Many might have heard of the inspiration behind Aamir Khan’s character of Phunsuk Wangdu in the Bollywood blockbuster 3 Idiots – Sonam Wangchuk. The engineer and innovator is also an education reformer and had been awarded the ‘Rolex Award for Enterprise’ recently for his innovative vertical artificial glacier termed the ‘Ice stupas’. ‘Ice stupas’ are a blend of technology and tradition which help in irrigation and greening of cold dessert regions.
Sonam Wangchuk plans to open an innovative and alternative university in Ladakh at Fiang village and reform the current higher education system. Using the money won with the Rolex Award, Wangchuk declared that he would want to bring about reforms in higher education, as they have already done in primary education in Ladakh.
“Our vision is that the effect of this University will be on the other universities. In Ladakh there is nothing specific for the mountains now, the mountain people there, feel lost. Therefore we will be setting up a University that will address issues of the mountain, where the youth can engage themselves in finding solutions that are real to the real life challenges faced there,” said Sonam Wangchuk.
The proposed university is supposed to be a doer’s institution which will be very practical and contextual and also answer the issue of unemployability amongst those who have acquired higher education. The university will mainly cater to the people in Ladakh, and to other residents of the mountains and then it will be for others. This education reformer believes in the 3Hs of Education rather than the commonly known 3Rs model. Instead of Reading, wRiting and aRithmetic, he thinks with a bright Head, a skilled Hand and a kind Heart, one becomes a complete human being and hence may contribute to a happier world which we all want.
The vision of the university would be to provide students of Ladakh with a platform where they would be running various enterprises, the funds from which will play a major role in running the university. A fellowship programme is expected to start by 2017, so that by 2018 the first batch can be commenced. What would be the criteria for getting admission to the university? “It will be open based mostly on their passion for learning than on anything else. It would be open for mostly Ladakhis, then for students from the mountains and then for others, as we would like to cater to the region where it is located.”
When asked what would be the fee structure, Wangchuk said, “Our vision is that there will be various enterprises run by the university, which will bring in revenues to sustain the university, so that the students get free or next to free education. It will be the sweat equity rather than currency that the students will be paying as a fee for the university. The school we have now is fully self-reliant as the students run it. Moreover, The Himalayan Institute of Alternatives aims to fill a gap and will change the face of higher education in India, the future of which has already begun.”
The talk was hosted by Future Institute, and the event witnessed the presence of many distinguished intellects from diverse fields. The event had the gracious presence of Naeem Akhtar, Minister for Education, J&K, as the chief guest along with Nawaaz Rigzin Jora, Minister for Urban Development and Urban Local Bodies, J&K, Prof Ajay Mathur, Dr Ashok Khosla, and many others.