Educating with a difference

At the time of India’s independence, a mere fourteen percent of the population was literate. Only one child out of three had been enrolled in primary school. India has come a long way from there. Today its effective literacy rate is 74.04% (Census 2011 data). It took 65 years for the Union Government, the states and many other private facilitators to bring about this transition. The setting up of Kendriya and Navodaya Vidyalaya in every district and establishments of various universities has acted as a catalyst to effect this change. The government’s measures like the launch of DPEP (District Primary Education Programme), SSA (Sarva Shikhsa Abhiyan) are few of the steps taken up for facilitating basic education to every corner of the nation, an attempt to reach every student of the nation. In the recent Budget (2012-13) SSA received Rs.25,555 crore while Rashtriya Madhyamik Shiksha Abhiyan was allocated Rs. 3124 crore. In his Budget speech, the finance minister said: “In the 12th Five year plan, 6000 schools have been proposed to be set-up at block level as model schools to benchmark excellence. Of these, 2500 will be set up under public-private-partnership”. India boasts of 16,00,000 primary schools (recognized and unrecognized), 481 universities catering to the needs of various students. The Indian government spends around 4.1% of its GDP on education. The numbers seems really encouraging, probably making us believe that an education revolution is underway. India’s education system turns out millions of graduates each year, many skilled in IT and engineering. The RTE Act has been passed; its implementation might be able to bring more positive results in the field of education. Yet the current realities highlights the grim situation and brings forth forward issues related to the quality of education being imparted, provision of the basic infrastructure facilities and proper teachers, lack of funding at the root-level etc. How does India overcome all of these? The following pointers would certainly build a better tomorrow and create the difference, definitely filling in the gaps and overcoming the problems of the current education system of the country.

Introduce selfless thinking in the minds of an educator

In the 2000s, education was billed to be the next biggest business opportunity after the IT and Energy sector. The IT sector was booming at the start of the decade, which majorly contributed to the growing domestic economy. There was a strong desire in the average middle class Indian families to educate their children to join various IT industries, take up government & private jobs and elevate their positions in the society. The promoters of education grasped this opportunity with bare hands establishing various educational institutes. The ITI (Industrial Technical Institutes), NIITs, Aptech developed a strong foothold over the educational landscape during this time. The aggressive growth with the sole objective to capitalize, over the opportunity lead to hundreds of schools; colleges mushrooming in every third of cities and towns all over the country to satisfy the growing demand. The vision of the promoters lacked long-term objectives. It leaded to schools cramped up for space, colleges without proper laboratories and lavatories. Working on the basic novice business principle of running the business with a minimum level of investment and earning a higher rate of return degraded the situation. Today, there is a need of educators who understand that educating is not mere business. It is the most powerful weapon through which the way generations of humankind thinks and their actions can be changed in a positive way. As it is said, the task of the modern educator is not to cut down the jungles, but to irrigate deserts. The selfish and sole objective of profit-making, sacrifices the chances of a better future in the present today itself.

Implementing unique measures to educate

Tell me and I’ll forget; show me and I may remember; involve me and I’ll understand- Chinese proverb

Rote-learning, dominates the way we learn at class. Till an extent, rote-learning is essential to memorize and get a strong grip over the foundation knowledge of few subjects. The problem arises when it becomes a habit. It extinguishes the curiosity in an individual’s mind, making the entire learning process ineffective. Educating by creating curiosity has to be the primary objective in every institution. Once the exams end, students experience the inability to recall and reproduce the subject matter crammed all night. It is essential, that the system is designed in such a manner that they are able to apply it, there and then itself. While explaining them about the solar-system, make them observe through the telescope, while teaching them about Shivaji, plan a visit to Shivneri fort, invite the neighborhood T.V mechanic for a session to explain the functioning of Logie Baird’s invention, plant some maize and jowar in a section of the playground making them observe the required condition for a crop to grow, convert the classroom to a model bank someday, explaining bank transactions, ask a post-man to take a lecture explaining how does the India Postal System delivers the letters at the correct address. Imagine how little changes in the classroom create a huge difference in the minds of the recipients. In cities like Mumbai which consists of various housing societies, where millions of educated housewives reside, a unique model of teaching can be developed with them as its epicenter. In their free time, they can formally gather together and take up training classes for the uneducated in the housing society premises itself. Every housing society could replicate the model and in turn educate hundreds of the unprivileged. It is a win-win situation, where there is a sense of an achievement for the housing societies, those educated housewives, and obviously the unprivileged get to interact, learn and apply the learnings in their day to day lives, may be in the form of cooking, pottery, sewing, tutoring others etc. We have to develop such unique educational models and implement them effectively across the nation.

Creating and Modifying Basic Infrastructure

Greg Mortenson, the author of “Three Cups of Tea” few years back, fulfilled his promise to the rescuers of his life by building a school in Korphe village, one of the most remote villages in the Karakoram range of mountains. Since then Mortenson and his CAI (Central Asia Institute) team were able to provide the basic infrastructure needed for a school to function in the most desolate areas of the world, why can’t we? In rural India, many schools are not made up of bricks and mortars, classes at times take place in the open field, dilapidated houses etc. Due to the lack of proper implementation, the government is unable to create or modify, improve the existing infrastructure facilities in rural areas. Yes agreed, the government needs a strong waking call to implement the policies, but it should not discourage the rural population of India and they need not wait for the government to act. We need to organize a national campaign, where there is an exchange program for students between the urban and rural schools of a state during the summer vacations. The schools in cities & town remain vacant during the holidays; the existing infrastructure can be utilized by the rural students for the period of 2months. The students from the cities can go into villages, and gain exposure adding to their experience through these programs. With the help of villagers, a group of experts, which would make them better equipped, they can build up classrooms for schools which provide adequate shade, ventilation, spaciousness providing a conducive learning environment. The major schools of India need to built tie-ups with business corporate to fund the necessary requirements. The license to go ahead with an engineering college or medical college in cities should be provided only after thorough understanding and monitoring the architectural plan & design implementation. These steps would create a small difference, yet significant for the beginning.

Realization of the true-opportunities of being educated

Thousands of children in India drop-out from their schools from the primary level itself. They might have the potential which remains unexplored all their lives, falling trap to drudgery, unemployment, and various inappropriate ways of earning livelihood, which affects the way they live their lives, creating a huge disparity in the society in terms of standard of living, various socio-economic factors. Hence the society has to take care that of the few who get this opportunity, make the best of it. The role of a teacher as a motivator, guide and inspiration plays an important role. For he/she would guide the student through his ups and downs, imbibe a sense of confidence, responsibility and realization of the benefits of being educated in the minds of the students. A teacher stays for eternity, for his influence in the life of a student can never be measured. The urban educated youth, fights for a well-paid 8am to 8pm job. The competition during placement weeks is intense and fought hardly in the colleges. The true purpose of being educated was merely not to have a job. An Indian stops formal learning once he gets into a job. A job certainly ensures that your family leads a secured life, but was this opportunity provided to you so that you could reap its benefits only for your family in the entire world? Let not attaining a job dissolve the higher purpose of education. It was for the improvement and betterment of a society as a whole, that we got educated for, so that we could improve the lives of others. The realization has to seep in at the early stages of education. Without the purpose, there is no meaning.

Socrates stated that, “Education is not the filling of a vessel but the kindling of a flame”. Let’s work towards a great future and kindle flame in every soul of the earth. The facts and numbers pertaining to education would always be there, deductions would be made from them, but simple measures would create a mammoth difference in the way we educate and get educated. Let’s know better and do better.

Dipankar Behera
Dipankar Behera

Dipankar Behera, 24, an MBA student at Indian Institute of Management, Udaipur wants to create an impact on the society through writing and organization, especially in the field of education. He and his friends have started with an initiative ‘BloomForever’, which runs on ‘The Housewives Educating Model’. The goal is to establish schools in every remote corner of India, the schools would run by college students, housewives, mechanics, professional experts among others. He is a volunteer for ‘Ekutir’ a socially focused venture engaged in innovating new products & services at the BOP (Base of Pyramid) market.

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1 Comment

  1. Lokesh Vishwakarma

    Extremely happy that frontier India published such earnest and thought provoking articles…
    gr8 many thanks to the author Dipankar Behera for writing such an influential piece!
    kudos to you and Frontier India!

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