The activity streams at Shikha are pursued through the AlterNEXT. The vision is to integrate teaching/learning, research, and entrepreneurship with each other in innovative ways. Thus the AlterNEXT is an institution of “edupreneurs”. That is, AlterNEXT is not a university but includes education and research activities that have traditionally been pursued in universities. Likewise, the AlterNEXT is not a business but includes entrepreneurial activities that may operate as for-profit businesses elsewhere.
We pursue educational innovation in two areas: education for deaf children and adults who use sign language, and Higher Education that contributes to transitions towards sustainable ecological and eco-social futures.
Deaf education programmes follow a “deaf-led” approach, with all teaching and support staff fluent in sign language. There is no oral and speech-based “rehabilitation”; instead, the focus is on holistic development of language and thinking skills, including signing, reading, and writing.
Higher Education programmes in the area of sustainability transitions have no in-principle difference between research, teaching/learning, and external engagement, and do not separate students into subject disciplines and batches of separately taught BA/MA/PhD levels. Instead, the programmes cater to mixed groups of learners, researchers, and practitioners, are transdisciplinarity, cross-sectoral, and based on real-life projects.
The learning village is designed as a low-cost campus in order to offer a real, affordable and accessible alternative to current educational options in India. This implies a low-cost eco-infrastructure for the site, combining traditional techniques with latest technologies.
The term “rural vitalisation”, unlike the more commonly used term “development”, captures the approach to start from a positive view of local resources rather than from a deficit model of problems that need to be fixed. Instead of imposing expert advice from the outside, local people retain the initiative and design their own solutions, for which the rural vitalisation strand provides facilitation and resources.
The campus shall include spaces to develop activities for the local economy that build on the environmental richness and natural beauty, such as eco-tourism. We aim to introduce fourth sector enterprises in close cooperation with the local communities, so that they benefit from new economic and employment opportunities associated with Shikha.
To engage with diverse groups of local stakeholders, learners, researchers, practitioners, and entrepreneurs, the learning village needs to use innovative formats of engagement. Instead of one-way communication through academic lectures, Shikha will host interactive events such as co-creative workshops, educational festivals, youth camps, competitions, and the like.