Tuesday, August 19, 2008


I read a very likeable book last week - Totto-chan. The author, Tetsuko Kuroyanagi, is a well-known Japanese television personality. The book is an account of her own experiences at an ideal school that she attended as a child. Apparently, the author credits her success in life to this school and its headmaster.

Totto-chan (the author herself), a little girl, is expelled from her elementary school because she is "disruptive", whereas actually the active little girl is just following her natural child's curiosity. Totto-Chan's mother then takes her to the school, Tomoe Gakuen, whose headmaster Sosaku Kobayashi has studied educational methods from around the world, and has started this school to run on these ideals.

The school is unique in many ways - the classrooms are used railway carriages, there are no fixed classes, anybody can do what they want to when they like, and there is a focus on doing rather than just rote learning. The school teaches openness, frankness, love and acceptance, and aims to keep the spark in the children alive. The students actually enjoy going to school, and are disappointed when school hours get over!

"Having eyes, but not seeing beauty; having ears, but not hearing music; having minds, but not perceiving truth; having hearts that are never moved and therefore never set on fire. These are the things to fear."

... Is one of the things the headmaster believes in. Now how wonderful is that!?

The book and the incidents in it are very interesting. Since the language is simple, it can be good reading for young children too. And I think it is a must for parents and teachers.

I found a very nice write-up of the book - here and here.

I can see shades of Totto-chan in Puttachi. She is growing up to be a very active, curious child. She is bursting with energy, and she is so full of life. Reading this book made me wish that there is a Tomoe Gakuen where I can send Puttachi to study, so that the fiery spirit in her doesn't fade.

I'm afraid that is what schools do to us - compel us to conform to the "system", set wrong parameters for success, and turn bright kids into boxes. I know that we, as parents, do have a say in the matter, and it is definitely possible for us to ensure that the spark is not extinguished. But do we really have that much strength to resist the deep-rooted institutionalization that schools have to offer?


chitra said...

there are many schools who understand that and try to cater to the individual needs of the child.

In Bangalore, for your daughter, try Centre for learning. http://www.cfl.in/

They are good.

Rahul A said...

Totto Chan is a wonderful read. It made me miss my childhood days. And you are right about the prevalent educational system that is followed. Its a bottling plant of the fuild life.

Say hi to Puttachi and tell her that i am her big fan. No less than Totto Chan.

Sachin said...

Wow! Very interesting concept! Will try and get hold of this book. Hope its available readily.


Ritu said...

Sachin, you will get the e-book on the net.

Mama - Mia said...

i would love to read the book! and ofcos more than that actually find a school like that!!

maybe you will find it! maybe puttachi's spirit will be too strong to succumb! :)



Sharmila said...

Hi Shruti,
Found your blog when randomly looking up Totochan in Google...
Could not stop reading your blogs, once I started....
My colleague in office relates to me similar instances of her 3 yr old kid...
You bring alive the joy (as well as the trials :)) of motherhood...Probably I should also have a baby sometime soon,...
Thanks for writing, please do continue...

take care

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