Eating is an agricultural act - Wendell Berry

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

scathing critique on right to education

manish jain of shikshantar has been a vocal proponent of de-schooling.
almost exactly 2 years ago, i posted on my interest in home schooling linking manish's concept of deschooling society.

he scathingly reviews the recent Right to Education (RtE) Act from a perspective which strikes me as extremely important.

on the role of parents and society in education:
The sacred role of parents and community in the child’s learning process has been reduced to their becoming mere chowkidars of the school, as benevolent Big Brother aka the State aka India, Inc. takes monopoly control over the very meaning of education and development.
explaining their choice of unschooling their child:

Thus, we as an extended family, have chosen unschooling as the best form of holistic education for our daughter, Kanku. There are many reasons behind this but after several years of research and experience, we have come to believe that schooling stifles creativity, curiousity, compassion, collaboration, self-initiative, activism, entrepreneurial spirit, wisdom, and self-discipline in children. It fills them with fear, stress, false inferiority/superiority, and vicious competition. Unschooling differs from homeschooling and other forms of alternative schooling in several ways. It does not follow any prescribed government curriculum, norms, or textbook. The topics of study come from life itself and from the naturally unfolding questions, interests and needs of each individual child. Exams are not limited to pieces of paper but rather come from everyday practical challenges that emerge in the community as well as one’s own honest self-assessment. The parents’ role is not as know-it-all teachers but as honest co-learners who are committed to continuously unlearning and uplearning with their children. There is a strong commitment to building healthy and sustainable communities and accessing diverse community knowledge systems. Rather than remaining wedded to an abstract notion of a unipolar, hyper-competitive ‘mainstream’ (driven by the values of the global industrial-military economy), unschooling seeks to validate the profound reality of many streams, many dreams and many alternatives.

RtE is flawed from may angles, one of it is not aiming "to light the flame, but fill the pail":
The RtE is also flawed because it continues to assume that the ‘child’ is a generic, empty object to be stuffed and moulded. The entire orientation of the RtE is around teaching and training, not on learning. The natural capacity of each individual to self-design their own personalized learning program – according to their own unique set of learning styles, multiple intelligences, questions, languages, talents, etc., is denied. The RtE also negates the basic Indian tradition (and essential aspect of democracy) of being able to pro-actively choose our own gurus and thus interpret/understand the world on our own terms, outside the framework of the state- corporate civilizing ideology of progress and success.
asking tough questions:
In the book, Unto This Last, Ruskin and later Gandhiji raised fundamental questions about the assumptions that underlie our unjust economic-political system and the corresponding anti-labor knowledge hierarchy. A meaningful step towards equality for all in society can only start by facing an honest question of why do farmers and artisans get paid significantly less than doctors, MBAs and IAS officers. Is the skilled work they do for society any less important? The question of what kind of education cannot be delinked from the question of what kind of economy and development we want.
indeed RtE could have been so much more than just instituitionalising macaulay.


Magesh said...

Hi Sriram,

This is something that I have been long thinking about.

What I had observed was when one completes the degree or the Class 12, the student has absolutely no practical knowledge of some of the important skills of life such as food / house / plumbing / electricity / carpentry / tailoring.
The only skill that is learnt probably is memorizing / language skill and lots of unwanted theory in various subjects.

For all the basic needs of a house, nowadays everybody needs an electrician / plumber / carpenter / Tailor.
Does an electrical engineer knows how to replace a bulb or do wiring for his own house? 99 % of the engineers wont know (including me).

Similarly does any of the Civil engineer actually build anything on his own. No he does only design.

Most of the current plumbers / carpenters / electricians are actually dropouts from school or learned these skills practically from others.

None of the so called educated students have the capability to manage these things. Such is the state of our education system.

I sometimes feel that if there is a proper school which teaches these things practically, then most of our unemployment issues would be over.
Even I want to learn basics of plumbing / wiring / carpentry. But I keep wondering how do I go about learning them?


csm said...

buy some simple tools. you can easily start by nailing a few nails into a board :-)

make a box for your kids knick knacks, your books, wife's... (well you get the drift)

become a handyman and involve your children. this education you can give them is priceless.

there must be a lot of DIY stuff online.
also a lot ca be learnt by watching and asking questions to those who do this work at your home...
good luck

Nandakumar V said...


The link provided leads to the PRS site's analysis (synopsis) of RTE act but I am unable to recah Manish Jain's critique of the act. Help!

csm said...

nanda-please click on the link on "institutionalising macaulay"

Nandakumar V said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Nandakumar V said...

I did that later duirng the day, yesterday. Thx. To read a good critique of Macaulay, also read Pawar Varma's two books ' Being Indian & ' Becoming Indian', esp, the latter of the two where he has a good 'go' at Macaulay, Lutyens and Le Corbusier