Being the Change!

Shadab Ahmed | We, The People | shadab.rafi@gmail.com

For the students of 11th standard of the Government Senior Secondary School Ghamroj – Alipur district Gurugram, the new academic year will bring new hopes and experience. As they had seen how the knowledge gained could be effectively applied in daily life they have also learned what is the difference between being a citizen and a responsible citizen.

Initially going to school was a very painful experience as the road connecting the school with the villages was broken and to add to the problem the dirty water from the drains used to deposit on the road creating a threat of life and health for students and residents of the village. The problem was noticed everyday by residents but nobody took action. It was found in the interactions by student of the school with the residents that the road was in the bad shape since 20 years and the time has added to the plight of the residents. When discussing roads some residents have lost hopes as a resultant of unnoticed complaints made by them. The situation could have been same this year also but the students decided to take some action on unnoticed problem and to travel the road less travelled. They contacted the Sarpanch with a formal application and various informal discussions. The Sarpanch cooperated and explained the process to approach the problem. Also the BDO and SDM Sohna cooperated. Ms Kusum, the teacher along with the student was immensely joyous when the sarpanch shared an undertaking that a grant of Rs 20 lakhs was being sanctioned for the maintenance of the road, and the road would be repaired soon.

Asgar and Aman are the students of the GSSS Bhondsi they share that in the next academic session the school for them will be healthier place then before as school will soon have the RO drinking water facility for the students. But the journey was not as easy as written as when initially the Sarpanch was contacted and shared the problem via written application he denied any receiving also told that budgetary constraints are the road block in getting RO installed. But students explained him how the contaminated water in the school is responsibility of the panchayat under Haryana Panchayat Act 1994. It was then the Sarpanch gave a receiving of the application and told students that the RO will be installed in both Girls and Boys school of Bhondsi.

The stories shared above are among the various success stories that were shared at ‘संविधान और हम’ event organised by SCERT Haryana. Students and teachers of government schools attended the event. S.D.M Mr Sushil Sangwan graced the event as chief guest along with SCERT director Ms Kiran Mayee and DIET principal Mr Tanwar.

SCERT Haryana in the partnership with We, The People has trained Civics teachers of 49 schools to develop informed, active and participative citizenry in the students. Vinita Singh the director of the “We, The People” shares that the holistic model helps train the Civics teachers and enhance their capacities to engage students by active participation in resolving the civic issues with the help of the constitution. The structured sessions on constitution and law focus on the practicality and need of responsible citizenry. There are many stories from these schools where the students had resolved or initiated the process of resolving the issues which otherwise would have gone unnoticed as shared by Neha – Head of North Secretariat of “We, The People”.

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5 things that I liked about Kindergarten in Germany

Shweta Hegde

Shweta is working in a research project at IIM Bangalore.

Prologue: In the year 2014-15, I was selected for the international volunteer service. I was placed in Germany. I had chosen Education and Children’s issues as my interest area, thus I was assigned to be part of an early years education system there.

Well, in my childhood I was never exposed to the concept of kindergarten being grown up in the remote village where there was no institution called kindergarten, so for me it was really a kind of new experience over there.

Here are the notes on the same in five specific points. I hope readers, you will find it interesting and useful:

  • Integrative Kindergarten

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Very interestingly they incorporated the inclusive concept – children with disability are also not treated with any prejudice. Every child undergoes on certain observations and if they have any kinds of disability especially learning disabilities, they are given one to one attention. A trained specialist educator is always present in the school. Apart from this they also have an external therapist who comes twice and sometimes thrice in a week to conduct therapies to those children. I was impressed by the activities and therapies they practice and within a year I personally observed improvements and changes in the child’s behaviour.

Another thing is about the sensitisation of the issue with the other non-disabled children. There isn’t any stigma towards it and everyone are cooperative and learning together in the institution.

The concept of inclusion and the component education psychology has been an effective practice and a good model to learn from kindergartens in Germany.

  • Feels like Home

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The pre-schooling in the kindergarten is not only just preparing for going to school, it is an concept to provide an atmosphere like home. It opens at 6:AM till 6:30 PM. Parents come to drop the child in the morning and again come in the evening to pick up. During the day the educators take care of the each child like their own children.

At my centre there were 70 children starting from the 8 months to 6 years old. Children get breakfast, lunch , afternoon nap and snacks as well. Everything is similar to home.

The menu of the lunch is specially made after taking the opinion of the parents. If any child does not like the regular menu or is allergic to some food item, then they provide special food as well.

  • Systematic and organized:

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Everything is well planned and the roles and responsibilities for each activities well defined. They have a plan for whole year in hand and the Director of the Kindergarten used to make the weekly plan where everyone’s timings is planned.

In the Europe the holidays are defined by the Government as general system and they work for 5 days in the week. Every extra minute of the work gets counted.

Everybody is so punctual. Anyone coming late, they should inform the administration well in advance.

Name tags are assigned and places to keep their things. Centre is well maintained and cleaned everyday.

  • So creative:

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I love the way how creativity and innovation is given much importance. Each child has the space to show their creativity. Children engage in creative exercises through arts, handmade products, making gift items, songs and games. Every festival and birthday is celebrated.

Each week has a theme on the basis of weather, local festivals, sometimes religious. All testimonies of child’s work like paintings and worksheets are kept properly and documented. It is given to parents to see and keep it as child’s important works.

  • Education for Life

The institution is not only providing the atmosphere like home it also educates the child. Everything is activity based and as I explained above that it has a creative approach. Using many materials like puzzles, storytelling, pictures, illustration books, audio videos and small picnics. The system is inclusive and the education psychology is emphasised.

Self and group learning methods are being practiced which is very important learning and teaching methods.  They also have the multitalented educator who know the sign language to help the children who are hearing and speech impaired.

Child get nurtured, learns about good  behaviours, respect and how to communicate. Corporal punishment is banned under law.


Photo credit: pinreader via Foter.com / CC BY-NC-ND

Once in a year they collect the materials from the parents and donate them to the poor people, that’s how children also sensitized about the social responsibilities and to become empathetic.They are also globally exposed, a 4 years old child knows about India by saying lots  facts and information of our country like national animal and Elephants in India.

Children who are 5-6 years old have special classes in the afternoon instead of having naps. They get the actual pre-schooling sessions and atmosphere created as of the formal school. This is to prepare them for schooling in the upcoming year. Child gets the space to learn and express the things of their interest by creating the system to expose their ideas and interest. Parents support them. Thus, early childhood onward a child begins to feel independent, responsible and confident.

Epilogue: Initially I was unaware and sceptical, however my engagement for year with the educators and children at the centre helped me understand the importance of early year schooling and the rationale behind different practices. I feel happy about my learnings and the observations that helped me to learn ‘how we learn’.

Re-crafting education

Courtesy: Teachers of India (www.teachersofindia.org) | By Steve, Jiva Institute.

People who know me know that I have a thing for traditional craft. My office and home are a kaleidoscope of handmade items that represent the myriad local cultures from all over India – paper pinwheels from Haryana, thatch mats from Assam, ceramics from Uttar Pradesh, Madhubani paintings from Bihar, table runners from Rajasthan, and so on. I am also a huge fan of truck art and have numerous objects that have been painted in the truck art style.

What is it about craft that gets me going? Apart from making a room more cheerful and visually appealing, I believe craft holds a key to solving fundamental problems of our education system and of our society as well. You see, the tradition of craft incorporates within it a number of key values that make our society whole, but which day by day are being lost. As craft diminishes, so do these values, and the result is a world that becomes less beautiful and more wasteful. Let me explain.

First, there exists an inherent practice of sustainability in the creation of craft. These items are mainly produced from indigenous and naturally available materials – from wood, bamboo, straw, mud, stone, and so on. In other cases, craftspeople make use of recycled materials. As such, you would find nary an artisan who would subscribe to the use-and-throw philosophy – a practice that emerged from the United States in the 1930s as a response to the government’s attempt to increase consumption to spur the economy that was suffering due to the depression. Artisans see where their raw materials come from – and how hard one has to toil to acquire them. They therefore implicitly understand the value of resources, and automatically tend to preserve and recycle them.

Second, craft embodies and fosters a sense of aesthetics. Aesthetics by Western definition relates to the element of beauty that is infused into artwork. However, in the Eastern sense, the concept of aesthetics relates more to bhava, or the emotional sentiment of the artisan, whose aim it is to forge his craft item with that emotion in a manner that awakens one’s sense of humanity, spirituality and interconnectedness with our entire world. With respect to this type of artistry, there very well could be a butterfly effect (the concept that all things are inter-related so much so that a butterfly flapping its wings in one part of the world could cause a tornado in another part); it is indeed possible that a shawl embroidered by a woman in Kashmir leads to a man’s divine realization in Kansas.

Third, craft is made by hand. From an economic perspective, this provides work to craftspeople. When we mass produce, people are made redundant. When we mechanize too much of our production, we leave gaps in employment. By nurturing and valuing craft we prevent people from losing their livelihood.

The loss of appeal for craft
After so many years of exposure to the global, industrialized world, India has greatly lost its appeal for craft among the mainstream population. As the country urbanizes, people get out of touch with the world of handmade items. While shifting to cities, the younger generations aspire to a more international lifestyle. In pursuit of higher status, they reject the village life and the things produced there, considering them to be backward and inferior, instead seeking out goods that have a more global look and feel to them. But without a sense of Western aesthetics, they are lured into the world of kitsch – mass-produced objects that simulate craft. Go into any modern mall today, and you’ll find dozens of shops selling machine-made chinoiserie and culturally non-descript items that could be from anywhere – or nowhere. Such individuals are more inclined to stock their house full of tacky porcelain bric-a-brac than to adorn their living spaces with handcrafted items made from wrought iron and wood.

Why students need greater exposure to craft
Some of the greatest problems we face today relate to economic, environmental, and cultural sustainability. As educators, we make attempts to explain things theoretically to our students so that they might make the world a more sustainable place when their generation takes the reins from the current generation. However, such attempts are often superficial and even misdirected. A child who creates a diorama from thermocol to represent the ills of pollution or environmental degradation completely misses the point. And charts about recycling do little good if the student becomes a victim of the buy-and-throw culture and regularly tosses out string, rope, paper and bottles that could easily be reused to create an endless array of craft items for his home or classroom.

In addition to learning lessons of environmental responsibility and resourcefulness, children learn many other lessons through craft that the general curriculum could never achieve. By working with their hands, they learn practicality. India’s education system is far too theoretical, and individuals languish when it comes to having to do things manually. (A man with an engineering degree is loath to look under the bonnet when he faces engine problems. He instead calls an uneducated worker to fix it!) Children who learn to work with their hands are much more capable of solving problems – and even being more effective in their work. In fact, many top international engineering companies today aim to hire individuals who had extensive experience in their early years creating and building things with their hands.

What is more, by being exposed to different designs used in craft, children experience the power and energy contained within the patterns and symbols that comprise their culture. The various shapes and motifs found in traditional design contain deep connections to the underlying energies of the universe, and those who understand and channelize them can attain enlightenment, the ultimate success, whether they acquire a PhD or whether they pursue a vocation without any formal education.

What I would like to propose, therefore, is greater inclusion of craft throughout the school’s environment and curriculum. This could be done in a number of ways:

  • Invite local artisans to the school to share their craft skills with students.
  • Have more craft activities within the school such as weaving, pottery, candle making, woodwork, bamboo work, embroidery, ceramic making, etc.
  • Decorate walls with murals using various artistic styles, such as Warli, Madhubani, Gond, and Bhil.
  • Create mosaics on walls using waste stone, glass, and tiles.
  • Sell student-made craft items at school events to generate revenue for the school.
  • Have students from higher classes make craft toys for students in lower classes.

In short, I believe that craft can do wonders for schools. With respect to interior design, it can significantly enhance the décor of the school atmosphere. In the hands of students, it can awaken a dignity of labour within them, and get them to appreciate their indigenous culture and design. Further, it enables them to get closer to the natural resources used to produce things, which has potential for inspiring recycling and reduction in wastage and mindless consumption. And most importantly, I believe that this spirit of handmade and “heartmade”, can inspire personal transformation and social cohesion, the likes of which have not been seen since factory-style education was introduced in India in the mid 1800s.

I have created a blog dedicated to inspiring the use of craft at Jiva Public School. (http://designatjiva.wordpress.com). There I have captured craftwork in many schools from all over India that are doing amazing things with craft. I welcome you to share your ideas with us and explore how by embracing craft, we might craft a more beautiful and sustainable India.

The author is Director of Jiva Institute, Faridabad. He can be reached at steve@jiva.com.

6% of India’s GDP should be spent on education

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Advocate for budget expenditure on education to be 6% of GDP with Ministry of Finance.

Annual budgets presented by the Governments are not just statements of finances but are factual reflection of their policies, programmes and strategies. While a government’s budget directly or indirectly affects the lives of every one of its citizens, it can have significant impact on certain groups like children, women, the poor, rural residents and weaker and marginalized sections of the society.

The Kothari Commission (1964-66) recommended an allocation of 6% of the GDP for education. National Education Policies of 1968, and 1986 (as modified in 1992) also endorsed a norm of 6% of GDP as the minimum expenditure on education.

The current Government in its Election Manifesto (2014) pledged for “public spending on education raised to 6% of GD0P”. However, this target has never been met. The expenditure by Education Departments of the Centre and States has never risen above 4.3% of the GDP, and is currently around 3.5%.

In India, Children constitute 39% of the total population and on an average they receive 4% of the total allocation in the union budgets of the country. The demands of allocation of 6% of the GDP to education have never been met.

Join Global Citizen India by asking our government to deliver on their promise and tweet using

  1. Upload a picture to Facebook with your creative take on the number 6.
  2. Post the picture with a message about the importance to budget for higher education along with the hashtags.#FinanceMinistry #IStandFor6, GlobalCitizenIndia.

Source: Global Citizen India