Educating Underprivileged

Relevant content of learning
As we have already seen one of the serious problems of the present education system is that it is highly skewed in favour of urban middle class. In fact, it promotes the values mainly cherished by urban middle class. It is based on the facts associated with their lives and life-styles. It does not take care of the requirements of the rural population. It has been generally argued that education should be uniform. Same curriculum and syllabi should be followed to ensure equal achievement.

So the lower class people don’t find the learning system relevant and worth pursuing. Even if they join it, they don’t feel comfortable as the content of teaching is mostly taken from the lives and life-styles of middle class. When children from lower class join the education system, they feel alienated from their own life-style, symbols and values. A child from Mushar community spends his initial years of life in the field helping parents in farming or catching rats. When he comes to school, nothing is taught in the school which can indicate that farming is an important activity of society. He never finds his teacher telling that catching rats is an important sport, which involves courage, alertness and agility. On the contrary, he may find his teacher decrying these activities. As a teacher has a mesmerizing effect on the young mind, the child takes the words of the teacher to be the gospel truth. This truth is different from the concept of truth he has framed in his mind so far. The world view that he has evolved in his mind does not find acceptance in the school. Whatever he has held to be sacrosanct so far in life are not considered to be important in school. In early years of life he considers his parents and other near and dear to be his role model. This undergoes drastic change on joining the school. This is a big psychological trauma. He begins to have a poor opinion of his own self and neighbourhood.

Vinoba Bhave strongly criticised the present system of education as it doesn’t take into account the experiences of a child in the early years of life and tries to build upon it. A child of a fishing community spends maximum time near water catching and handling fishes. But in the school he doesn’t find anything that may highlight the skills acquired regarding swimming, fishing, or anything related to fish. The school does not tell the important contribution of fishing community in the development of society. It does not say how many innovations have been made by his family members, ancestors or other members of fishing community.

This alien education actually alienates them from their past and present. They start feeling a sense of alienation from their parents, neighbours and all that is there in their neighbourhood. They find their parents’ work to be inferior, their village life disgusting and the persons of middle and higher class to be something superior in merit and their life-styles better. This leads to even greater alienation from their families and neighbourhood on pursuing education for a longer time. A child of Dom community may not find any value or activity held important so far before joining the school finding place in the curriculum. Hence, after education they adopt the life-styles of middle and higher class society and are not able to contribute much to their society. They don’t develop proper self-concept of themselves and their neighbourhhood. Their self-confidence starts waning and they remain diffident throughout their lives. This is one of the reasons of lack of self-confidence among educated lower class. One of the serious challenges of education is to ensure development of confidence so that one may be able to exploit one’s creative potential to the fullest extent.

As British were the authors of the modern education system, they mainly kept it oriented towards government employment to fulfil their needs. Even after independence we have not made much changes in this direction to make it oriented towards people’s actual requirement. So people have confused education as a passport for obtaining jobs-government or otherwise. Government policies have also supported this move. With the introduction of reservation policy in employment we tried to allure poor and downtrodden communities into education for obtaining government jobs. We have taken this to be the awareness for education among downtrodden class. But we are grossly mistaken. People have not adopted education for education sake rather they have adopted it for job sake. One of the recent surveys have shown that the unemployment is growing at a very fast rate among educated people (10.4% among graduates) than uneducated people (0.4% among illiterates). Now that jobs have started shrinking, there is growing disenchantment and frustration among people particularly the downtrodden from the education system.

Hence, there is a need to give a new orientation to the whole approach of education for the downtrodden class. The new education should be competencies based using local contextual matter for elementary learning. Relevant content of learning should base on learning about

  • Self
  • Family
  • Neighbourhood

Gradually, it should be able to expand the neighbourhood and go deeper and deeper into self and family as one goes for higher level of education. We may have to study the history and geography of family, village and community before studying about history and geography of the state, country and world. The most unfortunate part of present education system is that although we learn about the history of the country and the world, we don’t have any knowledge about the history and geography of the region in which we live. This leads to a rootless growth of personality. If we want to have proper growth of our society let us first learn about ourselves before we learn about others.

The child develops a vocabulary of local language before joining the school. Why shouldn’t our school teach them reading and writing these known words rather than a new set of words from so-called standard language. If the words are familiar, child is able to concentrate on developing reading and writing skills, so the learning is faster. If the child is asked to write or speak about his experiences encountered during cattle grazing or catching fishes, he would feel more comfortable in writing or speaking. As the child has immense experience in this field, he would pay more attention to develop speaking or writing skills. This way he would have better achievement. It may be argued that if standard vocabulary is not taught, learners may not be able to assimilate in the mainstream of development. It is nobody’s case that standard vocabulary or language should not be taught. As a matter of fact, it must be taught. But, it should be taught gradually. We should start with the local vocabulary with the standard structural grammar and gradually teach them the standard vocabulary.

Similarly, in the case of mathematics a child from a underprivileged community may see her mother counting cowdung cakes in Ganda, but in the school nowhere the mathematics of Ganda is taught. Similarly, if the father is a weaver the mathematics related to weaving has to be taught apart from mathematics related to business and science being taught in the school at present.

In the same way the science teaching has to be linked with the development of sensory organs using local contextual materials. A child from weaving community must learn the science related to the craft of weaving before he learns other aspects of science. Children should be asked to identify and study properties of leaves, plants, crops of the village. They should learn about the implements available in the village before learning to use other equipments.

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