Rebuilding the foundations of learning

We are incredibly happy and excited to present our first creative learner's portfolio.

traits:Visual Artist, Programmer, Learnerpowers:Honor, Work Ethic, Honestyweapons:Creativity, Perseverance, Logic


Any system with a test of effectiveness will optimize for better testing rather than better effectiveness.

The very act of measurement undoes the effectiveness of the system. The most recent example for this phenomenon is Volkswagen cheating on their emission test.

This is also evident in education. By having an endless series of tests that span the most creative, productive and formative stages of the human life, we significantly reduce the possibility of producing exceptional humans ready to take on challenges larger than themselves.

We take free humans, force them into a box during most of their prime and then complain about their inability to think outside that very same box.

By focusing on creative / living portfolios for assessments, emphasizing production and creation as markers of learning, we push young humans to care deeply about their work, cultivate a sense of pride, exceptional work ethic and well rounded integrity by respecting their ability to be creators.

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foundations of learning

Puthir’s curriculum and pedagogy revolves around iteratively creating joyful learning experiences which allow the learner to engage, with play, purpose and contentment.

These experiences are tailored to grow with the learning cohort, provide them with agency while being malleable enough for the facilitator to adapt it to the needs of the learners.

Learning at Puthir is facilitated but autonomous, purpose driven, and oriented towards creation. Creative learning with an abundance of humanities and technology provides a platform for a balanced, capable and well-adjusted individual to emerge.

Poetry, Math, Programming, Language, Science and Art are not disparate subjects but are simply tools to bring alive the learner’s creations.

Evidence: Our first learner’s portfolio has his meticulously handcrafted artwork and fonts, well engineered code, precisely fine-tuned animations and thoughtful writing. There is a lot more to come over the next couple of years.

gardens, not tombstones

When learning is not assessed rather facilitated and observed through creations, a new kind of individual emerges. A gardener. Someone that has planted a seed and seen things grow.

The garden becomes the learner’s playground for the rest of their life. Every plant, every rock, every pathway can be tweaked endlessly as they grow.

There is no need to ascribe a purpose to learning something as there is no need to ascribe a purpose to planting a seed. It is self-evident.

Like the devoted gardener, the learner bows down to nature, the vegetation and no one else. Facilitators help them till the soil, give a hand when the water is too heavy, but the garden belongs to the learner.

Evidence: Our first learner’s portfolio is his identity, personal website and garden. He will continue to add, improve and fine-tune his creations forever.

meaning over mechanics

Learning has devolved into an exercise in fine-tuning the learner’s ability to score in exams that test accumulation of facts. As a society, we have continually optimized for testing well rather than learning well. Mechanics have superseded meaning.

This is especially true when it comes to mathematics as we are carrying over the pedagogy from the time when humans were the calculators.

At Puthir, with no hurry to complete something at a specific time, focus is always on meaning. Learning one thing really well translates to an ability to learn anything well.

What applied to calculators now applies to all forms of knowledge. In a short period of time, AI programs shall digest human knowledge and produce succinct and precise answers to difficult questions. What is the role of a human then? All the mechanics are obsoleted in an instant.

Evidence: Our first learner’s portfolio has hand-coded CSS, complex, custom built animations. This is only possible after understanding how things work. Producing pixel art at his level is an exercise in rigorous understanding of visual art and in many ways more foundational than anything traditional. His latest project plays around with “what-if” queries on foundational ideas, a fantastic way to tease your understanding. Some of his future projects will demonstrate this in other areas as well.

learning to learn

From writing to printing presses to google to Chat GPT we are now in an age where retained value of human knowledge is worthless. A productive human is one who can learn from easily available knowledge, apply it cross functionally and make things that didn’t exist before. A person who can learn by themselves, learn in a way that allows them to separate right from wrong, assimilate and apply, is ready for the upcoming age of co-intelligent partnership between humans and machines.

Evidence: Our first learner’s portfolio is produced with bare minimal instruction. All his art is a result of dedicated effort, consistent practice and learning from his selection of youtube videos. Programming is a result of studying official/semi-official documentation from MDN, React and corresponding library websites. No stack-overflow. He successfully completed an Algebra lecture series (with assessments and certificate) to ensure regular curricular material can also be assimilated.

learning to awaken

Contentment results from finding your purpose. Most children go through school for several years without an opportunity to discover what makes them tick, what makes them go “yes! that’s me”.

A boundless learning system where someone is free to explore, make mistakes, try their hand at many things and go deep when their heart desires is where such awakening will happen.

Evidence: Our first learner’s portfolio is filled with joyful animations and delightfully quirky art. His programming projects gave him the leeway to find and express himself by creating custom built animations for programmed effects. His projects are styled with handcrafted pixel art including custom hand-crafted fonts. The ability to express oneself completely while learning and creating is in essence awakening a part of your identity.

learning to work

Work is production. Creating things that are fine on the surface and in the details. Work involves paying a lot of attention to detail. Work involves struggling with hard problems for long periods of time. Work involves understanding systems and processes.

Assignments and examinations do give the students a fair amount of exposure to “work”. How does it happen at Puthir? Well, creating things and taking them to acceptable quality is work.

Evidence: Our first learner’s portfolio comprises of production quality art. All the programming is done by following reasonable engineering standards, git for version control, copious unit tests. His latest project is not limited to demonstrating his knowledge. He also illustrates, teaches and explores the ideas that were cultivated and assimilated during his learning process.

learning: a never-ending journey

Our societal decision to conflate schooling, learning and the resultant rat-race has limited human potential to a great extent. When we redefine learning as a causal root for production, it results in a journey of exploration, learning and discovery that lasts a lifetime.

Evidence: Our first learner’s portfolio is not a result of strictly following a curriculum. Like how a flamenco guitar follows the dancer’s foot, the work defined what needed to be learnt. All motivation was intrinsic and/or purpose-driven. While it will take us beyond our lifetime to prove this claim to be true, cultivation of intrinsic motivation is a good indicator of learning that rarely ends.

What’s next?

While we wait for the widespread unrest and polarization to settle, we are gathering resources and collecting people to realize our vision of building the next Nalanda. We are on the lookout for people that are invested in the success of this project that can act as our conscience, guardian angels and when necessary, as our enforcers.

We are also seeking a significantly large capital (not-for-profit) that will go towards building an inspiring campus, a dedicated team, and provide strong success guarantees for our first few sets of learners.

But we are not in a hurry. Until the larger project materializes you will find us working over here at Puthir on deep-impact-micro-scale projects and over at koodup on shallow-impact-large-scale projects, furthering our research and building up necessary learning infrastructure, team and capital.

Reach out

If you want to throw your hat in support, a briefcase full of cash or significant clout our way please email us at [email protected].

Note that we expect your support to be non-transactional in nature. You should not expect anything in return for your support other than credit, gratitude and meticulous work from us towards accomplishing the goals of this project. You also acknowledge that you will not have any influence above and beyond a sincere listening ear.

Puthir is a mission driven project to rebuild education. Transactional relationships have a tendency to dilute / distort the mission and we’d like to make sure Puthir does not fizzle out like other noble endeavors in the past.

If you are looking for transactional engagement with us, we are open to more traditional investment models at our commercial sister venture koodup. Please email us at [email protected].

If you have questions or comments please email us at [email protected]. You can definitely expect a response as long as:

  1. You identify yourself properly. (No anonymous messages please. Any public record of your email address linked to your identity is sufficient. If that’s not possible you can decide on the best way to identify yourself.)
  2. Your message is pertinent, thoughtful and constructive. (Critical or supportive does not matter)
  3. You are not associated with any kind of divisive or supremacist agenda / ideology.

Your identity and our conversations will remain private and we request that you also value our privacy. We may post an edited version of our response here if it feels like something that will help the general audience.


  1. Is a physical campus required? Isn’t an online, internet based initiative more democratic and scales better?

    Yes. The physical campus will serve as our innovation center and deep impact initiative. Children learn better with tactile feedback, physical connection, objects and play. It cannot match the scale of impact that the internet offers. Our sister project, koodup, focuses on that. We have more projects in the pipeline that try to get the best of both worlds.

  2. Why do you have a commercial sister project? Doesn’t it reduce the focus on this effort?

    Puthir aims to eventually provide employment to thousands of creative facilitators and scholarships to millions of children. Such an effort can be kick-started with generous donations, but in order for the effort to sustainably continue and thrive, it needs to be self sufficient. Koodup and Puthir will have a symbiotic relationship to sustainably accomplish and continuously deliver on the larger goal of rebuilding the foundations of learning.

  3. What is the governance model?

    For the first phase of Puthir 2.0 which will proceed until the point where a well-aligned, capable team, is formed and successfully delivers the first couple of milestones, the governance will be led by an advisory board and the founding principles. Once the milestones are reached, the advisory board and founders shall provide visionary oversight, with the team taking over operational governance. The team will comprise of parents, facilitators and representatives from art and industry.

  4. Will the innovations at Puthir be open access to everyone?

    The first milestone will ensure that Puthir can sustainably exist and serve its learners and parents. Once we reach a point of continued sustainability we will open up access to our work. We will also begin working with government schools soon and open hubs when the conditions are conducive.