thankfully some educators in this country seem to have all their marbles in order. a brief excerpt from an Op/Ed today by the director of the NCERT:
At a recent seminar on democracy and development, an elderly gentleman came up to me and said he wanted advice. His son was planning to return from the United States next year, primarily for the sake of his three-year-old daughter’s education. He asked if I could suggest a few good schools which would give her a firm grounding in Sanskrit and Indian ethics. I was a bit taken by the precise description of his vision of what might constitute ‘good’ education for his daughter.
As someone with a life-long interest in early childhood, its psychology and educational needs, I had never come across such a succinct statement. Dr. Mina Swaminathan, who has been my guide for several decades now, articulated her vision of early childhood in the position paper of the National Focus Group on this subject set up under the auspices of the National Curriculum Framework debates. To quote the paper, the education of three to five-year-olds should be based on “an understanding of the patterns of learning that define the essential nature of childhood.” Following this approach, the group led by Dr. Swaminathan recommends a curriculum which focusses on play, art, rhythm, rhyme, movement and active participation in group activities. Nowhere does the early childhood curriculum mention ethics as an isolated or overriding concern as the NRI gentleman apparently did.
Let us not be surprised that this confused and contradictory vision has influenced Indian policies. One important meaning of globalisation has been the transportation of half-baked ideas to the so-called developing world. Over the last two decades or so, India has received and absorbed quite a few neo-liberal and neo-conservative ideas in education. In a society where liberal spaces and values are still struggling to survive, neo-liberal economic rhetoric and planning have boosted regressive cultural forces. Salient among these ideas is a radical reduction in state liability on various fronts, particularly those related to social services, and replacing it with markets for these services — in health for instance, markets for health insurance instead of universal healthcare.
The policy of state surrender to market forces in culture and media has encouraged a crude and relentless assault on children’s sensibility. In education, the neo-liberal perspective has promoted ideas like vouchers for the poor and contractual appointments for teachers, replacing the ideal of universal school education with good quality. Overall, a blanket regime of lessened fiscal expenditure has been unfairly weighted against the social sector — particularly education, without any consideration for the obvious fact that India is still vastly illiterate. A society like ours, where millions of children are barbarically exploited, needs generous long-term investments in education.
The net effect of neo-liberal policies in India on education has been along predictable lines. While children from poorer sections have entered the school system in large numbers, the teachers available to teach them lack both the vision and the motivation to compensate for socio-economic deprivation. A laissez faire regime has meant freedom for religious separatists to promote their dangerous social vision through schools and textbooks. The gap between schools of the rich and the poor has increased. All-round growth of the child has silently slipped away from social justice programmes even as words like ‘playway’ and ‘joyful learning’ keep public attention away from the erosion of academic rigour in teacher training.
and a money quote:
Despite regular elections and high growth rates, India has failed to prioritise the need to modernise its education system at all levels, from nursery to university. True, the struggle to protect education from fundamentalist assertions has by itself been quite hard. The gains made on this front can easily be squandered away in the absence of a professional cadre of teachers. Even as political instability looms on India’s federal horizons, the absence of even minimal consensus on state provision required to make elementary education a fundamental and justiciable right symptomises India’s uncertainty as a country which is still “developing.” As its democratic citizens we must ask, ‘what is it developing into?’
i would highly encourage you to read the rest to gain a small understanding of the way education exists in our country