Towards quality education

Children need attention, both at home and school

LEARNING

PUPINDER S BALI

Education is the key to unlocking J&K’s economic future. In the next few decades, we may have one of largest young workforces ready to contribute to our economy. But will these young men and women be adequately trained and qualified? Will they possess the knowledge, the confidence and creativity to fulfil their potential, and the potential of our state? Sadly we know very little that can help us answer these questions.
Art, music, dance, drama, debates and sports are important for the all round development of a child. The most successful people in almost any discipline in the world are often found to have an artistic pursuit or a hobby that feeds their creativity and productivity in their profession of choice. What opportunities do our children have to engage in such activities that ought to take place along with rigorous academic training? These opportunities may be limited even in best schools of valley. Nearly 40 percent of students in these best schools report that they do not get any opportunity to participate in dance, dramatics or debates. Everyone agrees that arts and sports are important for building confidence, self control, solidarity and team work, but when it comes to execution the attention given to these activities leaves a lot to be desired.
If this is the situation in well funded and affluent schools, one can only imagine what opportunities are available to more than a million children in our rural schools. What are we offering this vast majority of children in terms of co-scholastic skills? I would imagine very little, if anything. We don’t confidently know as a state what day to day education looks like for our children in thousands of schools across the state.
There is another interesting link – the importance of home and parental involvement towards learning.  Children whose homes are well equipped with books, children who have access to computer and children who engage in non textbook reading regularly all perform better in subjects like language, mathematics and Science.
How do we make sense of these relationships? Does it mean that if we were to simply provide every family with a few books or give household a computer and Internet connection, all our children will become proficient learners? The answer is NO. The extra books or access to technology are may be an indicator or a proxy for the parents overall ability and willingness to engage in their children education. Children who talk regularly with their parents about their day to day school experiences and challenges tend to be better performers. There is a commitment and engagement that parents can bring to educating their child that is irreplaceable.
Surely all our parents are keen to provide the very best for their children. See high tech school busses in morning. But are all parents equally well equipped to fulfil their dreams? In our state with alarming problems, adult illiteracy and poverty, the answer to this question is NO. Every society has its share of rich and poor, educated and uneducated individuals. But as a state we are facing serious problems. Close to 75 percent mothers of our school going children may not even have basic reading and writing skills. One only has to imagine the struggles and frustrations of such a mother as she tries to meaningfully and confidently participate in her child’s schooling experience.
The current picture looks grim. Both inside our schools and in our homes there is a lot to be done to help our children become creative and productive citizens. But there is also some good news. The good news is that  apart from all problems we are increasingly committed as a state to define, measure and understand what teaching and learning look like in our schools. Generating this understanding is the first step in figuring out how we may fix the parts of our system that are not working, and how we may provide extra support to the less privileged children. We have taken that first step. The road ahead is long, but the journey has begun.

(The writer is Sr. Regional Manager, Educational Initiatives (ASSET)-India. Feedback at pupinder@ei-india.com)

Lastupdate on : Fri, 2 Nov 2012 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Fri, 2 Nov 2012 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Sat, 3 Nov 2012 00:00:00 IST




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