Educating Underprivileged

Basic Education and other efforts in the past
In this connection it would be important to mention an important historical educational programme. Mahatma Gandhi took a very significant step for reform in the form of Basic Education. This was an education of seven years duration. It was a major effort to develop an indigenous national system of education, which was to meet the needs and aspirations of local people. Basic education was endorsed in the first conference on national education at Wardha in 1937. As Mahatma Gandhi had a great understanding of countryside and its weaker sections of society, he designed the system with the educational needs of rural India.

Main highlights of Basic Education were

  • All round development of child
  • Learning through experience
  • Integration of and correlation between knowledge and work
  • Use of mother tongue as medium of instruction and learning
  • Development of secular national outlook
  • Emphasis not only on mere acquisition of knowledge but also on Character building
  • Syllabus consisted of Language(mother tongue), Mathematics, General Knowledge and crafts

After independence basic education was adopted as national pattern of education. This was, undoubtedly, one of the most significant and appropriate decisions of the time. However, it could not get required support in terms of suitable facilities in school, relevant changes in teachers training and most important of all adequate awareness in people about its relevance and significance.

In Basic Education, Crafts, Painting, etc. were introduced in the curriculum primarily with a view to increase creativity. In fact, it was visualised that creativity should be developed as an additional input, which was mainly useful in the art, crafts and music. As the education system adopted subject based approach, the creative skills were thought to be only related to the items, which are performed with hands. The concept of creativity was extremely restrictive.

The Basic Education failed, because even after independence government continued to be the main employer. So, the requirement of the conditions of entry into jobs were more or less the same as that in the period of British Government. Hence, Basic education, which was based more on the concept of self-employment, could not have gathered enough support. People wanted to have a taste of government jobs, as it gave them a pleasure of a ruling class. It failed because it didnot suit the aspirations of the middle class which wanted to develop only intellectual capacity and was not at all interested in the manual work. In fact, it degraded manual work and thus dubbed basic education as second rate education.

There is need to have a relook at the scheme once again. It may give vital clues for the education of underprivileged.

Government had started several non formal education programme to take care of educational needs of different kinds of children. Many organisations have tried such programmes in urban slums or with child labour rehabilitation centres. However, generally they all stuck to the syllabi and curricula used in formal schools with flexible timing or management of education. This has been one of the major reasons for their lack of success up to desired level. If we want to succeed with those groups, we must try to find out the special traits of each such group and design our syllabi and curricula to suit their special needs. We must provide opportunity for success in their own fields of strength and try to make up their areas of weakness. Non formal education programmes should be designed as an effective intervention to take care of the special needs not only in terms of flexible timing and management but should also include syllabi and curricula as per special needs of the group. For a group of learners comprising of child labour working in wayside hotels, we should not try to remove them from their present job and try to impart stale primary education. Rather it would be better, if we build upon the service feeling of the child, teach them basic literacy skills in such a way that it develops skills which can help them in becoming a better person and better worker. It may require different competencies of Mathematics, Language and Science than is being taught in our schools.

We have a large number of a large number of children working as servants in different families. Despite various legislations we have not been able to contain them. Given the present level of economy, it would be rather difficult to take them out. So another approach may be worth trying. Why not develop their skills into those of a good house manager. It would require basic mathematics pertaining to household management, kitchen management, assessment of requirements of different members of family, management of household chores like marketing, sending mail, depositing bills at bank and telephone offices, etc. If elementary education can take care of this specific requirement of the group, it would help them in performing better in the present jobs and would have better bargaining power.

In early 90’s a unique experiment was tried in Bihar in the form of CHARWAHA VIDYALAYA. More than hundred agricultural farms were converted into such schools. This was a school meant for cattle rearers. Learners were expected to learn at school while their cattles grazed in the field. This was an innovative attempt to have separate education for a well defined target group. It could not get required success because it used the same curriculum and syllabi as a formal school. There was no effort to incorporate the experiences of cattle rearers into the learning system. There was no attempt to meet his immediate learning needs. There was no attempt to build upon their learning strengths. Even vocational education was included but it was poor extention of short term TRYSEM programme. As we have already indicated earlier, such an approach is not likely to get success. If they are redesigned to have separate teaching learning methodology based on the specific learning needs of cattle rearing children, it is bound to be a big success.

Hence, we must look afresh at the entire scheme of education for Underprivileged and backward community. This would require total decentralisation of the management of education with separate scheme of elementary education underprivileged and backwards involving new teaching learning methodology. The new approach may require involvement of community in the development of curricula and syllabi, selection of learning facilitators, transaction of learning programme, and development of physical infrastructure. It would require study of the learning needs and learning styles of the children of the area. The new scheme should try to build upon the experiential learning acquired by the children in early childhood. It should try to emphasize the significant, important and creative role of the families and the community of the area and should lead to capabilities leading to self-employment. This should be so designed that each learner may develop respect for self, family and community. Love for oneself, family and neighbourhood is the base on which entire structure of patriotism can be built.

One may think that separate scheme of education for underprivileged would make them inferior citizens. This apprehension is not correct. This is basically an attempt to make education relevant, which is the essence of quality education. Further, it doesn’t deny opportunity of acquiring higher education being pursued in the present formal education, but makes necessary correction in the syllabi, curriculum and teaching methodology so that people may be able develop their inherent qualities in a better way. At higher level all streams must unite. This would facilitate exceptional children to pursue education for higher learning.

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