“…a quotation from Rabindranath Tagore’s essay, Civilisation and Progress, in which the poet reminds us that a ‘creative spirit’ and ‘generous joy’ are key in childhood, both of which can be distorted by an unthinking adult world” (The National Curriculum Framework, Executive Summary, 2005).
The quotation mentioned above provoked me to think, are we a “Thinking adult” or “Unthinking adult”? If we are “thinking adults”, are we really enhancing the “creative spirit” and “generous joy” among children living on the margins? These are some of the questions which made me share my field work experiences in the following section of this blog.
I was in the data collection team of last phase of Indian Early Childhood Education Impact (IECEI) study. As part of the study sample, we visited 21 villages of Ajmer and Alwar districts, Rajasthan. We visited both Private and Government Schools to administer our tools. As a child development practitioner I relate “creative spirit” and “generous joy” with the holistic development of children. School is a place where children get a platform to express their emotions, develop relationships and cognitive skills, moral values and many more. I will provide some glimpses of my experiences in schools of Rajasthan here.
There were number of schools available in the areas we visited. Contrary to what I had heard, I found a high involvement of children in learning and play activities in most of the government schools I visited. Schools were using the space available judiciously. The classrooms were well organized with a lot of teacher-learning materials. At one of the government schools in Basaijogia, Alwar, it was wonderful to see the cultural activities during the “khelsabhaas”. Children were engaged in activities such as flower making, paper craft, clay work, etc. The mid-day meals given at the school were one of the attractions for the children.
However, not all was well with schooling in the community. In most of private schools, infrastructure was not an issue however the usage of space was one. Classrooms were available, but 60 children were sitting in one classroom! Merging of two classrooms seemed to be a trend. This was happening because of insufficient staff. To me, it seemed that there was no specific time for teachers and students to come to school. I wondered why. Looking at the children made me think that they were just sitting in classrooms to complete the hours of the day. Corporal punishment was used by most of the teachers. One instance is from a private school in Ajmer, where a girl was hit twice on her back by the Principal for not standing in a line in the school assembly. In another instance, a private school male teacher was caught using abusive slangs at one of his students. Further, as a part of our work, we had to go to households to administer the “Achievement Test 3”. During one of the visits, a mother of a boy reported that she preferred her boy to go to “khet” (field) than to school as they are not satisfied. Later I also found out that school dropouts were a common phenomenon.
Above mentioned were some of the field work experiences. Some were wonderful; however few left me with many questions. The idea behind writing this blog was to give a small glimpse of the situation of some schools in the rural areas. This might prompt us all to reach out to these kinds of schools and see how we as “thinking adults” are able to foster the “creative spirit” and “generous joy” among all children so that they see schooling as a valuable, free and rich experience—one that fosters their holistic development.
National Council of Educational Research and Training (2005).
National Curriculum Framework. New Delhi.