Alternatives in Education

 

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Asha today works with partners in India on efforts to make education opportunities accessible to children from poor economic backgrounds. Our interaction with various groups has exposed us to many differences and inequalities in the quality of schooling experience the children go through.  It has led us to question the role of education and schooling.  Education should continue to encourage the spirit of enquiry in all of us. It should not only be meaningful at a personal level, but should also help achieve a sense of social justice, and respect for fellow human beings.  The ultimate objective of education should not only be to create a balanced individual but also a balanced society where everybody is assured of a living wage and a right to social freedom.

Schools that are seen as a place for learning do not always encourage every child's curiosity.  Majority of the schooling experience for a child is spent on learning a limited set of skills. Rural, village-based skills have no place in the curriculum. A person from a poor and/ or rural background feels alienated and is also sometimes unable to compete successfully in the present economic system. Various forms of discrimination based on caste, gender, culture, livelihood and religion continue to exist within the school structures. The system fosters very little nurturing for a person as a whole and relies more on just one-track development - so called the "intellect".  Instruction and learning of even basic academic subjects needs a fresh outlook to stimulate a child’s innate curiosity and enthusiasm.

The current education system raises some pertinent issues. Can education also address the fact that we not only require subject knowledge and skills for our living but also a spirit to enquire into our basic human problems? Can education become person and ecological centered instead of just economic centered? How can education play a role in bringing about socio-economic change? Can we enrich the experience of the socio-economically disadvantaged children in the conventional system? 

Our hope is to help create, participate and learn in a network that can find answers to these questions.  Our hope is that as this network evolves it will address problems with conventional education in different ways and strengthen already existing individual efforts in this area. This network will be a resource for interested groups, individuals, educators, and parents seeking meaningful approaches to education.   

With these objectives, we had organized a conference in Bangalore as the first step towards forming a network of groups and individuals.  The conference was held on January 11-13, 2003 at Bangalore. More than 80 people participated in the conference over the 3 days. The government officials from DPEP also attended and gave a presentation on the scale of the government programs in Karnataka.  For conference proceedings, please click here.