Wednesday, March 6, 2013

The true purpose of schooling organizations

Had a great conversation with a former colleague in Teach for India (TFI) and a friend yesterday, and I'd like to share a thought experiment we did.

Given a kid from the slums who goes through all the compulsory factory schooling that TFI wants her to Vs. a kid from the slums who drops out early and learns life living on the streets,

Which one of those kids, following Zinn's train of thoughts, is going to be more obedient to authority when the shit hits the fan?

So if you wanted to make a world that is free of the oppressive structures that are poisoning the world of today, would you rather compulsorily educate (referring to TFI's model) the children of the poor, or leave them be?

Moreover, if you were a big MNC that had everything to lose if the masses ever figured out how you were plundering them and became disobedient, which organizations would you fund as your CSR, to safeguard your continued profits?


Devavrat Ravetkar said...
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Devavrat Ravetkar said...

Obedience or disobedience to the authority is not good or bad in itself.

Compulsory education is not good or bad in itself.

Learning life living on the streets is not good or bad in itself.

What is desired is a true democracy, where all the people who are in control of their life and who shape the world as well. How will we transition to such a system?

We can begin by transforming the way we perceive education- what is really required for learning to happen? I think its of utmost importance to give learners the freedom and the resources to learn. What do I mean by freedom? They should be able to choose what they want to learn and at what pace. What do I mean by resources? Access to knowledge content in the form of books, videos, websites. And access to other learners and mentors, where learners and mentors need not be the roles taken up by different people. We are constantly learning and what we know by our experience, we can utilize to guide others. Getting freedom and resources is great. But what about the learning process itself.

"What are you learning? Why are you learning?"- asking these questions helps us to decide our direction. We should keep asking this to ourselves from time to time. Learning is an exploration. It is fueled by the curiosity to know more about something, to answer the questions in our minds, to imagine and build something in order to solve a problem that we are facing. Of course, we are allowed to explore and build to just have fun as well. We can discover our aptitude and inner spark by exploring on our own.

"How are you learning?"- We learn the best by doing and by teaching others. So project-based collaborative learning is a great way to learn. You have a group of learners and they have a goal to reach- a problem to solve, and they go on learning and doing whatever is required to attain it.

If by 'compulsory education' we are creating a system in which everyone is made to go down the same path, where there's no choice of what and how to learn, where we are mindlessly following a queue instead of exploring on our own and with our friends- then its largely generating people who will think that we only have to mindlessly obey everything- and we are dehumanizing ourselves. And sadly, that's what we are today.

But then, letting a kid to learn life on the street where there are people who mindlessly obey everything- whether its the laws made by central government or local goons- is not desirable too! This kid is getting a narrow perspective of life, stumbling into dangerous activities.

We all need a place where we can grow well.

Compulsory education should stand for creation of enviroments where the people can get freedom and resources to learn. Where we can think freely and get exposed to different perspectives. Where we can get opportunities to make ourselves and the world better. So that the world can be a true democracy, where all the people are in control of their life and shape the world as well.

Project-based, interest-based, collaborative and lifelong learning. Can we provide this to everyone? That's what we should be striving towards!

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