“Dad, why is being sent to the Principal’s office a bad thing?” Asks R Mahajan, my daughter, a fifth grader at the Chirag School.

“Where did you hear that, R Mahajan?”

“I read it in Calvin & Hobbes.”

“And I’ve heard it in Shin Chan and the other TV serials” chimes in A Mahajan, who also went to Chirag “Getting sent to the Principal’s office seems to be, like, the biggest punishment.”

“Well, there are certain schools where getting sent to the Principal’s office is a bad thing.” I answer.

“How can getting sent to the principals office be a bad thing? Sumit Da is so much fun. How is that punishment?”

“Well, the Principal may scold you.”

R thought for a while “But Principals don’t scold. Sunil Bhaiya or Rinku di never scolded us. And Sumit Da…” she smiled “…I don’t think he can scold. I would love to be sent to Sumit Da’s office. It would be so much fun! So why is being sent to the Principal’s office a bad thing?”

“If you did something really bad, the principal may ask for your parents to visit the school.”

“But why is parents visiting the school such a bad thing?”


(A few days earlier)

“Papa, Hema didi today said that if we are not good and don’t do our work then we will be made to repeat class five.” Says R Mahajan.

“Oh really?” I ask.

“Yes, since then Mansi and Aru and I – actually the whole class has been plotting how to not be good. That way we can all be in Chirag for one more year.”

“But that’s not fair.” wails A Mahajan, who left the school last year. The Chirag school is only till grade 5 after which the kids have to move to other schools. A Mahajan is now being homeschooled. “They never had that at our time. If they had that option when I was in grade 5, I would have repeated 5 and would not have left Chirag.”


The above are real conversations we have had with our kids. Their school, the rural, hindi-medium Chirag School, truly shows what a “fear free” school should be. And the school delivers fabulous learning, which I wrote about here. The school succeeds because there is no fear. Not despite it’s absence.

To learn more about the Chirag School, and to support it, please visit https://thechiragschool.wordpress.com/ .


“Dad, what’s a report card?” asked R.

I shuddered at the horror the words “report card” still evoked in me. Then I laughed out loud for having spared my children it’s tyranny.


4 thoughts on “Dad, what’s a report card? (And other questions from the fear-free school)

  1. I remember being called to the principal’s office because he wanted to know my opinion about an issue at school!
    (And apparently I had an opinion!)


  2. It’s so beautiful, this whole Chirag school ambience. I grew up in an ashram school- SAICE (Sri Aurobindo International Centre of Education) and yea, pretty much fun all the way; no report cards, no exams, however having to meet the ‘Principal’ was still not an exciting event, unlike at Chirag. Your post warmed the heart. Thanks for sharing such snippets from your life in Uncity- it lends hope to the heart, and is like a balm to the city soul.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. One of Yash’s friends who has been called to the ‘principal’s office’ multiple times, was able to observe changes being made to the office. He approved of the new wall paint color and other changes to the furniture!! I was very impressed at the kid’s outlook to life.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. This sounds like a dream come true. In our school, we had a teacher who slapped children so often it became a joke: “Beta, prasad ka time ho gaya. Left or right cheek?”

    Liked by 1 person

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