Learnings from Swades – Education

I just read a small interview of a kid from SIDH. He studied in SIDH’s primary school. Now SIDH’s education is different from conventional education, because SIDH does not give education compartmentalized in different subjects through text books. It focuses education from within the village’s resources. A kid reads about trees, the occupation of people in village, the social structure in village etc.. and learns to express his understanding and learning through poems, essays, drawings and other creative forms.
Now when this kid applied for admission into government middle school, he was to write an exam. The syllabus and structure of the exam was little to alien to kid. In kid’s own words:

Through our project work, we learnt about trees but also about life. We learnt to
write poems and stories. We learnt new words. We learnt to write letters to
friends and the elderly. However, in Hindi (understood as a subject to be learnt
for the Board examination) we had to learn seven poems by heart, we had to
learn about our country and about other countries. We had to read stories and
learn how to answer questions on the story. We had to learn how to summarize
the poems we learnt. We had to make sentences in Hindi and learn what is a
noun, pronoun, verb, subject, etc.

[Taken from UNESCO Report on SIDH]

Now my question is why the kid has to forcefully learn about other countries or other cities/places in his own country? When I was in school, all through primary and middle school and even in class 9, I was made to absorb information about different countries, cities in world, many of which I could not locate on map until recently when I am 24. Do kids in Germany or Canada learn about India, its geography, its climate, its political structure? Many of the grown ups in other countries do not know even the four metro cities of India. Those who know often know them by colonial names of Madras and Bombay.

Is it just the question of developing countries knowing about developed ones? Will that be enough to justify our syllabus’s carrying writings on developed world while not the other way round? In this regard, I would like to quote Late Mr. Pramod Mahajan who I once met during the shoot of the Karan Thapar’s show ‘The Big Question’ on DD1. In response to question of one of the audience on the show, he said, “No, we can never take advantage of US, only they can take advantage of us.” But then we might as well go as far as saying why on earth do we need to learn another language called English? Of course, 99.999% of Indians learn English not out of interest but out of force or necessity. Here’s there’s a difference between force and necessity. When we were kids, we were not wise enough to know the need of a language, thus, we were forced to learn English. But, many people do courses like Rapidex English Speaking Course or some crash course from British council or Inlingua. That’s called necessity. It’s like me learning now at this age, French because I need a job in Paris or in French Embassy here. People might as well argue that because of English or know-how of western countries, we are doing good business and have advantage over many countries in Asia, who are left behind in this wave of outsourcing.

Or is something other than developed vs developing or strong vs weak? Is it that India is one of the few countries who have such education system, while others, irrespective of being developing or developed, eastern or western, rich or poor, have a curricula for school which encourages kids to learn about their place first, live in their place, develop it and then if he has interest, he can himself look for other countries on web, books, newspapers, magazines etc.?

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