Though a Mechanical Engineer by education,
he has been mostly working in the field of
education reform for more than 27 years. In
1988, just after he finished his engineering
studies he founded SECMOL (Students’
Educational and Cultural Movement of Ladakh)
www.secmol.org, which aims to bring reforms
in the government school system in Ladakh. In
1994 he was instrumental in the launch of
Operation New Hope, a triangular collaboration
of the government, village communities and the
civil society to bring reforms in the government
schools system. The programme involved
formation of Village Education Committees to
take ownership of state schools, training of
teachers in child friendly ways and re-writing
and publishing localised text books for Ladakh.
As a result the pass percentage at 10 th grade
(matriculation) rose from the dismal 5% to 55% in seven years and 75% these days.
For students who still failed in their state exams he founded the SECMOL Alternative
School Campus near Leh, a special school where the admission criteria is failure in
exams and not grades. However with the supportive and creative environment at the
school, the so called failures have excelled in their chosen fields and risen to
international acclaim as entrepreneurs, film makers, politicians, teachers and so on.
As an engineer Sonam Wangchuk has been teaching innovation at the SECMOL
Alternative School, where together with the students he designed and built solar heated
buildings that are low cost, made of earth/mud but maintain +15 C even when the
outside temperature is – 15 C in Ladakhi winters.
In order to solve the water crisis facing mountain regions due to climate change and fast
melting glaciers he invented the Ice Stupa artificial glacier which stores the wasting
stream waters in winter in the form of giant ice cones or stupas and releases the water in
late spring as they melt… just when farmers need water.
Sonam Wangchuk was granted several awards and titles, such as :-
The prestigious Ramon Magsaysay Award 2018, The GQ Men Of The Year Award for
Social Entrepreneur of the Year 2017 in India, The Rolex Award for Enterprise 2016 in
Hollywood USA, The Terra Award 2016 for World’s best Earth Buildings in Lyon France,
The UNESCO Chair for Earth Architecture for India in 2014, ,: ‘Real Heroes’ Award by
CNN IBN Channel in 2008, ‘Green Teacher’ Award by Sanctuary Asia Magazine in
2005, Ashoka Fellowship by Ashoka: Innovators for the Public in 2002, ‘Man of the Year’
by The Week magazine in India in 2001 and the Governors Medal by the J&K State
Government in 1996.