controlled not because our leaders have Oxford or Yale degrees, but because the ripples of a pond, however animated, can never assume the scale of the huge swells passing through the united water masses of the open seas.


2\  A little later..Teodor Shanin helped me to abandon my Marxist religion with the teachings of the late Marx. .. Shanin described the consequences of the Soviet obsession with size: the bigger, the better, once they adopted development, instead of justice, as the very core of socialist ideals.


3\ And then, Ivan Illich….Tools for Conviviality. …This new politics consists in the search for a community agreement on the technological profile of a common roof under which all the members of a society want to live, rather than the construction of a launching platform, from which only a few members of the society are sent to the stars. ..This new politics is a voluntary and communitarian self-limitation, the search of maximum limits in institutional productivity and the consumption of services and commodities, in accordance with the needs considered, within that community, satisfactory for each individual.


4\ Wendell Berry observed that properly speaking “global thinking is not possible”….Those who have “thought globally” (and among them the most successful have been imperialist governments and multinational corporations) have done so by means of simplifications too extreme and oppressive to merit the name of thought. Global thinkers have been, and will be, dangerous people… Unless one is willing to be destructive on a very large scale, one cannot do something except locally, in a small place.

voluntary compliance ness

so .. we go ginormously small…(and so circle back to schumacher) ie: hosting-life-bits as the day

The time has come to reclaim our real condition, as mere mortals, and adjust our behaviour to our own scale.

indeed.. let’s try a nother way… ginorm small enough for all of us.. – has to be all of us..

And so, under the guidance of these radical thinkers I was able to unlearn what I knew about almost everything. ….opened my mind, but my heart was still closed until I began to listen to the voices I have been hearing for a long time, at the grassroots, the voices of campesinos and urban marginals, always disqualified, the people that should be civilized, evangelized, educated, developed…always described for what they are not, for their lacks…invisible, subordinated, silenced…


They (mayans) knew how to observe and follow the sun and the stars and how to organize their lives according with their movements. They never dared to conceive the idea of controlling them.


Plato warned us. An abstraction, he said, implies taking away from reality an aspect or quality and putting it in our minds. We must put it within brackets, to avoid any confusion: it is not reality. … In time, however, we lost the brackets. … we started to assume that we were really living in those abstractions. Our language reflects this attitude. We assume that we live in a specific city, a certain nation, planet Earth…in spite of the fact that no one can live in abstract entities, like a city, a country, a planet. Or we think that we are lawyers or engineers, catholic or Buddhists, students or teachers, assuming as our being the abstract category in which we can be classified. And we orient our thinking and our behaviour not in terms of our real world, our place, where we can really do something.

labels ness

If you want to see where you are, says Wendell Berry, you will have to get out of your space vehicle, out of your car, off your horse, and walk over the ground. On foot you will find that the earth is still satisfyingly large, and full of beguiling nooks and crannies.

If we think locally, we would do far better than we are doing now. The right local questions and answers will be the right global ones. The Amish question “What will this do to our community?” tends towards the right answer for the world.

a new story for humanity (doc)


via Schumacher College – mar 13-17 2017 – course w Manish and Charles


Alnoor Ladha (@alnoorladha) tweeted at 6:18 AM – 11 Jul 2017 :

“TEDx-itis” by Manish Jain (

They continually criticize efforts for not being ‘clear’, ‘well-organized’ and ‘well-planned’ and are unable to deal with chaos and emergence

to deal with chaos/emergence.. let’s try: hlb that io dance

They believe change happens through polished rational, objective, formal presentations rather than iterative informal conversations, unlearning and immersions

2 convos via idio jargon.. as the day


jul 2017 – multi unis alliance


jan 2018 – Our work is to recover wisdom and imagination

most people think that education is a solution going forward for the world to deal w the diff crises on the planet .. and i’ve found that the current ed system is actually part of the problem.. not only is it irrelevant.. it is also actually creating/reproducing the same sicknesses.. ie: local languages backward/uncivilized.. don’t have much to contribute

2 min – so part of our work is to recover that wisdom and imagination..t which go hand in hand.. we have much more than what we thought we had..current system is a big culprit.. delivering a lot of fear as well

3 min – i think it’s very deliberate.. by design.. same people who designed the army.. prison.. factory.. designed ed.. even our govt says it’s a ministry of our resource development.. so part of this larger model of econ growth

which is basically from 3 things: 1\ consumers  2\ people who have no regard for eco system  3\ people who can only find happiness thru addiction.. that’s the growth econ in india.. and that’s what ed prepares them for..

4 min – in india.. people who have not gone to school .. so-called illiterates.. so who is wasting more water.. generating more pollution .. eating more junk food…. the educated or the illiterates.. there’s something wrong w the kind of ed we’ve been given for sure .. t

5 min – it works best when you’ve destroyed people’s connection to their culture.. community.. so it’s by design done a very good job of that..t

6 min – british brought model of ed in 1830s..

8 min – 114 000 varieties of rice.. after ed on 7 000 left.. the monoculture of ed

9 min – unlearning.. around the idea that the crisis that’s facing us is much deeper than kind of simple management/tech shifts.. ie: how we perceive ourselves in the world.. and many assumptions.. ie: what’s happiness.. developed.. dirty..  so many notions we have been conditioned.. even how we see money or death or love.. we need to deeply relook at a lot of those assumptions.. or we repeat just w newer techs et al..

10 min – so related to decolonizing ourselves.. unschooling is actually one mode.. self-designing learning.. schooling .. we consciously choose to not send kids to school.. part of a school mind.. competition.. comparison.. resistance to diversity and chaos..  parents have to as well

11 min – diff between homeschooling and unschooling.. we trust children.. and rebuild larger connections w community.. link it to larger questions of sustainable lifestyle.. reimagining economy.. reconnecting to diff sense of what is spiritual/sacred…

12 min – once you take your child out of school… what’s your alt..? your alt is life..

13 min – on feeling isolation.. i usually tell people that unschooling is really 4 000 yrs old.. so not new

15 min – esp it geeks open to this.. tired of rat race..

16 min – (interviewer) – in britain 2018 – hard to imagine just get rid of school.. is it all or nothing

17 min – well i spent a lot years in invesco and world bank.. so i would say it’s all or nothing..

not part\ial.. for (blank)’s sake

ie: hlb via 2 convos that io dance.. as the day..  a nother way

18 min – ie: if people go thru growth process.. what’s going to happen to global econ..? they aren’t going to trade ie: mountains for money

19 min – the people who are controlling system.. invested interest is to keep system as it is..

20 min – this is a core issue for transition town  (@transitiontowns).. the solution to ed crisis is not reforming schools.. it’s re engaging community life..

transition town

in the city.. as the day

21 min – in villages kids grow up seeing processes.. in cities.. grow up seeing products

22 min – can we invite people to say no for a year.. for school..? and let us re imagine what we want

short bp

1 yr to try commons.. 1 yr to be 5 again..

23 min – we actually find.. once we step out of the boundaries of school.. we’re no longer poor.. backward.. underdeveloped people.. we are actually very brilliant.. w abundant resources of learning all around us..t..  we have so much potential

affluence w o abundance

26 min – real imagination needs (that open ecosystem)

28 min – tedx itis.. i think is having a neg impact on people.. (on what tech is doing to people in india).. get an overly romanticized version..

30 min – ideal conditions for imagination..?  2 yrs ago.. started work in a govt school.. (before all was in free spaces).. so created an unschool in the govt school.. not an afterschool.. but an undermining school.. ie: competition et al

32 min – so in that.. having time everyday..  1\ kids need time and space.. at least 3-4 hours a day.. w/o any kind of intervention from any kind of professional teacher

time and space..

2\ connection to nature..

holmgren indigenous

3\ being able to dabble in everything.. not just one.. so everyday 4 hrs a day.. and get to move around to whatever space you want

35 min – culture of collab.. feeding curiosity – all done w hanging out.. not having to teach anything

42 min – we’re still in india.. an oral tactile culture.. so start w recognizing that.. local languages.. full of wisdom and imagination of people.. so much knowledge in local language.. rooted to et al.. a lot of activists are disconnected from that

let’s go for infra based on idio-jargon/self-talk as data


manish fb share: On my way to auroville


Felipe Viveros (@theworldweare) tweeted at 6:40 PM on Wed, Feb 13, 2019:
“In the name of literacy we’ve erased the literacy of the local languages” says #ManishJain from #Shikshantar


interview w manish on swaraj jail uni:


manish fb share: My speech on From Global to local – Escaping the American Dream from Ladakh []

5th time to ladakh

kidnapped at 3 yrs old by the american dream.. migrated to us.. for security.. money.. grew up in suburb of chicago.. spent most of my youth in the shopping mall.. i was told if i do all these things i can be like the americans.. but reminded – by bullying.. not quite american.. so used to spend a lot of time in front of mirror.. ie: imagining if i had an american/european nose.. so set out on journey to beat white man at his game

7 min – mother is dr.. father is engineer.. i wanted to serve humanity/planet.. friends said.. to do that.. become investment banker.. so became one.. saw how global/financial system works on inside.. we think it’s fair.. but saw that big corps have big benes.. whole purpose of trickle down.. rich richer and that would help poor.. this is a whole system

10 min – left wall st.. friends said – become professor.. ended up at harvard.. all were writing books.. but didn’t see very many happy they’re.. stressed/competitive.. experts there disconnected.. so left phd at harvard and joined unn to promote development.. saw more people going into debt.. monoculture.. damage to planet.. then i saw that people added word ‘sustainable’ devel.. but same things were happening..

13 min – then came across book.. realized not about individuals.. but a system in place.. people doing things they don’t even believe in..  ie: jobs; hurting climate;.. based on war and consumption.. became depressed..

14 min – decided to go back to my village.. started thinking my grandmother was more intelligent than harvard profs.. i called her my grandmothers uni

one thing she helped me unlearn: 1\ that we are poor people.. (rather) we don’t understand our own richness..  2\ that we are alone.. that there’s no alt.. we have to imagine a diff system.. ladakh is a great inspiration for the world for that.. built on love  3\ that we are not stupid  4\ that we have a diff kind of power – not armies/tech.. but connecting to people/self/nature..

17 min – so started own movement to reimagine ed.. felt that was at source.. need a diff kind of knowledge..

literacy and numeracy as colonialism/control/enclosure