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Monday, March 9, 2009

School education in rural India

A plethora of government initiatives to provide access to primary education may be underway, but issues of equity, quality and access remain areas of concern — particularly in rural schools. Children in rural areas continue to be deprived of quality education owing to factors like lack of competent and committed teachers, lack of textbooks or teaching-learning materials, and so on.

In view of such concerns, the recently constituted Rural Education Cell, department of educational surveys and data processing, NCERT, organised a national seminar on ‘school education in rural India’ at its Delhi headquarters. The seminar provided a platform to policy analysts, administrators, researchers and practitioners to analyse the current scenario in rural education, identify problems and come up with recommendations to improve the situation.

Talking about the philosophy and success of Kasturba Gandhi Balika Vidyalaya (KGBVs) — a scheme for girls from rural and disadvantaged groups from educationally backward blocks (EBBs) — Gouri Srivastava, a professor with Department of Women’s Studies, NCERT, says: “The scheme is aimed at realising the constitutional commitment of providing free and compulsory education to all children in the age group of 6-14 years. The programme also aims to bridge gender and social gaps in education, which is an important objective of SSA.”

Currently, the scheme is operational in over 3,000 EBBs in 24 states, where rural female literacy is below the national average and the gender gap in literacy is more than the national average. At present, there are 2,578 KGBVs, of which 2,383 are operational and the total number of girls enrolled is 1,76,713, according to Srivastava.

Similarly, the Mahila Samakhya Programme (MSP), working in the field of women empowerment through education, aims to promote ‘skill-development’ and ‘entrepreurial skills’ to make women self-reliant. Rashmi Sinha, programme director, MSP, says: “We are not into imparting skills like sewing or tailoring. Instead, we impart skills like plumbing, repairing and so on to break gender stereotypes and empower girls. So, when flooring has to be done in classrooms or taps are not working, our students are in a position to handle the situation.”

Likewise, the ‘Pehchaan’ project is a model that attempts to ensure that out-of-school girls (9-14 years) are provided with educational opportunities and brought on par with the other children of their age in schools. The project is a collaboration between Unicef, NGOs Digantar and Culp and the community.

Recognising community participation as one of the effective strategies to improve access and quality in education, Kashyapi Awasthi, lecturer from M S University of Baroda, Gujarat, cites an example: “A rural school of Surat owns an LCD projector through community funding and children of 9-10 years of age can use it effectively for teaching-learning processes.”

Similarly, she adds, “There is a government school in Gujarat with 70 herbal plants that involves students in activity-based learning like planting seeds, encouraging concept learning like the germination process, and so on. It turned out to be such a successful venture that four private schools in the vicinity had to close down, with students from the private schools moving to the government school.” It is the devotion of individuals, innovative practices employed, the joint efforts of the school and community that works wonders, she added.

Participatory videos can best be used to empower underprivileged students from rural areas, feels Vedavati Ravindra Jogi, an educational professional from Pune. Breaking away from producing educational videos for children, she believes that innovation and creativity of children should instead be tapped to enable maximum learning. Thus, she conducted a study on class VIII and IX students where students were imparted lessons in script writing, video-shooting and editing, using various formats. Today, her students are creative individuals producing video clips on concepts like force, pressure, covalent bonds, and so on

By Sakshi Khattar


Forget yourself for others, and others will never forget you.

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