While growing up, we learnt some basic and fundamental manners in school which are still engrained deep within our psyche. More than manners, the values we were taught went a long way and sometimes, they got infused in us through autopilot conditioning. For example, respecting those who are elderly, helping others in need, being honest, so on and so forth.
But the thing with teaching these values in school was, there was no testing ground for them there. Our real test was always in the real world when we started growing up, post-school and applying these lessons in values and manners in the outside world.
This school in Tamil Nadu, though, wants to test the lesson and values it teaches its students in school and hence, it conducted a rather unique social experiment. In a bid to test how honest, sincere and value-imbibing the students are in this Panchayat Union school in Pudukkottai, Tamil Nadu, the staff set up an 'Honesty Store', to test kids on their sincerity, through the most practical way ever.
The Honesty Store is a stationery shop which works on the principle of free will. The students can come to pick any item of stationery like books, pencils, erasers etc. and drop an amount for whatever they've purchased in a box placed there. This way, the student learns a good lesson in honesty, if he or she picks out.
This concept was first perceived by Mekela, a math teacher in the same school. There is no one present at the store to monitor payments and so, children are left on their own discretion to pay, teaching them an erstwhile lesson in honesty and basic civil responsibility.
"The main idea behind the 'Honesty store' is to teach children life-orientated lessons. We want the children to be self-aware and honest" said Mekela in an interview with a popular publication.
Even though teaching them to be honest and responsible is through an experiment, the parents can actually see a stark difference in the kids' mannerisms towards social responsibility and being more honest.
"Many times, students come and ask for particular items, which are not sold in their villages. In those cases, we purchase whatever is required. Every month we sell items for anywhere between Rs 1000-1200 at least,", said S Baskaran, an English teacher in school.
© Amar Ujala
The concept of 'pay what you will' is not a new one. It's an ardent way to ensure the people realise the value of the services they've endured. It first started in Auroville, Tamil Nadu, a community space where people got together to build a sustainable lifestyle. Every coffee shop and restaurant at the place has a box where you can put in any amount, if you liked the service.
Even though that's not a social experiment but is a way to enhance gratitude, this school in Tamil Nadu has definitely taken it a notch up and made it into an experiment. The kids actually use the money box wisely and put in a sum of whatever they think the product is worth, and never take anything for free.
“They make sure to speak the truth and we are happy about it. A little act of honesty can help shape their career drastically,” parent of a Class VI student told a popular publication in an interview.
© The Hindu
The school has a strength of about 126 students, currently, and the program is about a year old and still running successfully. We feel it should be implemented in more schools, especially schools in most cosmopolitan cities of India.