The last two years of engagement with various organizations has given me a slight understanding of the education sector. Through this process of learning I have understood that problems surfacing this sector are many and no one solution is going to be ‘it all’ for the whole education system of our country. While reading through the pages of Karthik Dinne’s Unpacked (a must read for the education enthusiast), I could articulate my bitter sweet experiences into concrete issues relating to people, policy and approach.
The recent five months have been quite revealing for me. As I read through the work of many NGO’s and learned about the philosophies surrounding education, it was interesting to know that organizations are not only constructively focusing on improving children’s learning, but are also concerned about their individual abilities to do so, their socio-economic realities and creating a sense of emotional balance in them to develop better individuals. Even though the statistics are not absolutely positive about the India’s educational situation but it is indeed a good time to notice that the organizations are full of ideas and projects diligently working towards the same goal.
To me, education as a branch of study and the endeavours taking place evoke an imagery of a gigantic clock that has very many tiny smaller machines within, which need to perform in a symmetry to be able to tell the right time every time. But how is that going to happen one may ask? And I for one do not have the answer nor will I attempt to give one. But at this moment I feel the need to state my observations and learning as a mark from where I shall work further. The observations are as follows:
1. Know your purpose: A lot of time I feel that when doing ‘good’ or channeling a process of ‘change’ the main purpose of one’s endeavours gets blurred. An organization needs to know very clearly why they are initiating a program and what their desired outcomes are. I know it sounds obvious but it is also very obvious of organizations to miss their ‘purpose’ while getting too busy to get things done.
2. Do not be a burden: when visiting this school I noticed a couple of things about the program:
a) The program had too many elements at the same time which made it difficult to handle them all at once.
b) The students were being given added homework by the program conductors
c) The organization’s donor program was in Feb-March being at absolute crossroads with the schools final exam season
d) There was no definite structure to the syllabus by the NGO and the children were not learning according to their age group.
These observations made me feel that the program run by the NGO was adding burden to the students who already had the pressure of doing school work, house work and attending other tuitions etc. The donor program being ill timed made it difficult for the students to concentrate on the class and take benefit of it.
3. Bring Curiosity in the class: Remember the time when a teacher was teaching you mathematics and your mind wandered far off the ground to some other galaxy? I did not concentrate in my classes back in school because I did not feel curious enough to know ‘why?’
Since the schools and traditional teaching methods are not adept and innovative enough to pull the child into the class and keep her mind there, I feel it is important that programs undertaken by NGOs should work towards igniting curiosity in the child. The added classes and materials taught should not become another tasks for the child to be completed and finished off with, but they should be designed such that they can connect it with their school curriculum and feel the need to ask questions and dig deeper.
4. Give hope: While interviewing close to a hundred pass outs of Dr. Reddys’ 45 day training program I observed that even though the program could not possibly mend all that was undone by the school system for 12 long years but they touched an important point, they gave hope.
The students went through a volley of difficulties to attend the classes; they struggled harder to keep continuing their jobs after the training program but amidst all the hardwork there was a substantial amount of learning and growth in self-confidence in the students, which would guide them through their coming years.
As a young professional, I know there is a long way to go for me. I will just make sure that I carry these values and learning with me in the work I take up in the education sector.