Saturday, July 6, 2013

Elementary Education in India: Need For Enrichment

Imperatives in Primary & Elementary education in India: Timeless principles 

As a self-righteous and patriotic Indian, I used to take enormous pride in our country's tremendous ability to live harmoniously and happily. However, has this moment of pride lived through over six decades of independence. The answer is no !

Post 1991, per capita income levels have risen, multitude of brands from Gucci, Armani to BMW, IBM, Apple are ubiquitous in Metros, Mini-metros and smaller cities. 
Smaller towns are also seeing  development with modern retail proliferation, better roads etc. However, I am troubled to see that the Indian civic society is gradually losing all the traditional values and sheen, which one used to see even in large cities such as Mumbai, Bangalore, Chennai and others.

Whether it is any consideration and respect for  ladies or senior citizens while commuting or to allow a pedestrian to cross the road on zebra crossing and not scare him or her by forcing your car through; these virtues are simply missing today. Hygiene & sanitation / avoiding littering in public places have become pure theories in life.
Some of you may attribute this to the fast and difficult life that citizens lead or some of you may be exception to these examples !

But I would ask you to pause and think for a while, because the majority are not ideal citizens ! Have we thought for a moment what kind of horrendous lifestyle our kids will have to endure after a decade or two?

My hypothesis is that if every school in India were to imbibe certain values and teachings in children, then our country will be more progressive on both economic and social front in couple of decades. This is no rocket science; any child tends to imbibe and emulate the learning he or she gathers earlier in life. 

If the child is taught or keeps on seeing disrespectful behavior  disregard for hygiene and sanitation, unethical exchanges then it will be difficult to unlearn those habits !

Japanese children are well known for being well-behaved and polite. Japanese schools play a significant role in encouraging good manners and an attitude of respect for others. 
A sense of obligation to help others is encouraged by getting the pupils to work in groups with particular responsibilities, including serving each other lunch, and cleaning the school buildings. Schools in Japan are putting increased emphasis on Moral Education lessons, and there's great pressure on teachers to cultivate a sense of morality and citizenship.

In the US, since the last two decades, parents and teachers in pioneering schools such as A.B.Combs in North Carolina have initiated 'leadership' as the theme for the children.
No one is advocating removing core subjects such as math, science, reading writing and , history, geography, arts and language etc. But the objective has been to promote not only relevant topics for 21st century such as Global awareness, Civic awareness etc but also teaching leadership, ethics, accountability, team work, adaptability, social responsibility, people skills and initiative

Over the last decade, the leadership program has been introduced in several elementary schools in the US. Parents and teachers have found that the academic performance has not deteriorated but improved and the children have changed for the better, with a significant sense of responsibility and ethics and giving respect to others. All these benefits have been attributed to this program !!

Several so called international curriculum schools in India claim to provide the techniques and skills required for excelling in 21st century. My question is are they teaching Leadership, Traffic discipline, Sense of public duty, Ethical behavior, Hygiene & sanitation, Initiative. I hope so ! 

The larger problem is the thousands of public, private and municipal schools in the country.  Are they emulating best practices on the non-academic curriculum. 
The timeless principles outlined above need to be a mandatory subject in every primary and secondary school in India.

I see a larger challenge in disseminating these principles to students. There is a need to 'teach the teacher' at the outset, so that the imperative nature of these principles in our life is well-appreciated !