Category Archives: Home Schooling News

Three more children fall victim to the RTE. Does anyone give a damn?

Sachin Desai and his wife Meenal run “School without walls”. Because it is…. a school without walls, it doesn’t fit the vision the education fascists have of what is good for kids. Apparently, a child shelter is better. My rare visit to Facebook brought this heart breaking stunner.

 

three children forcibly removed from alternative school by Indian authorities

Simo, Sonu and Ankush, three innocent children whose only crime was that their school did not have walls… and does not believe in walls.

Finally today our three little children Simo, Sonu and Ankush were taken away from us by CWC. I have no words to express our feelings. The silence here at Syamantak Schoolwithoutwalls speaks in itself.

When will this authorities realise there is a relation of this children with every single element here…Surabhi and Kaveri our cows, Billu the cat, farm, trees, soil and we the family of School Without Walls.

Children wept..the people who came to take them wept but this thick skin officers have no Dharma – of Humankind. They know law…in Marathi we say Kai (what) dya (u will give)..

Yet our daughter Mrunalini and our student Durga is not aware about this issue as she is in Bhopal. Few days back Mrunalini and Durga made handmade rakhis. Rakhis are sent by post from Bhopal. But when rakhis arrive at Syamantak School Without Walls her brothers won’t be there. Our children will be dumped into some government homes or some boarding.

We want to shout loud to these, bureaucrats, law makers, those candle lighting citizens who protest against the juvenile criminals. Please don’t blame these children if they become hardcore criminals in future. No law will stop this crime.

I and Meenal have lost in this struggle.

Alternative schoolers in India are denied the fundamental right of the child to choice of education. And being mostly laid back people absorbed in child centered activities, they lack the organization or instinct to fight while the education fascists tighten the noose around anyone they cannot assembly line into their idea of learning. It is distressing and the situation is invisible, yet dire, as individual alternative schoolers get picked of for not complying with the absurd RTE.

It is difficult for Sachin’s school to get recognition without serious bribery as things stand. It is difficult for me to understand why children nurtured in love and individualized attention need to be abducted by the state and put into childrens shelters along with the children rounded up off the streets, of necessity living in a mindset of survival without the luxury of morals as they thrive in the ugly underbelly of mankind.

And it is a matter of policy. As in the earlier case of the family of George Verghese running into the compulsory enrollment trap that I had reported on earlier, the problem isn’t the people running the system, it is the policies that hobble them from doing anything but the wrong thing.

Here are more updates:

Today early morning kids called us from the Bal Griha. (child refuge home) They are missing us. Tomorrow all senior students are going to visit them with lot of sweets, art books, and post cards to write letters. We have persuaded them that this is their learning journey. The way Mrunalini and Durga went to Bhopal to study Sanskrit. You are here to learn Marathi. It will take 1-2 months for us to register at Mahila Bal Vikas. Till that time kids will have to stay at Bal-griha. We have extended Mrunalini and Durga’s stay in Bhopal as they are unaware about this confrontation. 

I wonder where we as an Indian community are heading to. It was our culture and teaching to parent and educate deprived child for creating better future. Many individuals, couples, ashrams, have been doing this in past. This Indian culture and perspective will get loss in this license raj and NGO culture. So long as you do not achieve social liberty, whatever freedom is provided by the law is of no avail to you.

What are we having this liberty for? We are having this liberty in order to reform our social system, which is full of inequality, discrimination and other things, which conflict with our fundamental rights.

Political tyranny is nothing compared to the social tyranny and a reformer who defies society is a more courageous man than a politician who defies Government.

History shows that where ethics and economics come in conflict, victory is always with economics. Vested interests have never been known to have willingly divested themselves unless there was sufficient force to compel them.

For a successful revolution it is not enough that there is discontent. What is required is a profound and thorough conviction of the justice, necessity and importance of political and social rights.

[…]

Today Meenal visited the juvenile home. Supervisor of the home is very amazed to see our children’s conduct. These three children stand exceptionally different than other children. They discuss with the staff on how they learn through hands on work at School without Walls, and how they learn to stay in family. 

We are very happy to know all these experience from the supervisor. These children have now started valuing the family tradition. Many such beautiful observations to mention.

Is this the world we want to build? Does a single reader here believe that a juvenile home can do a single thing better for these children than Sachin and Meenal who have made it their life’s work to nurture learning and a larger, inclusive philosophy on life?

I’m glad Rabindranath Tagore is dead and doesn’t have to see India brought to this low.

Where the spirit of the law bows before the letter, you cannot expect the law to bring good.

Invitation open forum Lamakaan RTE

Report from Open Forum on RTE in Hyderabad

Mohammed Kalimullah, a Ph D scholar from the Department of Education; EFL University, Hyderabad had hosted an open forum on Right To Education Act at Lamakaan. The objectives of the forum were to create awareness about RTE Act, understand the key issues and challenges in the implementation of the RTE Act, initiate dialogue between various stake holders of the society on RTE Act, Share the information about government policies, NGO’s and educational institutes working for the RTE Act. The Forum discussed issues related to RTE Act, Supporting Mechanisms, Administrative Imperatives, and Implementation Challenges.

Invitation open forum Lamakaan RTE

Invitation for open forum on Right to Education Act at Lamakaan, Hyderabad

Some of the stake holders invited to participate were Hon’ble Judge Mr. D. Durga Prasad, Principal Magistrate Juvenile justice Board, R.R. Dist; Mrs. Sunitha, Assistant professor, IASE, Osmania University; Dr. A Srinivas, Asst. Prof Polital Science, Kakatiya University; Venkateshwarlu Geriti, social worker Students for liberty; Mrs. P. Padmavathi, Member of CWC; Mr. K. Papi Reddy, State vice President (PRTU), Mr. M. Harish Mandal Resource person, Mahboob Nagar and many government and private teachers, principals, research Scholars from different Universities will participate in the forum discussion.

Questions presented for discussion:

  1. Could RTE make a difference in a child’s life and his education status after 3 years of implementation?
  2. Why is there indifference to its implementation?
  3. Why government schools have failed and lost faith of people?
  4. Why the present education system creating inequalities in children society and education system at large?
  5. Why is there exclusion of early childhood education from RTE Act?
  6. Why is there admission based on age but there is no facility for bridge courses before admission?
  7. Why is there no detention policy instead of improving the quality of education?
  8. Why the norms and standards specified in the schedule to the Act are excessively input focussed and do not ensure learning outcomes?
  9. What is the recognition process of state schools and teacher education colleges to meet the provisions of the Act “Quality education for all”?
  10. Why is there discrimination of students in implementing 25% reservation of seats in private schools?
  11. What are provisions for Orphans, Child labourers, Street children, School dropouts, out of school children in the Act and how much has been achieved in bringing these children in the mainstream of education?
  12. What does the Act say about the quality of teacher, teacher education and teacher pupil ratio? And what is the present situation?
  13. What are the major causes for mismatch between demand and supply factor in RTE Act?
  14. RTE Act designated National commission for Protection of Childs Rights to monitor the provisions of the Act but why is there no legal authority with NCPCR?
  15. Will common school system ensure quality education for all?

Yugandhar, a home schooling parent from Hyderabad attended this forum, and here is his informal account from a perspective relevant to homeschoolers.

*****

I attended this session today. It was for about three hours by one research scholar Mr.kalimullah. I will try to capture in this mail what happened during those three hours and what part I played.

The session started late by half an hour and Mr.K took another fifteen minutes to introduce the invited dignitaries and self-introduction of uninvited and unknown faces like me. Few professors, asst-professors, govt school teachers from neighboring districts, freelance writers, a few journalists, a private school principal, few youth leaders of student organisations, friends of Mr.K (mostly phd students ), founder of some NGO etc., totaling about 100 persons attended the session.

Copies of the RTE act were distributed to everyone(luckily i didn’t print it yesterday 🙂 ). First the presenter went through all the inclusions in the act quickly and invited the main guests to present their views on the act. People expressed concerns about the known issues prevailing currently in schools like lack of sanitation for girls leading to drop outs after 6th standard or so, lack of pre-primary education system (anganwadi) being integrated with the primary school leading to poaching by private institutions( a student who joins in nursery/lkg etc in pre-primary will naturally go to a private institution), craze of parents to get their children english educated, improvement of transportation in villages leading to students going to pvt schools in nearby town, children taken away for 2 months for ag.work, lack of life skills leading t o suicides etc, definition of success, interest based learning, how rural people have to be ‘educated’ to send their children to school, flouting of RTE act by the cent.govt itself like conducting tests for admissions in Navodaya, and govt. schools getting the left over *material* (which is good for nothing), all children are not born equal and they must be supported as per their interests and skills etc. Teachers narrated how the act puts all the burden on the teachers and not on the parents and society at large.

Many people were of the opinion that govt.schools had better skilled teachers than pvt.institutions, how the pupils of govt. schools are most equipped to handle life’s challenges, and how teaching in mother tongue is extremely important (as many a research proves), and many people narrated how they learnt english later in life etc. All in all, people were discussing about the ‘known’ issues and one person just touched on the *point 11* in the attached pic which is our point. He said that no body has any idea about it.

Almost near the end, I took a chance to speak for around 5 minutes. I started by saying that there are families who are ‘out of school’ by choice due to various reasons. They are not against the school system per se, but they have some reservations with the system and chose to opt out. I mentioned about the case of shreya sahai, alternative learning spaces which do not conform to any standards of the RTE school definition but are doing excellent job of educating children, and how NIOS is under the axe. I mentioned about homeschooling and unschooling, the informal group of homeschooling families called swashikshan, the upcoming conference and asked the people to look up for these keywords in the internet for more information. I concluded that RTE does not have space for any alternative learning spaces, alternative methods of education and anything that is not mainstream.  My talk was well received and few people followed up with me to know more. There was a man who is very much interested in HS abt his 4 year old daughter and knows few names and people in our circles (Aravinda, Sangeeta sriram, sailaja karanam etc). I talked to him for about 40 minutes. He was keen to know about the support that swashikshan extends. I explained to him about how we are totally informal group, and how people share their experiences and resources for any one who is seriously interested in HS. The presenter thanked me for bringing up a rather unknown aspect of education and learning.

Are homeschoolers in rural India already at risk from the education system?

An Alarming letter from George Verghese on the homeschooling list indicates that the Anganwadi system in rural India may already be putting homeschooling children in the “RTE approved” education assembly line.

We have been living on a farm near Sirsi, in the Western Ghats in Karnataka, for the last 7 years. Our kids are unschooled and have never been to school.

Ours is a small village called Danandi where everybody knows everyone else. There is an annual child census conducted by the government and the names and ages of our kids were recorded every year. The local anganwadi has them on their list and we are contacted by the anganwadi teacher every time there is a pulse polio drive or some vitamin A drive (every 6 months) or even to collect the monthly food packets (mixed grain flour for porridge) that the government provides to children. When children cross the age of 5 yrs and 10 months, they get taken off the anganwadi’s register and now show up on the local primary school’s radar. Our local government primary school has classes from 1st to 7th, 2 teachers and a headmaster and about 25 students. The number of students enrolled is very low and there is a constant threat of being shut down, hanging over the school. On Monday this week, we had a visit from the Headmaster who enquired about which school our oldest daughter was going to. We told him that she is homeschooled and we did not plan to enrol her anywhere. He said that it was mandatory that she be enrolled in a school. We explained to him that there was a communication from the Ministry of HRD that
homeschooling was not illegal and that we might consider NIOS for the 10th and 12th exams. He called some official in the education department and got me to explain to her on the phone about what we were doing. She seemed satisfied by my explanation and the Headmaster left. Two days later, the headmaster returned with three officials from the Block education office. They too asked us about why we
weren’t sending our daughter to school and tried telling us that it was mandatory to be enrolled in some school. When we explained our position, they suggested that we enrol her in some school for the record. Their predicament was that if any child was not enrolled in a school, that child is considered a ‘dropout’ and they have to report
on and explain the existence of ‘dropouts’ in their regions to the higher-ups. So you’re either enrolled in any school or you’re a dropout. There’s nothing in between. We engaged them in a long conversation about the problems with the current school system and about why we chose to educate our kids ourselves. They were in agreement with the idea but they still had to figure out a way to account for our children that the system considered as ‘dropouts’.

For the past few weeks, a few families in Sirsi and the surroundings have been meeting up every Wednesday evening to watch an education-related documentary and then have a discussion. This week, we happened to be hosting it. So we invited the officials to join us in the evening and meet a couple of other homeschooling families too.

One of them (he was the most supportive about homeschooling) promised to attend, and he did come that evening with another colleague. We watched a documentary and then had a discussion in which they actively participated too.

So that is where things stand now. But we are sure that we haven’t seen the end of this. Some higher official is bound to pursue the ‘dropouts’. So we’re steeling ourselves for the challenges ahead.

So much for Kapil Sibal’s magnanimous reassurance that the law would ignore homeschoolers breaking it (yeah. Kapil Sibal had said it.) As George notes, this is a pause in the storm, because at the end of the day, the “status” of children is recognized only as “school” or “dropout” and the Sarkari machine will forever be hunting down the dropouts to get their enrollment statistics high enough to peddle in the next election campaign.

Given that there is currently no legal sanction for homeschooling in India, this basically leaves parents to one of two choices – be hounded by the system over and over, or get out of the dead end by enrolling in some school.

It is not the fault of the Anganwadi system either, which only works for the welfare of young children, and transfers them to the responsibility of the school when they grow out of their target age bracket. Indeed, it is astonishing that a school headmaster and education officials in a small village in the back of beyond have shown so much sympathy, though there is nothing they can do about the status of homeschooling itself not being supported by the system.

Until there is recognition for homeschooling and children can be recorded as “homeschooling child” instead of “dropout from school”, this area of conflict with the system will remain, with the only solution being the “workaround corruption” that the official recommended – a token enrollment in some school to get the government off the child’s backs. I doubt this will come for free, and with children’s well being at stake, and deliberate violation of the law, it will be an area where parents will end up paying money to the school to “get their paperwork right” – the ultimate goal of Indian laws in order to protect their child from continued prejudice and parents from pressure to enroll.

Is it not a sad result of a law designed to protect a child’s right to education? That a child getting customized education by parents who care enough to be illegal if that is what brings their child a responsive and supportive learning environment is considered deprived of the right to sit in a classroom everyday for years on end and being dictated to?

painting of Indians at a stretched buckskin with a story in images

Indian Homeschoolers Conference announced for February 2014

Swashikshan, the Indian Association of Homeschoolers has announced a five day homeschooling conference from the 21st of February 2014 to the 25th at Khandala. The Indian Homeschoolers Conference 2014 is a great opportunity for Indian homeschooling families to connect and network.

Fee: INR. 2500 for five days (or one day or whatever – regardless of how long you are present)

It is also a good opportunity for new homeschoolers and those planning to homeschool children in India to interact with the community and observe how homeschooling works for different people as well as get their questions answered by more experienced homeschoolers.

There are also discussions planned for formulating a plan of action with regard to the RTE and getting recognition for homeschooling children, which is important for children who may wish to pursue scholarships, competitions, competitive examinations and more. It is also important in terms of a safeguard from any potential action that the government may take against parents who don’t send their children to school.

The structure of the event is expected to be free flowing and spontaneous, though there are these few things on the agenda which will be addressed at some point. This is an event not to be missed for free learning families.

An additional bonus is the enriching experience of an inclusive gathering for mavericks who make choices off the beaten track for their values – perhaps the common thread running through parents who choose to protect their children from school at great personal cost and effort.

Read the Indian Homeschoolers Conference 2014 announcement and payment information at the Swashikshan website.

Register here.

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Will Somnath Bharti and AAP bring new hope to Delhi’s homeschoolers?

The Indian Homeschooling community seems to be pinning their hopes on the Aam Aadmi Party, that they may lend their voice to the aid of aam aadmi parents and children who are scattered across the country with no large numbers enough to be a vote bank, nor the ability (or inclination) to gather in large mobs for their rights.

The one thing homeschoolers have in common with the LGBT community in India is the illegitimacy of a very personal, enriching lifestyle. A lifestyle that harms none. A lifestyle that cherishes those living it.

In the farcical Right To Education Act, with its sanctimonious imposition of school on all children, the Nation has done homeschoolers a grave injustice. Parents who have made conscious choices and sacrifices to throw open the horizon for their children instead of an education system that barely scratches the potential of learning are now on the wrong side of law.

The “Free and Compulsory” education paradox may seem like a minor thing to parents who send their children to school, but for homeschooling parents, it has resulted in deep soul searching and a determined decision that they will court being on the wrong side of the law in order to nurture their child’s learning. In a democracy, this ought not to be happening. Yet, it is.

The “Free” is a lie, because children who really are FREE to choose their learnings are not recognized as learning unless they land up at the same place, sitting in one place, enclosed by walls and obeying rules written by someone else daily in some of the most vibrant years of their life. There isn’t one community on the face of the earth that could be forced in such a manner without activist outrage, and yet our children, those we claim are fragile and must be nurtured must suffer this for years on end, or they are in violation of the nation’s law. Surely this travesty of personal liberty cannot be allowed just because the subjects are too young to vote or raise serious objection?

The realization that Somnath Bharti has helped homeschoolers find voice through the case of Sandeep Srivastava in the Delhi High Court and he is now on Delhi’s cabinet has led many homeschoolers to hope that if the capital can pave the way for recognition of homeschooling and appropriate provisions in the Right To Education Act, it may result in homeschooling eventually being recognized nationwide.

Somnath Bharti as a lawyer presented the interests of homeschoolers where they mattered. Will Somnath Bharti MLA convince the Aam Aadmi Party to take this revolutionary step?

Will it happen? We don’t know. We don’t have the numbers to be an electoral threat.

But surely some things must be done because they are right and because we have a duty toward nurturing the best possible choices for our young ones?

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Education makeover is complex says Azim Premji

Speaking at the first convocation of Azim Premji University in Bangalore, Wipro chairman Azim Premji said governments and other stakeholders should invest more resources to improve education in the country.

“Given the diversity of our country , compounded by issues of socio-economic deprivation and ground realities , it is inevitably going to be a slow and arduous process ,” he said .

“They also need to reform governance of all related systems . Equally , I have no doubt that other stakeholders need to do more . This means that more people and more civil society organizations must engage in improving the government schooling system ,” he added .

In my view, it is more serious than that and people like Azim Premji have the influence and ability to push for far more. Education has become like an Olympic Sport. It is an exhibition of skill in performing in a very specific manner without any particular expectation of utility. Mere “improving education” is not going to work. What will be needed is a complete demolition and rebuilding of education based on actual needs people have.

It is no secret that even as job opportunities diminish, the problem of recruiting competent professionals remains. Any person who has interviewed job applicants will be able to attest to the fact that the number of unsuitable candidates makes selection remarkably like searching for a needle in a haystack. Even candidates overqualified on paper are rarely competent enough to handle jobs with any complexity.

Many jobs requiring no specific knowledge insist on graduation as a qualification. The basic reason being the hope that graduation would have provided more proficiency to basic language and logic skills. It is alarming that no one bothers to ask why spending 10 years in basic schooling does not enable students to be fluent in English or record their expenses competently, when uneducated vegetable vendors can manage their own accounts and kids pick up language easily.

Worse, because you have graduates competing on jobs which do not require any specialized knowledge, the people who have done basic schooling and can do those jobs are left at a disadvantage by their jobs going to someone capable of far more being under utilized and rendering them outclassed. At the end of the day, basic schooling that we are so adamant about as some kind of holy grail, does nothing to help people live more functional lives. It does not prepare people for jobs. It does not give them knowledge that they can use in the world. But we are putting a country of our size relentlessly through that machine to the point of insanity and even disallowing better alternatives.

There is fundamental uselessness in a system that doesn’t address the need for functionality.

I do not see how sticking with this method of boards and boring syllabuses taught by incompetent teachers to disinterested students will be useful even if you tweak it prettier.

A more useful goal would be to aim for abilities rather than subjects. For eample:

  • Basic literacy and practical mathematics skills for all – regardless of source of acquiring these skills.
  • Basic schooling – and I’m talking 4-5 years (starting at a later age – say around 8-13 years old) here, not 13 years as the useless monolith currently stands – should provide children with stable language, logic, communication, civics (laws, rights, structure of country, who to approach for what, etc), knowledge seeking and functional mathematics skills.
  • This would have your poor kids who legally start working at 14 at least having greater potential!
  • Nature of syllabus has to change. At the speed at which human knowledge is growing, subjects couldn’t possibly be defined or added to “teach” comprehensively, leading to an inflated sense of intellectual ability on achieving inferior quality memorization of introductory information – particularly among “top scorers”. It would be useful to teach children how to find (and test for soundness) information on whatever it is they need information on. There is no need for square roots and complex divisions of 10 digit figures by 4 digit figures. Teach them to use a calculator! The world has changed since the time these were handicaps if you didn’t know how to do it yourself.
  • Basic schooling should be designed to enable people completing it capable of any job not requiring specialized knowledge. No reason why a bus driver or receptionist needs to know more than this to do his/her job well.
  • Dignity of labour: Education must expand to appreciate the knowledge that goes into competence of all kinds rather than marks depending on some answers deemed “right”. If we need excellent soldiers, train drivers or garbage collectors, children must learn to recognize that there is ability in combat or strategy, driving a mammoth vehicle or sanitation.
  • High school diploma or degree too must focus on skill over information, though of course specialized information will be inevitable. Why do we not have enough architects and doctors? Is there a way to simplify syllabus and rapidly churn out more with only essential skills to handle the bulk of the load? Education needs to adapt to answer needs rather than create templates that will have to fit in somehow. Underutilized at times, lacking competence at others. We need to put the horse ahead of the cart.

In my view, if we are looking to build an India that is functionally strong, we must have kids who see their need to care for people and animals and dream of becoming forest guards or nursing staff committed to giving their patients every edge to thrive. We need kids who look at their pile of dismantled toys and think it would be cool to grow up to be a mechanic and do it with real cars. Or a child interested in food and wanting to become a chef should proudly put up a vada paav or lemonade stall in the neighbourhood without imagining that the excellence of a cook is in an air conditioned kitchen in a five star hotel. The excellence is in the passion!

Children are great “doers” and “makers” till we teach them that “respect” is in white collar jobs in multi-national companies after you do an MBA (another useless invented degree that abstracts presentation and management as a universal plugin – assembly line competence). Yet there are entire empires to be built doing so many things we do not teach kids to explore.

More importantly, there are dreams to chase and happiness to secure, which require knowing and chasing what the heart wants – education must not take up too much time and leave no time for this.

Note: I am a homeschooler, but this is pretty much what I’m trying to achieve for my child too!

Note 2: I do hope someone gets Azim Premji to read this.

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Remembering Tagore

Remembering Tagore on his 72nd death anniversary

Yesterday (7th August) was the death anniversary of Rabindranath Tagore, and I found two pieces remembering him. I thought it would be a good start to my plan of sharing profiles of people who learned without school, as a response to a common anxiety parents share – what will my child become when he/she grows up?

Details Created on Wednesday, 07 August 2013 12:07 Hits: 80 Today (07 August) is the 72nd death anniversary of ‘Kabiguru’ Rabindranath Tagore.   Rabindranath Tagore, sobriquet Gurudev, was a Bengali poet, philosopher, artist, playwright, composer and novelist.   India’s first Nobel laureate, Tagore won the 1913 Nobel Prize for […]

Rabindranath Tagore, sobriquet Gurudev, was a Bengali poet, philosopher, artist, playwright, composer and novelist.

India’s first Nobel laureate, Tagore won the 1913 Nobel Prize for Literature.

He composed the text of both India’s and Bangladesh’s respective national anthems.

Tagore travelled widely and was friends with many notable 20th century figures such as William Butler Yeats, H.G. Wells, Ezra Pound, and Albert Einstein.

His body of literature is deeply sympathetic for the poor and upholds universal humanistic values. His poetry drew from traditional Vaisnava folk lyrics and was often deeply mystical.

Tagore, of course was learned at home and was a learned man. A polymath, which means he was exceptionally talented in many things. The Hindu carries a labour of love remembering him by Ashokamitran. I found it special because it speaks of the impact of Tagore on Tamils, which is hardly something we hear in the normal course of reading. An excerpt, follow the link to read the article.

Thirty years ago, my eldest son Ravi, then studying in class VI, needed a story to narrate in his class. I told him of a great man in Bengal, who in the guise of addressing grown ups, wrote stories that any child would cherish. Then I told him the story of ‘Kabuliwalla’. By the time I finished, he was sobbing. Next day, after narrating it in class, he told me, “When I finished the story, I couldn’t control my tears. Many students were in tears too.”

This took me farther back to the 1940s when I was a school student.

Our English text-book was a selection of prose and poetry pieces, mostly of British origin but there were a few like ‘The Hero’ of Rabindranath Tagore and ‘Transcience’ by Sarojini Naidu. ‘The Hero’ was my first conscious experience of Tagore. I had seen the bearded face of Tagore a couple of years ago in a Tamil book called Kumudhini. Almost on the same day I saw another photograph of the face in the Tamil weekly. It was in August 1941. Tagore passed away on August 7, 1941. Three years later was the year of ‘The Hero’. It took me a few more years to be able to penetrate into the world of Rabindranath Tagore. His plays were a little puzzling but there was no barrier between us and his prose pieces. Gora gave us a glimpse of the spiritual movements taking place in Bengal in the second half of the 19th century.

When I became a resident of Madras (which is now Chennai), in 1952, I found quite a number of people familiar with Tagore’s writings. Not only Tagore but Bankimchandra Chatterjee, Sarat Chandra Chatterjee, Tarashankar Banerjee and an odd writer by name Rakhaldas Bandhopadhyay. Many of Tagore’s works were then available freely in Tamil Nadu as translations. For the few avid readers of serious writing, translations from Bengali authors were among their first choices.

Later I learnt that two brothers, T.N. Kumaraswamy and T.N. Senapathi, lived in Bengal and learnt the language to be able to read Tagore’s work in the original and then translate them into Tamil.

Read Ashokamitran’s beautiful rememberances of Tagore and Tamils

Tax on auxiliary services to make education dearer

Friend sent me this link about how schools are about to get costlier, commenting that it would mean more homeschoolers and that I should be happy.

When education was categorised under the negative list in the 2012 Budget, a finance ministry notification issued on June 20, 2012, read: “Services provided to or by an educational institution in respect of education exempted from service tax, by way of (a) auxiliary educational services or (b) renting of immoveable property” are exempted from service tax. However, another notification issued on Budget Day replaces “services provided to or by” with “services provided to”.

While some academics who believe that the change in wording is an error have been trying to get it clarified by the finance ministry, the excise department has gone ahead and asked schools to pay up. “The intent to levy service tax on services rendered by educational institutions to outsiders is right. But, the finance ministry notification seems to indicate the contrary. I appeal to the FM to exempt auxiliary services and renting of hostels provided by educational institutions to its own students from service tax,” said S Vaidhyasubramaniam, dean of planning and development, Sastra University.

Click here to view original web page at timesofindia.indiatimes.com

This development is rather alarming because good schools are already rare and prohibitively expensive for a majority of the population.

I am not happy, actually. The idea that people might move to homeschooling because they cannot afford school strikes to me as a failed education policy and the worst possible reason to switch, though it is true homeschooling can be cheaper (or far more expensive) than school.

Homeschooling, in such a case would not be the first choice, but a compromise made out of necessity. This may not be a suitable situation for the considerable commitment to pursuit of learning that homeschooling demands.

Not to mention that the legal position of homeschooling itself is very tricky in India. While no one is persecuting homeschoolers, the few efforts that were made for recognition failed completely with no consession whatsoever so far. Informally, the word is that parents dissatisfied with the system may choose to homeschool, but it can be too precarious to risk for people unfamiliar with the concept.

In short, education in India is slowly becoming a complicated and increasingly meaningless thing, with no real alternatives.

 

Note: There are plenty of homeschoolers in India who have decided that we will not be sending our children to school. Technically, we are on the wrong side of the law, but many of us are determined enough to risk consequences if need be, but not inflict the schooling system on our beloved children.

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Post RTE enrollment in schools dropped

Looks like we aren’t the only people feeling cornered by the RTE, eh? An article in the TOI today describes how enrollment in primary schools is coming down.

While I do blame it on the RTE and how RTE has changed focus from education and literacy to the more profitable infrastructure development and standardization, I think it is basically that the education system of India itself is such a monolith and largely useless, that its a great symbolic gesture for those who can afford it, and are not particularly bothered about their child learning or being happy as long as they are the same as other kids. On the other hand, people who can’t afford it are increasingly coming to the point where they must ask what all the fuss is about?

They have seen people pass through the education system without becoming wiser or more capable. So why? Quite rightly, they are choosing how to spend the money. The losers in this business are the kids, because unlike homeschooling, “not enrolling in school” is not necessarily something that makes their life better.

If the government wants to make education widely accepted in the country, it is going to have to make it relevant and interesting. Today’s system is born from another culture altogether. At the most, it is directly useful to people in the city hoping to make a living through their literacy skills. It leaves the vast majority of India distinctly irrelevant.

While I firmly believe that a child learns, and it is not our business to invest vast amounts of their time in whipping them toward some target we call necessary, I do think that encouraging practical, engaging and learning oriented curriculums that they can start applying to their lives as they live is quite likely to get children hooked to the learning process itself. This may mean trashing all that we call education and creating  a new option.

You may download a copy of the RTE document: Right To Education or RTE 2009-The Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act 2009