Blog on fostering mental health in the Indian school system. It explores behavioral symptoms, and provides practical suggestions on strategies and instructional adaptations in the classroom. Topics covered include side effects of medication and their impact in the classoom, advocacy skills and locating therapeutic resources to help the student(s).
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Tuesday, April 17, 2012
RTE: Government vs Private Schools
The next question that comes up is the role of the government
in providing education. Sometime back I was talking to an officer from an NGO
that works in the field of education. He contended that we should give up on
the government’s role in education and concentrate on private schools instead.
“This is happening in other countries as well. How many of us went to
government schools. We all went to private schools. We should give the children a private school education."
I couldn’t disagree more. The reason education is in the
state it is in is because we were indifferent to the role of the
government. We are responsible for what
has happened to education—lack of access for the poor and the lack of
adaptability or independent, creative teaching to meet all our children’s needs.
In the last two years I was involved in a project—a start up
for educating children in one of the most poverty stricken populations in our
country. What stunned the sponsor was the concept that schools are owned by
private individuals or families…and that you can make a profit on the running
of a school. What created this movement of education as a business? Our
indifference and our greed! No outside hand brought this on us.
As the project progresses we found out that private school
boards can do anything they please. There are so many ways to deny
accountability…almost all of them ending with the reasoning “This is how we do
things in India!” No, there is no reason to accept the status
quo and keep doing things the way we do.
Several government schools were closed in this area because
the teacher had to be elsewhere—to run errands, to socialise or because he/she
didn’t want to go to work that day. In
other schools the teacher waited but no students turned up…because the parents
thought it was a waste of time. Naturally there were multiple “English Medium
private Schools” on every other street. Never mind that none of the teachers
could speak English, or the fact that the kids couldn't answer simple questions in English. Oh, the
children were very eager to learn and to show us all that they knew. They
enrolled in the ‘Private English Medium Schools’ paying an exorbitant fee
because their parents saved money—by eating one meal a day, by forgoing basic
necessities or by borrowing heavily. These parents (like their urban
counterparts) know that education is the way to better their socio economic
conditions and they are willing to forgo anything to give their children a
Most of argue that this is only a problem in the rural areas
of our country and that the education that the urban, rich get is on par with
the best schools around the world. I disagree. There is a difference in
services available based on the buying power everywhere. A four year old who
goes to an exclusive private school in India can write beautifully—in complete sentences, with perfect punctuation and in cursive. Often this child
struggles with making a prediction when being read to. She can’t frame a
sentence with complex descriptions which are not already in the text book or
story book. Her perfect spelling is thanks to repeated drills rather than through the use of invented spelling which will eventually lead to an understanding of decoding rules.
Private schools are not the solution, as the NGO officer declared. They too are beset with poor educational practices. Why? Lack of supervision by the government body is undoubtedly the cause.