Taktse International School Program: Sikkim, India
The Department of Educational Studies has developed a study abroad program through which students can earn four credits as they intern at the Taktse International School in India for a semester.
Taktse International School began in 2004 when a group of community members gathered to discuss the concerns facing their society: “the erosion of traditional values, the increasing number of alienated youth with little or no marketable skills, the growth of mass consumerism, the growing disparity in wealth, the degradation of environmental resources, and the impoverishment of ethical standards in public office.” The school founders aimed to create a model school that produced the “compassionate and ethical leaders that developing societies so desperately need” (Taktse website).
The school is a K-12 non-profit coeducational school that serves 230 residential and day boarding students. It is located in the foothills of the Himalayas, near Gangtok, Sikkim. The school aims to provide students with a rigorous academic curriculum, opportunities for independent and creative thinking, and a grounding in considerations of school and community culture. The language of instruction is English. The school graduated its first class of three young women in spring 2014. Taktse draws whenever possible on both internal and external expertise, hosting a fellowship program, bringing groups of teachers to the United States for training, and holding its own professional development meetings each week. The school is currently exploring how it might better meet the needs of its own teachers and students and of India’s educational system by applying to create an accredited teacher college.
Semester abroad program
Students can participate in this study abroad program during either the fall semester (late August through early December) or the spring semester (late January through the end of May). In either case students will spend 4 months at the school. During the fall semester there are two one-week school vacations. The spring semester is continuous from February to May. Study abroad students in the spring term have the opportunity to work in the 12 day training session at Taktse during which senior teachers mentor newer teachers as they work with students in the mornings and have professional development workshops in the afternoons. During this study abroad semester students will be full time interns in an assigned class, becoming an integral part of the school and classroom. Students will also attend weekly professional development meetings, tutor students living at the school, and be involved as appropriate in (and have the opportunity to develop) extracurricular school activities. The principal of the school, Mr. Phuntsok Lauentstein-Denjongpa, will serve as study abroad students’ primary contact and mentor during their program at Taktse.
Students interested in this program must first consult with the chair of the Department of Educational Studies. Only students with department approval may apply. Students with departmental approval will first complete the Swarthmore College Study Abroad application and, once approved, will apply through the Taktse Fellowship application process: http://www.taktsefellowship.org. This application process requires that students submit a medical record, a cover letter stating their interests in working at Taktse, a resume, and two letters of recommendation. One of the letters must be from the chair of the Department of Educational Studies. Sherry Dickstein, current Fellowship coordinator, will advise students through the application process and, once admitted, in the visa and travel details for getting to Taktse
Students will earn 4 academic credits during this semester abroad. At least three of the credits will be Educational Studies credits, awarded as EDUC91 credits upon completion of a list of assignments carried out during the students’ internship at the school. These requirements include:
- a weekly journal based on full time work within a classroom;
- a curriculum unit plan for the classroom in which they are interning;
- a reflection on teaching at least a part of this curriculum;
- an independent project carried out at the school in which they develop and implement a program project (curricular, extracurricular, administrative, etc.);
- a set of interviews with the school head, teacher(s), school founders that provides them with an understanding of the school as a context for learning within this culture and community;
- a descriptive review of 2 children in the classroom in which they are interning.
The fourth credit could be an additional Educational Studies (EDUC91 credit, with the content to be determined), or could be a credit arranged with prior approval with another department. The Religion Department has expressed interest in having students do an independent study in Religion that might involve an individual tutorial at Chorten Monastery, an exploration of indigenous Buddhism under Sonam Denjongpa, or doing a study of lesser known monasteries in Sikkim. There is also the possibility of an intercultural credit for the study of Nepali or Hindi, with credit the Tibetan Monastic College or Sikkim University). Student programs will be developed in consultation with the chair of the Department of Educational Studies and appropriate members of other departments.
The program also includes some opportunities for travel, with local teachers and through some of the school programs and independently.
Room and board
Because the school has a residential component, study abroad students can be housed on the school grounds or in the school’s guest house. Each student will have his or her own room; linens are provided. All meals will be provided. Internet service is available at the school.
Safety and health
The school is prepared to respond to all of the students’ medical needs through resources both on campus and in nearby institutions. Taktse School has a full time (24/7) nurse on campus. The school is close to the Sikkim police station, which houses an ambulance. There is a government hospital and a private hospital in Gangtok, 30 minutes from the school. The CDC recommends updated typhoid and Hepatitus A prior to travel. If students stay in Sikkim, they do not need malaria medication; if they choose to travel to other areas of India they may need anti-malaria treatment.