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Learning not education – Sonam Wangchuk

Mansi Mittal 1

 Sonam Wangchuk – a Ladakhi engineer, innovator, and education reformist. He is the founding director of the Students’ Educational and Cultural Movement of Ladakh (SECMOL) which was founded in 1988 by a group of students who had been in his own words, ” the ‘victims’ of an alien education system foisted on Ladakh .” He rose to fame when his story inspired Amir Khan`s character  Phunsukh Wangdu of 3 Idiots. But he`s much more than what the celluloid could portray.Learning not education - Sonam Wangchuk

Born in Uleytokpo, near Alchi in the Leh district of Jammu and Kashmir. Until the age of 9 years, he was not enrolled in any school, as there were no schools in his area. Later he was enrolled in a school in Sri Nagar.  He later completed his  B.Tech in Mechanical Engineering from National Institute of Technology, Srinagar.

There are many loopholes in our education system, he came face to face with those while tutoring tenth-grade students to finance his own engineering studies, at that time 95% of the students were failing. He then realized that this way only the education system is failing and not the students. He then decided to change this system in his own way and went back to Ladakh where he started SECMOL.

Learning not education - Sonam Wangchuk


They started a school, and the admission criteria were not how good your grades were, but that you have failed in the conventional education system. Here he focussed on learning and not mere education. The campus runs on solar energy and nurtures natural heritage of Leh. Wangchuk says that the students run the school themselves, “like a little country with its own elected government”. “They learn by doing – they farm, keep animals, make food products and engage in solving real-life problems that they face in these harsh climatic conditions.”


Not just this, Wangchuck and his students also started many innovative and creative projects like Ice Stupa. During the critical planting months of April and May before the natural glacial meltwaters start flowing, farmers of Ladakh face a water crisis. The project aims to provide a solution to the problem.

Learning not education - Sonam Wangchuk

However, we in India care more about the jobs and the salaries and not learning. It kills the curiosity of the students, while Wangchuk nurtures the curiosity. It does not make student run a mad race, where everyone is just part of the same herd. Instead, he promotes creativity and individuality.

Let`s not be a  fool to teach algebra to someone who only wants to paint. Let`s not ask a fish to climb the tree or, a monkey to swim. Let`s care less about the grades and more about learning.

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