The World’s Most Innovative Schools: Barefoot College

February 9, 2011 at 9:12 am Leave a comment

by Alec Patton

image from Barefoot College website

This is the first in a series of posts about the places where the most innovative teaching and learning is happening around the world. The phrase ‘innovative schools’ is a term of convenience – many of the examples will not be recognisable as ‘schools’ at all. You could also dispute the term ‘innovative’ if you really wanted to be difficult, since some of these have been around for a long time. But they all offer ways of doing things which radically challenge the status quo (and get good results by doing so).

I’m beginning this series with the  Barefoot College in India, founded in 1972, which has been helping rural communities to become self-sufficient and sustainable by training local people who become ‘barefoot professionals’ and go on to train others.

The roles they train for include “barefoot teachers, night school teachers, doctors, midwives, dentists, health workers, solar engineers, solar cooker engineers, water drillers, hand pump mechanics, architects, artisans, designers, masons, communicators, water testers, computer programmers and accountants.” Nobody gets a certificate of any kind, and everyone – students and staff – “is expected to keep an open mind, try new and crazy ideas, make mistakes and try again.”

The Barefoot College focuses on people (especially women) who have had little or no formal education. Though the College is based in India, they have provided training to rural women from countries including Mozambique, Mali, Ethiopia, Senegal, Sudan, Russia (Siberia) and Djibouti.

You can find out more on the Barefoot College Website and on


Entry filed under: Education & Children's Services.

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