Brains on Trains: Indian “Train School” Attracts Students with Design

PATNA, India — For us commuters, the only “learning moment” on a train is usually deducing who not to sit next to. For school children near the capital city of Patna in the Indian state of Bihar, the train is the fast track to school — literally. The so-called “Education Express” is a government-run middle school designed like train compartments meant to attract kids to the “pleasure of learning,” according to a report in Gulf News India.

The “train,” which is not really an operational rail transit service but rather Government Middle School, Mohiuddinagar, located in Samastipyur district, serves grades one through eight and has a total of 27 classrooms. Eight of those are in the shape of train compartments and are known as the “child-friendly compartments.”

There are currently 750 girls and boys enrolled in the school, which has operated since 1925. Reports, however, suggest that there are more than 200,000 in the state that are not presently enrolled in a school.

The train initiative has been more successful than other projects engineered to get kids interested in attending school. Economic pressures often find children working as laborers or in shops and hotels (one police estimate put the number of such children at close to a million).

The train theme school comes as no surprise as Samastipur has a very strong link with the Indian Railways, which has been a lifeline for the region. The station is an important railway junction in North Bihar, and served as the entry to areas like Darbhanga, Madhubani and Sitarmarhi before broad gauge tracks were extended beyond Samastipur. —

An earlier attempt by the state government to incentivize underprivileged school age children into classrooms offered them a rupee (the equivalent of 1.5 U.S. pennies) for attending class. The plan, which was launched in 2009, largely failed.

More Than One Train School

Interestingly, Government Middle School, Mohiuddinagar, is not the only train-themed school in India. Younger Nation, an Indian news service, report there is a village school in Udupi, Karnakata, that has created a similar project for its Kannada-medium students.