How right is the right?

Skimming through some videos on ‘Right to education’, I fell upon a few really amazing ones. One which particularly caught my attention was this one by UNICEF.

An idealistic video that truly fulfills the purpose of advertisement and is extremely inspirational. But how far has the implementation of Right to education been really successful and does it paint that pretty a picture as the video suggests? Are the (economically backward) parents themselves, leave alone the whole village eager to send their kids to study? They always see their kids as breadwinners…in fact that’s the main motive behind having kids at the first place.

I still remember the heart wrenching story of 10 year old Sumit Jotra, who had auditioned for Dance India Dance. He would work as a shoe-shiner rather than study to earn for his family. This is just the story of one child but? How many more have I missed?

The highlights of the act:- 1.It makes education a fundamental right of every child between the ages of 6 and 14 and specifies minimum norms in elementary schools.
2.It requires all private schools to reserve 25% of seats to children from poor families.
3.It also prohibits all unrecognized schools from practice, and makes provisions for no donation or capitation fees and no interview of the child or parent for admission.
4.The Act also provides that no child shall be held back, expelled, or required to pass a board examination until the completion of elementary education.
5.There is also a provision for special training of school drop-outs to bring them up to par with students of the same age.

Let’s concentrate on the first three points first and reflect on how practical they are. Will the economically disadvantaged children really be able to cope up with the rest of the counterparts? How can one ignore the psychological trauma which even though minor can have a deep impact? Secondly, as much commendable the efforts on the part of the government seem, at a closer glance it is evident that they have clearly kept the whole situation skewed especially after refusing to reimburse the private schools yet making it compulsory for them to follow the guidelines. The quality automatically takes a backseat thus. Free Education at What Cost? The teachers too face a backbreaking and uphill task training the lesser competent students with meager facilities. While there might be a case of success or two, there are many that seem to be suffering a great deal.

Thus the whole act will affect the quality as much as it will enhance the quantity. I feel that concentrating on the qualitative aspects by keeping a special remedial coaching for these lesser fortunate students and reimbursing themselves rather than laying the burden on the already burdened private schools, improving the rural teacher training, the assessment patterns, regular and rigorous inspections and the media influence will truly make the RTE act flourish in a much more better way.

It’s important to realize that the act implementation is not just about cute kids, loving and patient teachers and  schools surrounded by beautiful landscapes as shown by the advertisements…

They’re about many more things.

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Cinema Paradiso

“No form of art goes beyond ordinary consciousness as film does, straight to our emotions, deep into the twilight of the soul.” – Ingrid Bergman

How I agree with the quote when every time I see a good movie only to get swayed away to a different sphere. There have been many movies which have infringed on my educational bent of mind. So massive has been the impact that I have many a times mentally replaced myself with John Keating just for the heck of it.

This post will be dedicated to the movie that has influenced my opinions on teaching and learning to quite an extent. From time to time, I might create more such posts to update you about the wonderful universe that cinema is and how far can it influence an individual’s view on education. So here I go –

Dead Poets Society

Starring  Robin Williams as the non-conformist professor John Keating, this movie discusses about the life of pressurized students at the prestigious Welton Academy, the mission of which is – tradition, honor, discipline and excellence. Prof John with his extremely unorthodox method of teaching is a surprising breath of fresh air. I still laugh heartily at the page ripping scene.

Another endearing highlight of the movie is the use of Walt Whitman’sO Captain! My Captain‘ by professor Keating to encourage students to challenge the norms.

Albeit the movie ends with a sad note, I can never forget the whole essence of it. The way a teacher can mold the clay that a student’s mind is, is strongly depicted through this movie.

The times, they’re a-changin’

Reading the daily newspaper, I came across an appalling article which made me think about the upcoming generation of today and the generation of the past – one that I belonged to. Our disliking to peculiar teachers, then was restricted to name calling and mild bitching which would only be a shared secret amongst us as we all had this feeling at the back of the head that it somehow was ‘wrong’. I had indulged in a few bitching sessions too, not that I am proud of it.

But this newspaper article particularly stunned me. It comprised of various incidents of student-teacher clashes that had gone worse. In April 2012, class 11 students of a government school in West Bengal had locked their teachers into a room for failing them in their exams. In February 2012, the most controversial one, a Chennai student had stabbed his teacher because he thought she was being too strict on him. Even more shocking, he didn’t even try to flee after that. Many teachers I see of late, crib about not knowing the right method to deal with kids with all the rights of children that fiercely protects them. Leniency or being mild on the part of the teachers and over permissiveness from the parents has led to the emergence of a situation today that makes the ‘Spare the rod, spoil the child maxim seem so true.These are just a few incidents I have related but I am sure that many of you might have been a witness to similar such incidents around you.

The point is….that is the young generation of today so intolerant or is it just my imagination combined with paranoia? I prefer to stick to the former one on the basis of my logic.

What can the reason be?

I feel that this is the age of bbs and iphones. The ‘fast’ generation I would prefer to call it. Emergence of nuclear families for one where both the parents work to earn a ‘more than decent’ standard of living. Children are left to fend off for themselves under the care of a nanny or most probably the tuition classes and other co-curricular activities that can keep them busy.  Lack of communication is rampant so is the unbelievably high level of expectation on the part of the parents plus the teachers and the peers. To make up for it, the folks bestow their children with all forms of facilities read happiness, that they can provide. To add to it is the degrading level of television shows which has mutilated the very meaning of ‘morality’  and finally the internet which is a microcosm in its own right. I read somewhere once that an average American child watches approximately more than 18000 murders on television by the age of 7. Doesn’t this pressure make them more vulnerable than they already are? It makes me imagine a picture of a tiger left free in a jungle full of traps and good meat.

Now with this bulging pressure where will they vent out their major frustration? Obviously on something where they spend their major part of childhood – the school. This picture here says it all.

How to deal with this?

I would like to initiate this with an amazing quote by Karl Menninger, What the teacher is, is more important than what he teaches.”

I am sure all the trained teachers are aware of the three domains of teaching. In my humble opinion, concentrating on the affective domain matters a lot. Though they are the most targeted, teachers also are the center of inspiration in the schools as they are the ones in close contact with the students. This positive point can be worked upon intensely in their benefit. The increased importance on the inculcation of 10 core values while teaching says a lot about the need of the hour. The 10 core components identified in the National Policy on Education (1986) are:

  • the history of India’s freedom movement;
  • Constitutional obligations;
  • the content essential to nurture national identity;
  • India’s common cultural heritage;
  • egalitarianism;
  • democracy and secularism;
  • equality of the sexes;
  • protection of the environment;
  • removal of social barriers;
  • observance of small-family norms; and
  • inculcation of scientific temper.

Every lesson in our textbooks talks about one or many core values. Implementing them in the form of a short story ,role play, dramatization, higher order thinking question, movie, etc even once in a while can hugely affect the innocent young mind. The child then starts seeing you as a friend rather than some scary authoritative figure. Child centric teaching is not bad at all but ignoring the parents and the teachers completely instead of keeping them up to date about the latest development can bring in some hazards.

Would like to end this post with an amazing song by Colonial Cousins