Educating Underprivileged – Some critical concerns
Despite several alluring programmes and incentives in the form of cash and kinds, majority of underprivileged and poor children prefer not to go to school. Even if they do, they don’t continue there. Is it because they don’t understand the value of education or the interventions are not attractive enough to retain them in school? So far we thought that poor people being deprived of physical amenities may be lured by physical benefits only. But, this has not proved correct. Physical allurement have not been able to retain poorer children within four walls of schools. Our approach has been grossly misdirected. The main malaise seems to lie somewhere else. Education today is highly dominated by middle class considerations and concerns with no room for lower class aspirations and talent to be nurtured properly to fully blossom. Unless education system takes care of the peculiar nature of the psychology of the underprivileged, their needs and aspirations and the special circumstances in which a underprivileged child is born and brought up, we cannot expect to make a dent in the existing scenario.
Scientific studies have established that maximum development of brain in a child takes place before the age of 5 years. So the learning of the child would largely depend on the foundation laid during these early years. It has been found that if a child is born with good eyes but his eyes are covered for 3-4 years, then he may not be able to see all through his life even though his eyes may be physically well. This happens because the connections of neurons in respect of vision matures by the age of 3-4 years. If proper care is not taken to develop them, then these neuron connections may not develop in future.
Considering that all children are born with statistically similar physical properties of brain, environmental factors in which the child is brought up in initial years would greatly influence the nature of the development of brain. How does a underprivileged child spend his initial years of life? He is born in a family where earning largely depends on the manual work. Their parents are experts in manual jobs, so he also gets more exposure of manual activities. A child in a shepherd’s family starts going to the field with his sheep early in life. So the sensory organs pertaining to various competencies related to the rearing of sheep would get more opportunity of development. He would have better recognition of the expression of the voices of sheep at different hours of day or in times of hunger and pain. He would have better power of listening of the foot steps of sheep. All this he may learn from his parents even in the course of daily interaction. In the process of rearing he gets more chance of moving through fields and forests, so he gets more opportunity for development of his kinesthetic ability. In fact, the peculiar nature of the family background provides him with certain definite pattern of the development of his brain. He gets an initial advantage in certain skills, whereas he may not get similar advantage in other skills.
Now what happens when he is taken to the school? In the schools intellectual skills are valued more than the skills for manual work. The child who had seen in the family giving more time and energy for manual work suddenly finds that his skills pertaining to manual work is of no significance here. No one discusses there anything about sheep rearing or anything related to that. He gets a severe psychological trauma. So far he had held the values related to sheep rearing to be so important. He must have dreamt of becoming a big shepherd on becoming adult having thousand of sheep in his herd. But, now he finds that knowledge to be of no use. In the schools there is no talk of the conditions in which a child has been living before coming to the school. In fact, there is no attempt to build upon the existing knowledge acquired by the child. There is a standard theory of education of teaching from “known to unknown”. In the name of having uniform syllabi, we have same set of books for all schools and all children. That too is heavily dominated by care and concerns of urban middle class. Thus, a underprivileged child finds the atmosphere to be suffocating and disgusting and is not motivated enough to stay in the class. Even if he stays there under parents’ pressure or other circumstances, his achievement level is generally low. Let’s probe the matter a little further.