The class of 2010 (cont)

There have been some interesting reactions to my previous post.

One said: Spoken like a dedicated, bold and truly concerned teacher.Can feel the anguish and frustration beneth these words.Any thing given in the hands of these politicians has no future. This should be more of a reason for more of Project Why. Because we know that ultimately the responsibility lies in the hands of those who have passion and dedication.

Let me share the experience of Vizag. Last June (sometime) the court gave a directive to close all the private schools not having registration with the Education Department. It turned out that these schools were actually catering to the working class children whose parents have a dream to give better education than the Govt. schools can provide. Parents being gardner, domestic help, drivers, peon, watchman small vendors etc., where both mother and father work hard to meet the education expenses, suddenly in the middle of the session found their children siting at home. They had already paid the annual fees for which they had saved the whole year and now arranging the similar amount at such short notice meant going to the loan sharks or letting their children loose a year. The drama went on for almost two months.A counter petition was filed and the relief came in the form of these schools exempted for the present academic year from closing.

There are always two sides of the coin, though these schools may be violating some norms on the other hand they are filling the gap created by the same system.

A few years I would have reacted differently as I was still a neophyte in the world of Education in India, and was still trying to build impossible castles in the air. Those were the days where I propounded with almost illogical passion the case of the common state run neighborhood school where all children would learn together. That was when I felt all private schools were anathema, just teaching shops that were in for quick buck. I remember how vehemently and angrily I fought the poor parents who had opted to send their wards to the small private schools in the vicinity schools that bore names like Mother K school or SK Convent. I urged them to stop wasting their hard earned money and put their kids into the municipal school and send them to pwhy! Many did and their kids did well.

As time passed, I slowly came to realise that what was making their children do well was the time they spent at pwhy and the fact that parents slowly were claiming some form of ownership to the project. And I also understood that when they did send their children to so called private schools, this is juts what they did: claimed ownership to the education of their children. Government schools , because of their sorry state were no longer respectable and acceptable centres of learning. The penny fell when I read a remarkable book by James Tooley called the Beautiful Tree. It is the story of how the poorest people of the world are educating themselves: simply by creating small parent funded private schools. Maybe this is the answer, at least till the state gets their act inti some semblance of order. And this is also what we had wanted pwhy to lead to. We wanted it to be an example for parents to emulate as only then could 'more' pwhys be created. The present model that depends entirely on donations could never withstand the test of time or be replicated.

Sadly, this is perhaps where we failed. Maybe it is because of the stigma attached to the word NGO. Maybe it is because we gave to much for free in the initial days in the hope of being accepted and valorised. Maybe we should have charged a fee for day one itself! Too many questions that need answers, but maybe it is too late for some!

The other reaction was very close to my heart though it may not seem so at first It said: One doesn't need nationalised schools. but one must have one school system for all. and that one system has to be about merit and everyone who do badly in that one common system...hard luck to them...let them all then be devoid of all reservation. 10 years of education is the only place reservation should be applied. all our children must start at the same starting block....after that...let them all proceed as per their calibre.

The reason why I clamour for a common school is two fold: one is because I was the product of one, albeit not in India, and the other is because I cannot quite see how we can have that elusive and desired school system when ALL children can start at the same starting block, because this can only work if all children learn together, irrespective of their social origins.