From 1947 to 1961, Shreyas was located in Shahibaug, Ahmedabad, Gujarat. Shreyas began with twenty children along with some “mothers” and teachers. Madame Maria Montessori, who founded and established the Montessori system of education, was its first president. Shreyas, among the first Montessori schools of India, grew into a full-fledged multilingual day and residential centre with Gujarati or English as the principal languages from nursery level to science and arts intermediate college level.
In 1961, Shreyas moved to a wooded hill near Ambawadi. Shreyas was one of the first attempts to create a complete institution, which would provide a new educational approach for children. Classes start from pre-kindergarten to 7th Grade and a Secondary school from 8th grade to 12th grade in both English and Gujarati medium of instruction.
Children who avail themselves of Shreyas facilities come from a wide range of backgrounds. Some are from modest circumstances, some without family support or home, and others from families of comfortable means. These facilities are open to all regardless of their gender, creed or economic condition. Shreyas offers a range of activities throughout the day, including yoga, martial arts, camping, horse-riding, swimming, sports, dance, music, art classes, science laboratories, museums, library, and Balgram SOS (Children’s Home). The campus is abundant in vegetation that provides habitat for a variety of birds and animals, like a wooded oasis in an urban region.
Shreyas alumni are now spread over four continents of the world. Several alumni have made a mark in their respective fields.
Shreyas complex was designed by the famous architect Shri Balkrishna Doshi. Later, additional buildings were constructed by Shri Kamal Mangaldas.
During the Indian renaissance and at the dawn of India’s freedom from foreign domination, several efforts were initiated for the development of human potential, notably those of Rabindranath Tagore and Mahatma Gandhi. Later, in the thirties, the advent of Maria Montessori to India added to this upsurge, a new vigour for the significance of the child. One such endeavour towards reformation was initiated by Manorama and Leena Sarabhai in founding Shreyas in 1947 in Ahmedabad.
Born into an illustrious family, well known for its commitment to education, science, fine arts, literature, social welfare, politics and industry, Leenaben Sarabhai received a non-formal and liberal education under able teachers, and through personal contacts and through intensive and extensive study tours in India and abroad. Her special interest in painting, performing arts, literature, philosophy, social studies and education, housekeeping, animals and gardening, are strikingly manifest in the aesthetic and peaceful environment of Shreyas.
Children being her main passion, even when she was a child herself, she conducted a children’s club. Later she worked as a dance and art teacher in a junior school. Thereafter she worked at a maternity home, in a home for the aged and in slum areas. During the 1942 unrest, she organised a self-defence squad and an all Gujarat First-aid and ambulance unit.
She wrote plays, biographical sketches, reflections, travel diaries, children’s books, anthologies of verse and a number of books for educators, some of which have won awards. What was once to Leenaben Sarabhai a personal urge turned into an all-embracing expression. As a result, learning became a joyous and fulfilling experience at Shreyas.
The open-air stage, the shadow-and-puppet theatre, and the exhibitions became a dynamic media of learning for the entire community, touching, inspiring and transforming the participants in many ways. Leenaben strived to ensure that Shreyas provided an undisturbed and calm environment necessary for growth and development of children, while remaining above the political and economic turmoil of the nation in her times.
Shreyas is a sterling example of how an integrated personality is able to initiate and build up an integrated environment for children. For almost 64 years, Leenaben Sarabhai made progressive efforts with an unflagging energy.
To create an ecosystem for learning that enables its students to explore their heritage, discover their true potential, understand their responsibility as global citizens, ignite in them creativity and curiosity to question boundaries, and instills in them the desire, capability and self-confidence to pursue excellence.