Monday February 19, 2018
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Let’s make our classrooms non-smart and teachers smart

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By Harshmeet Singh

About a decade ago, when Indian parents used to shortlist ‘good’ schools for their children, their most important parameters were the schools building, the playground and if their toppers were among the city’s toppers. But things have changed in the past decade. While parents’ affinity towards schools which produce toppers is still intact, the place of ‘playground’ has now been largely taken by ‘smart classes’. Every third school in almost all major Indian cities now boasts of a ‘smart class’ (an achievement which is often mentioned at the school’s entrance gate!). A typical smart class contains highly sophisticated audio-visual infrastructure that ‘supposedly’ makes it easier for the students to understand ‘concepts’. The concept of smart classes is in line with the common thinking that ‘computers will replace teachers in the classrooms very soon’.

For those who agree with the notion of technology overpowering human intervention in education, the recent OECD study on education can be a heart break. According to the study, even the nations that spent huge amounts of money on introduction of information and communication technologies in schools didn’t witness much improvement in the reading and mathematical levels of the students. Since 1990s, there has been a steep rise in the usage of computers as teaching aids in private and government schools alike. The results of the OECD study are a sign that our education policies must be revisited.

As compared to the Western countries that depend heavily on computerized education, students in East Asian countries like Japan, South Korea, Singapore and China performed much better. These countries boast of a robust teacher training model and holistic education policies. Unlike India, where the internet is seen as the solution to every problem, these countries provide restricted internet access to the students, thus shielding them from the issues internet can give rise to. While these East Asian nations invest heavily in teacher training programs and physical infrastructure, Indian politicians adopted policies such as free distribution of laptops to the students to boost the education standard in the state!

For all the shortcomings in the public education system in the country, the Government responds by filling up the schools with computers, to make them ‘modern’. One major outline of the OECD study is that computers can never replace teachers inside the classroom. With a sea of knowledge available to the students in this age of internet, the role of a teacher is more crucial than ever. Guiding the student to the correct source of knowledge is perhaps the teacher’s biggest responsibility today.

Unfortunately, our education policies of the last decade or so don’t seem optimistic. The schools are run by ‘administrators’ and not ‘educators’, which clearly shows up in the style of operations. While the government has been extremely excited about equipping the schools with computers, there hasn’t been any follow up mechanism to gauge the progress made by the students, if any. A skewed education budget in the country doesn’t make things any easier. During the UPA government, the total spending on education as a proportion of government’s total expenditure was 9.98%, as compared to 11.1% in 2000-01. This number should ideally be over 20%! The 2015 general budget also saw a 2% cut in the overall education budget.

We now have an army of schools with no toilets and libraries, which have a bunch of computers! With administrators (and not educators) forming education policies, a major divide between the reality and assumptions is evident. May be it is time to move back to the ‘non-smart classes’ and focus on preparing our teachers better.

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Savitribai Phule: The Pioneer Of The Women Education In India

Savitribai Phule fought for women’s education from the cultural patterns of the male-dominated society as a mission of her life

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Savitribai Phule along with her husband, Jyotirao Phule played a vital role in raising the women's rights in India during the British Rule. Wikimedia Commons
Savitribai Phule along with her husband, Jyotirao Phule played a vital role in raising the women's rights in India during the British Rule. Wikimedia Commons
  • Savitribai Phule was the first female teacher of the first women’s school in India
  • Savitribai Phule is regarded as a crucial asset in the social reform movement in Maharashtra
  • Savitribai Phule started her own school for girls education in Pune in 1848

Savitribai Phule is India’s first Modern feminist and a well-known social reformer who along with her husband, Jyotirao Phule played a vital role in raising the women’s rights in India during the British Rule. She was the first female teacher of the first women’s school in India and also considered as the pioneer of modern Marathi poetry. In 1852, Savitribai Phule opened a school for Untouchable girls which were a great challenge to take at that time.

Savitribai Phule was born on 3 January 1831 in Naigaon, Maharashtra, British India. She was married to 12-year-old Jyotirao Phule at the age of nine. Savitribai Phule is regarded as a crucial asset in the social reform movement in Maharashtra.

Battling for women education

Savitribai Phule fought for women’s education from the cultural patterns of the male-dominated society as a mission of her life. She worked towards tackling some of the then major social issues like women’s liberation, removal of untouchability and widow remarriages. Due to her efforts for women empowerment in the society, Savitribai Phule used to be followed by orthodox men and was abused by them in obscene language. People would target her with rotten eggs, cow dung, tomatoes, stones but she ignored all that, just to reach her school. After suffering so much, she once decided to give up but her husband, Jyotiba Phule came in full support for her. Jyotiba Phule encouraged his wife to continue with her cause.

Also Read: 15 Amazing Facts About The Revolutionary Bhagat Singh

But still, both husband and wife faced fierce resistance from the orthodox elements of society. Savitribai Phule got herself admitted to a training school and came out with flying colours with another Muslim lady, Fatima Sheikh. After that, she started her own school for girls education in Pune in 1848. Although, the response Savitribai Phule got was not that much uplifting but she was determined by what she was doing.

In 1852, Jyotirao Phule and Savitribai Phule were felicitated by the government for their commendable efforts in the field of education and other social causes. Wikimedia Commons
In 1852, Jyotirao Phule and Savitribai Phule were felicitated by the government for their commendable efforts in the field of education and other social causes. Wikimedia Commons

With the passage of time, people started to accept them and hence both husband and wife were able to open 5 more schools in the year 1848 itself. Taking a note of Savitribai Phule’s hard work, British government honoured her for her educational work. Jyotiba and Savitribai were also opposed to idol worship. For their work, both husband and wife were socially isolated and were attacked by the people whom they questioned.

The next big step that she took was to take a stand for widows. In those days, if a man used to die of old age or some sickness and the girls they had married were left, widows. The windows were treated like an unwanted piece of dump in the society. Widow’s head was shaved and they were not allowed to use any cosmetics that may make them look beautiful. Such a condition of widows moved Savitribai Phule and her husband. Thus, they went on for a protest to stop barbers from shaving the heads of widows.

Also Read: 10 Facts You Need To Know About Homi Bhabha

Here are some of the facts related to the life of Savitribai Phule and her husband, Jyotirao Phule during there struggling for various social causes.

  1. In 1897, Savitribai Phule with the full support of her son, Yashwantrao Gupta, opened a clinic to treat those affected by the pandemic of the bubonic plague when it appeared in the area around Nallasopara. As per records, she used to feed two thousand children every day during the time of the epidemic.
  2. Two books of her poems were published posthumously, Kavya Phule (1934) and Bavan Kashi Subodh Ratnakar (1982). Savitribai Phule wrote many poems against discrimination and advised to get educated. Being a poet and a philosopher and wrote on the importance of education and knowledge and removal of caste discrimination.
  3. In 2015, the University of Pune was renamed as Savitribai Phule Pune University to her honour deeds.
  4. Savitribai Phule died on 10 March 1897 while serving a plague patient.
  5. Google India Celebrate her Birthday January 3, 2017, with Doodle.
  6. Savitribai Phule was herself a victim of child marriage as she was married to Jyotirao Phule when she was only 12 years old.
  7. Savitribai Phule opened ‘Infanticide prohibition house’ care centre for pregnant rape victims and helped them to deliver their babies. She put up boards on streets about the “Delivery Home” for women, who were forced for their pregnancy. The delivery home was called “Balhatya  Pratibandhak Griha”.
  8. Savitribai Phule worked towards abolishing the caste-based and gender-based discrimination in the Indian society.
  9. In 1852, Jyotirao Phule and Savitribai Phule were felicitated by the government for their commendable efforts in the field of education and other social causes.
  10. After her marriage, Savitribai Phule enrolled herself in a training centre at Ms Farar’s Institution at Ahmednagar and in Ms Mitchell’s school in Pune.

Also Read: 10 Must-Know Facts About Subhas Chandra Bose

In 1852, Savitribai Phule opened a school for Untouchable girls which were a great challenge to take at that time.Wikimedia Commons
In 1852, Savitribai Phule opened a school for Untouchable girls which were a great challenge to take at that time.Wikimedia Commons

Savitribai Phule fought against all forms of social inequalities for any section of the society. They even moved by the plight of untouchables in the society. As untouchables were not allowed to take out water from the wells, meant for the upper caste. So, Savitribai Phule and Jyotiba Phule started their own reservoir of water for the untouchables in the vicinity of their house.