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Investing in her education, building a better future

Education is a human right. However, for so many girls and women, it is an empty promise. According to UNESCO’s Institute for Statistics, 132 million girls worldwide are out of school.

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Education is a human right. However, for so many girls and women, it is an empty promise. According to UNESCO’s Institute for Statistics, 132 million girls worldwide are out of school.[1] A third of the world’s poorest adolescent girls have never been to school.[2] Girls have a historic disadvantage in education, as seen in the persistent problem of women’s literacy. Two-thirds of the world’s illiterate adults are women – a proportion that has not changed in over 20 years.[3]

Investing in a girl’s education is one of the most effective ways to ensure a better life for her and a better world for us all. If every girl worldwide received 12 years of quality education, child marriage could be eliminated, and early childbearing could be reduced by up to three-quarters. Girls could double their expected earnings in adulthood, and improve living standards, for themselves and their families.[4]

To help girls and women realize their potential through education, we need better data, better policies and better practices – the three pillars of UNESCO’s Her Education, Our Future initiative.

The first step in this process is knowledge. Quantitative and qualitative data – knowing where to focus our efforts – are key to overcoming the barriers preventing girls and women from exercising their right to education. UNESCO’s ongoing efforts in this field, led by its Institute for Statistics and its Institute for Educational Planning, provide the evidence and bases to orient local and global actions. In the same spirit, the Global Education Monitoring Report ensures information is communicated to the widest possible audience.

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The second step is ensuring that policies and normative frameworks uphold the right to education. Millions of children face gender-based violence in and on the way to school. This is why adequate policies and guidelines are needed to support the creation of safe and secure school environments. Her Atlas, UNESCO’s interactive visual monitoring and advocacy tool, supports these efforts by mapping out the status of national legislation related to girls’ and women’s education.

Improving, scaling up and disseminating proven practices is the third step. In this respect, the Government of India’s flagship initiative “Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao” is an ambitious programme that sends a very powerful message, both nationally and globally, on the government’s commitment to gender equality. When girls benefit from quality education, they gain knowledge, skills, and confidence – which creates benefits for society as a whole

The rights of girls and women matter, as do their dreams, their voices, and their leadership. At UNESCO, we believe in the transformative power of education to allow girls and women to realize their full potential, chart their own future, and build better lives for themselves, their families, communities, and nations.

About the author:

Ms. Audrey Azoulay is Director-General, UNESCO

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[1] UNESCO Institute for Statistics (UIS). 2018. One in Five Children, Adolescents, and Youth is Out of School. Montreal, UIS.

[4] World Bank, Missed Opportunities: The High Cost of Not Educating Girls (2018) http://documents.worldbank.org/curated/en/775261531234655903/Missed-Opportunities-The-High-Cost-of-Not-Educating-Girls

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Education

Why Sex Education in Schools is a Battlefield: A Look into Recent Debates and the Path Forward

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Sex education in schools has once again found itself in the eye of a political storm. In the UK, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s recent overhaul of sex education and gender identity teachings in England’s schools has sparked intense debate. As reported by CNN, Sunak’s administration claims the changes provide much-needed clarity, but critics argue they are politically motivated and detrimental to students’ wellbeing.

The Current Debate

The newly unveiled guidelines mandate that children cannot be taught sex education before the age of nine, with explicit discussions on sexual activity delayed until age 13. Additionally, the concept of gender identity is deemed “highly contested” and is to be excluded from the curriculum. Education Secretary Gillian Keegan emphasized that teachers should impart facts rather than push agendas, a statement that has further fueled the controversy.

Pepe Di’lasio, General Secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, criticized the move as being driven by a “political agenda at the front of a campaign season.” He pointed out the lack of substantial evidence backing the changes, suggesting they are more about garnering votes than genuinely addressing educational needs.

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The Politics of Sex Education

Sunak’s approach is seen by many as a bid to win over socially conservative voters ahead of an impending general election. This strategy has involved a series of divisive announcements, with sex education being the latest target.

Critics, including Paul Whiteman of the National Association of Head Teachers, argue that the rigid limits on discussions could drive students to seek information from unreliable sources. Sam Freedman, a senior advisor at the Ark education charity, echoed this sentiment, highlighting the educational value of discussing contested topics like gender identity in a balanced manner.

The Case for Comprehensive Sex Education

The debate over sex education isn’t limited to the UK. In India, where traditional attitudes often dominate, the need for comprehensive sex education is equally pressing. According to a 2022 survey by the Indian Journal of Community Medicine, only 20% of Indian adolescents reported receiving formal sex education. This gap leaves many young people ill-equipped to navigate their sexual health and relationships safely.

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Sex education opponents often cite cultural and moral grounds, fearing that such education might corrupt young minds. However, evidence suggests otherwise. A UNESCO report from 2018 highlighted that comprehensive sex education can lead to delayed sexual initiation, reduced risk-taking, and increased use of contraception, thereby reducing rates of unintended pregnancies and sexually transmitted infections.

Breaking the Stigma

The stigma surrounding sex education often stems from misconceptions and a lack of understanding. Addressing these misconceptions requires a multi-faceted approach:

1. Parental Involvement: Engaging parents in the dialogue around sex education can help demystify the topic and alleviate fears. Schools should offer workshops and resources to help parents understand the curriculum and its benefits.

2. Teacher Training: Educators need robust training to handle sex education topics sensitively and effectively. This includes understanding diverse perspectives and being equipped to support students’ varied needs.

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3. Evidence-Based Policies: Policymaking should be grounded in research rather than political agendas. Studies consistently show that comprehensive sex education supports better health outcomes. Policymakers must prioritize students’ long-term wellbeing over short-term political gains.

4. Community Engagement: Building community support for sex education involves transparent communication and collaboration with local leaders, healthcare professionals, and advocacy groups. Creating a community consensus can help overcome resistance and build a supportive environment for students.

A Path Forward

The controversy over sex education in schools highlights a broader issue: the tension between political agendas and educational integrity. While Sunak’s new guidelines may cater to a specific voter base, they risk undermining the comprehensive education that young people need to thrive.

In both the UK and India, breaking the stigma around sex education requires a commitment to evidence-based practices and an open, inclusive dialogue. By fostering understanding and addressing concerns head-on, we can create a more informed and healthier society.

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As we navigate these debates, it’s crucial to remember that the ultimate goal of education is to equip students with the knowledge and skills they need to lead healthy, fulfilling lives. Let’s ensure that political motivations do not overshadow this fundamental objective.

(Inspired by recent analyses from CNN and BBC on UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s new education guidelines)

References:
– Rob Picheta, CNN Analysis
– The Indian Journal of Community Medicine
– UNESCO Report on Comprehensive Sexuality Education (2018)

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Education

Teaching Sensitivity to Kids in School: A Necessity for Today’s World

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In recent years, instances of bullying, violence, and other harmful behaviours have alarmingly increased among young children. Various factors contribute to this troubling trend. The omnipresence of social media, exposure to violent content, familial discord, and the high-pressure environment of academic and extracurricular achievements are significant reasons. These influences create an environment where children may not develop the necessary empathy and understanding to coexist harmoniously with their peers.

Given this backdrop, it is crucial to emphasise the teaching of sensitivity to children in schools. Sensitising kids towards each other, society, animals, nature, and humans in general is not just beneficial—it is imperative for fostering a more compassionate and cohesive community.

The Importance of Sensitivity

Firstly, teaching sensitivity is essential to combat bullying and violence. When children are taught to understand and appreciate the feelings and perspectives of others, they are less likely to engage in harmful behaviours. Empathy and kindness can act as powerful deterrents against bullying. Moreover, children who are sensitive to the emotions of their peers can contribute to a supportive and inclusive school environment, where everyone feels valued and respected.

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Furthermore, sensitivity towards society and the environment is crucial for nurturing responsible future citizens. Teaching children to care for animals, respect nature, and understand social issues instils a sense of responsibility and stewardship. This not only benefits the immediate community but also contributes to the broader goal of sustainable living and environmental conservation.

Implementing Sensitivity Education at the Grassroots Level in India

To effectively implement sensitivity education, a multifaceted approach is necessary, starting at the grassroots level. Here are several strategies that can be employed:

  1. Incorporate Sensitivity into the Curriculum: Schools should integrate lessons on empathy, kindness, and respect into the existing curriculum. Subjects like Social Studies and Environmental Science can include modules that teach children about the importance of sensitivity towards others and the environment. Stories, role-playing activities, and discussions can be powerful tools in this regard.
  2. Teacher Training and Development: Educators play a pivotal role in shaping the attitudes and behaviours of students. Providing teachers with training on how to foster empathy and sensitivity in the classroom is essential. Workshops and seminars can equip teachers with the skills and knowledge to create an inclusive and supportive learning environment.
  3. Extracurricular Activities and Clubs: Schools can organise clubs and activities that promote sensitivity. For instance, eco-clubs can engage students in activities like tree planting, waste management, and animal care, fostering a sense of responsibility towards nature. Similarly, social service clubs can involve students in community service projects, teaching them the importance of giving back to society.
  4. Parental Involvement: Sensitivity education should not be confined to the school environment. Encouraging parents to reinforce these values at home is crucial. Schools can organise workshops and provide resources to help parents understand their role in teaching empathy and kindness to their children.
  5. Creating a Safe and Inclusive School Environment: Schools should strive to create an environment where every student feels safe and valued. Anti-bullying policies, counselling services, and peer support programs can help achieve this. Additionally, celebrating diversity and promoting inclusivity through cultural events and awareness campaigns can enhance students’ understanding and appreciation of different perspectives.

Teaching sensitivity to children in school is not merely an optional add-on to education; it is a fundamental aspect of nurturing well-rounded individuals who can contribute positively to society. By addressing the rise in bullying and violence through empathy and understanding, we can create a more compassionate and harmonious community. Implementing sensitivity education at the grassroots level in India requires a collaborative effort from educators, parents, and the community. Together, we can ensure that our children grow up to be empathetic, responsible, and sensitive citizens, ready to make a positive impact on the world.

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Education

Beyond Appearances: Prachi Nigam’s Triumph and The Pressures of Appearance-Based Bullying in Schools

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The news of Prachi Nigam, a diligent 10th UP Board Topper, unleashed a disturbing chapter in the history of our society. Despite her unquestionable academic talent being the main topic of a discussion it was superseded by the inappropriate emphasis on her appearance. These events clearly underline the intricate and destructive beauty standard that plague the learning institutions.

It perhaps resonates with the fact that, in the process, we form these gigantic LED screens of illusory beauty standards, which subsequently hover over our young, leaving long shadows behind their achievements. Even if they keep advancing up the ladder of academic strength, their way at the top is checked through the view of how attractive they are. The risk of humiliation due to poor marks and failing an exam is unavoidable. The true woe Prachi has is the desire for anonymity despite her impressive winning activities, which emphasises how emotional hearts of young people can be dysfunctional from such pressures.

Time has come for all of us, as a society, to shape direction which mostly depends on whether empathy has the right place in our classrooms or not. Let this be a lighthouse to the teachers to build suitable defences of comfort around the children thus, no kid should be caught hiding from scrutiny in the shadows. Teachers are doing not only a transmission of knowledge but also establishing an arena where jokes and laughter is shared with no one’s dignity being mocked. When a person makes fun of someone for his/her looks, it should not have a tolerance or a laughter of agreement but condemnation with the sober reminder of respect and tolerance.

The heart of our education philosophy must be the acceptance that the human body is the norm, in its different shapes, and be explained that those changes in adolescence, which are taken as anomalies, are just threads in the rich diversity of our human experience. The burden exists equally in both teaching our young boys that hair is a natural part of a woman’s presence and passing judgement or hearsay based on the absence of hair is unjustifiable, besides disrespectful.

Creating a monument for our schools is to convert them into sensitive meeting places where each child can grow up in freedom without the worry of being dug out for their uniqueness. These classrooms nurture compassion from which the saplings of mature citizens emerge; their spiritual vision awakening the logical perception which glimpses beyond obvious matters. However, beauty is a kaleidoscope, and for our brains, the time to adjust to its actual spectrum is right at hand. 

When building up such an environment, we do not just educate students, we plant the seeds of change in a world where people are cherished not by the size and shape of their bodies but by their uniqueness and achievements. The story of Prachi standing fearlessly up to the rushing flood of hate, should sound in the corridors of every school, it would be among the strongest lessons in fortitude and the ability to endure as an example.

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We are not merely shaping the students of today but creating a world where every young Prachi will find a space to fly free from unwarranted prejudices. As educators, students, and members of this complex society, we need to topple the divergent walls of superficial standards and in their place to grow a garden which allows every flower, despite how it differs from others in terms of size, colour or shape, to be valued for the gift that it brings to the world. It won’t be until after when we can say we have not failed our children, only when we can tell that we are proud of having brought up not just scholars, but decent human beings.

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Education

Unsupervised Explorations: Rethinking Student Trips

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In a tale of youthful exuberance and unforeseen peril, six students from Class 12 embarked on a journey to Goa, a rite of passage celebrated by many as a final hurrah before stepping into adulthood. With permission from their parents, who were perhaps too trusting or caught up in their own lives, the group set out with excitement pulsing through their veins. Upon landing, they were greeted not just by the balmy Goan air but by three massive SUVs, reserved for their adventure—a promise of freedom and the thrill of the open road.

Their accommodation was a sprawling villa, costing a small fortune at 70,000 INR per night, equipped with private pools and luxuriously appointed rooms. It was a palace for kings and queens of the night, a haven for six souls intertwined in the throes of adolescence. Three rooms for three couples, the arrangements were a testament to their intentions, seeking privacy and moments of unchecked passion under the guise of a holiday.

As the days unfolded, the allure of Goa’s vibrant nightlife beckoned. The students, drawn to the magnetic pull of music and dance, found themselves in the heart of the party scene, clubbing into the early hours. It was here, amidst the revelry, that they encountered individuals with sinister motives—drug peddlers who saw not just customers but vulnerable targets in these wide-eyed teenagers.

Swept up in a desire to appear worldly and sophisticated, the group made a decision that would pivot their holiday from a dream to a nightmare. They purchased drugs, a choice made without foresight or understanding of the consequences. Their naivety became their downfall when the police, vigilant and unyielding, caught them in possession of these illegal substances.

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The aftermath was swift and severe. The teenagers, underage and unprepared for the legal ramifications, were thrust into the cold reality of juvenile custody. Their parents, irrespective of their affluence, were faced with a situation no amount of money could easily resolve. Frantic and fearful, they did everything within their power to secure their children’s release, confronted with the harsh truth of their offspring’s actions.

This story, inspired by real events, serves as a stark reminder of the dangers lurking behind the facade of freedom and the allure of adulthood. It raises pressing questions about the role of guardianship and parental oversight in the lives of teenagers standing on the precipice of adulthood.

Could this grave misstep have been avoided had there been a local guardian present, a guiding light in unfamiliar territory? Would a more vigilant approach from the parents, a pause to question and understand, have rewritten the story’s conclusion? This incident forces us to confront the reality of our responsibilities towards our youth—not just to grant them freedom but to equip them with the wisdom to navigate it. As we ponder the delicate balance between trust and caution, we must ask ourselves: At what cost does freedom come, and are we doing enough to ensure that the journey into independence does not lead to a fall from grace?

To read more on such trends that need to be called out and #un-trended, head to the April issue of our magazine here

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Education

Pricey Presents, Precocious Pressures: The Cost of Gift-Giving to Children

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In the intricate fabric of contemporary society, entwined with the threads of status and materialism, the ritual of gift-giving to young children has morphed into a showcase of wealth and social stature. This tale shines a light on the ripple effect of such extravagance through the eyes of Ayaan’s peers, young souls caught in the whirlwind of competition and comparison.

When Ayaan arrives at school with sneakers worth 80k or brandishes the latest iPhone as casually as a textbook, it’s not just a display of wealth; it becomes a benchmark, setting aflame a cycle of envy and desire among his classmates. The children, innocent in their yearnings, unknowingly step onto a treadmill of materialistic pursuit, urging their parents towards the edge of financial prudence in a bid to not fall behind.

The spectacle reaches its zenith when Ayaan, in a display of unparalleled opulence, gifts iPods as return gifts on his birthday. An act, while grand, sends shockwaves through his circle, planting seeds of expectation and entitlement in young hearts. Parents, caught between nurturing happiness and teaching value, find themselves navigating a treacherous path of societal pressure and fiscal responsibility.

As each child in Ayaan’s orbit feels compelled to mirror his lavish lifestyle, the essence of childhood camaraderie is shadowed by the looming spectre of materialism. Friendships, once untainted by the world’s complexities, now bear the weight of economic disparity. The playground becomes a silent witness to conversations not of games and dreams, but of gadgets and brands, a testament to a culture veering away from the innocence of youth.

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The impact extends beyond the tangible, chipping away at the pillars of equality and mutual respect. As peers vie to outdo each other in a race fuelled by parental indulgence, the divide widens not just in their possessions but in their perceptions of self-worth and success. The classroom, a microcosm of society, reflects a disturbing trend of measuring one’s value through the lens of ownership and extravagance.

This narrative, while centred on Ayaan and his affluent displays, casts a spotlight on the broader societal implications of such gift-giving practices. It prompts a critical examination of the values we impart to our children and the world we aspire to create for them. As we navigate this maze of materialism and the stories of Ayaan and his peers unfold, they serve as a mirror to our collective conscience, urging us to reconsider the legacy we wish to leave behind. The question that beckons us to reflect is profound: Are we raising a generation that values possessions over people, status over substance?

To read more on such trends that need to be called out and #un-trended, head to the April issue of our magazine here

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Education

Addressing the Transition From Classrooms to Coaching: The Shifted Focus

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In the bustling academic corridors of Woody High, nestled amidst the verdant suburbs of a thriving city, the story of Vikram, a bright and ambitious student, begins to unfold. Vikram, like many of his peers, found himself at a crossroads as he stepped into the crucial years of 11th standard, caught between the traditional path of school education and the burgeoning trend of dummy admissions.Classrooms to Coaching: The Shifted Focus

The lure of coaching centres, promising a direct route to success in competitive exams, became increasingly irresistible. Vikram watched as one by one, his classmates traded the familiar setting of classrooms for the rigorous regimen of coaching institutes. The promise was simple: a focused preparation tailor-made for cracking entrance exams, seemingly a pragmatic choice in an increasingly competitive world.

However, this exodus from school to coaching centres revealed a deeper malaise within the education system. Schools, once vibrant communities of learning and growth, had slowly morphed into factories churning out board exam results. The holistic development of students, their readiness for the world beyond the gates of Woody High, seemed to have taken a backseat to the singular pursuit of academic scores.

Vikram’s decision to join the coaching bandwagon was met with a mix of hope and apprehension. The initial months were a blur of new concepts, relentless practice sessions, and the constant pressure to outperform. Yet, as the novelty wore off, Vikram found himself yearning for the missed debates in history class, the group projects in science, and the sense of belonging that came with being part of the school community.

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The turning point came when Vikram, amidst his packed coaching schedule, volunteered for a community project. The experience was eye-opening, highlighting the gap between the rote learning at coaching centres and the practical knowledge and soft skills required in the real world. It dawned on Vikram that education was not just about clearing exams but about building a foundation for life.

As Woody High grappled with the dwindling numbers of students in its classrooms, it became evident that a change was needed. Schools had to evolve beyond their board-result orientation, integrating curriculum with real-world applications, fostering critical thinking, and preparing students for life’s myriad challenges.

The story, based on real incidents, raises the question that looms large, as we reflect on the narrative of #ClassroomOrCoaching: How can schools reclaim their role as sanctuaries of holistic education, ensuring they remain relevant and valuable in the lives of students like Vikram, not just as conduits to board results but as launchpads for their futures?

In a world where the race to the top often overlooks the essence of learning, can we afford to let coaching centres replace the rich, multifaceted experience of school education?

To read more on such trends that need to be called out and #un-trended, head to the April issue of our magazine here

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Questioning the Trend of Lavish Farewells- #FarewellFiasco

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Imagine your child is attending their Year 12 farewell. It is a night they have been looking forward to, marking the end of their school journey and the start of something new. The atmosphere is charged with excitement, laughter, and the bittersweet feeling of saying goodbye. As the evening wraps up, the buzz does not fade; it shifts to the streets. A group of friends, adrenaline still running high from the night’s celebrations, decide to extend the farewell with a car rally. Among them is Aarav, driving his family’s SUV, a vehicle too powerful for his inexperienced hands.

The city sleeps as the convoy of cars snakes its way through the deserted streets, the hum of engines breaking the night’s silence. Aarav, feeling the thrill of the chase, pushes the pedal down, the speedometer needle climbing higher and higher. His friends, in the car beside him, cheer him on, the competition heating up as they approach the ring road. It is a wide stretch, seemingly perfect for their race, away from the prying eyes of the night.

But in a heartbeat, the night turns tragic. Aarav loses control. The SUV, now a projectile, careers off the road, skidding and tumbling for what seems like an eternity. The aftermath is a scene of devastation. The vehicle, unrecognisable, lies in ruins, and silence once again claims the night, now heavy with the weight of consequences.

By the time the first light of dawn touches the sky, the police are at the scene, piecing together the events. The accident leaves one young soul lost to the night and another battling for life in hospital. Questions swirl around the circumstances that led to this moment. Was it the rush of speed, a momentary lapse in judgement, or something more? The community is left reeling, grappling with the reality of a celebration turned catastrophe.

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As the investigation unfolds, the police sift through CCTV footage, trying to trace the sequence of events and the other vehicles involved. Speculations arise that the tragedy was the result of a high-speed race gone wrong. Amidst this, a family mourns the loss of their child, a farewell that was meant to be a celebration now a memory marred by loss and regret.

This story, though actual, has been anonymized to protect the identity and privacy of the student involved. It highlights a critical issue prevalent in communities worldwide: the trend of extravagant farewells escalating into dangerous activities, posing threats not only to the students but also to society as a whole.

As we reflect on this story, it compels us to ask: Is the pursuit of a grand goodbye worth the price of a life? How do we balance the celebration of milestones with the responsibility we owe to our children’s safety and to each other? This tale, inspired by true events, leaves us pondering the traditions we uphold and the lessons we impart to the young minds we are nurturing for the future.

To read more on such trends that need to be called out and #un-trended, head to the April issue of our magazine here

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Education

Reviving School Education: Countering the Coaching Centre Dominance

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In recent years, a troubling trend has emerged within the educational landscape: the rise of “Dummy Admissions,” where students formally enrolled in schools are effectively abandoning the classroom in favour of coaching institutes. This phenomenon, particularly prevalent from the 11th standard onwards, sees students dropping out of school to prepare for competitive exams under the tutelage of coaching centres, which were originally intended to supplement, not supplant, school education.

The shift has been stark. Coaching, once a support system, has transformed into a parallel education industry, with some arguing it overshadows the broader developmental benefits of traditional schooling. This evolution poses a critical question: How can schools reclaim their role not just as preparatory grounds for board exams but as sanctuaries of holistic education that truly prepare students for life?

The Diminishing Role of Schools

The primary role of any educational institution is to foster an environment conducive to learning, curiosity, and personal growth. Schools are meant to be arenas where young minds receive a balanced education — academically, socially, and emotionally. However, the allure of scoring top marks in competitive exams has tilted the focus sharply towards rote learning and intensive exam preparation, often at the expense of holistic development.

The Coaching Conundrum

Coaching centres operate with a laser focus on results, primarily targeting competitive exams like the JEE, NEET, and others. This narrow approach prioritises immediate academic results over long-term learning and personal development. Students, driven by the pressure to excel in these high-stakes environments, often find themselves estranged from the broader educational experiences that school offers — experiences that are crucial in shaping well-rounded individuals capable of adapting to life’s varied challenges.

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Reclaiming the Sanctuary of Education

For schools to regain their central place in the educational journey of students, they must evolve to meet the diverse needs of their students. Here are a few strategies that could help schools reassert their relevance:

  1. Integrated Curriculum: Schools could integrate aspects of competitive exam preparation into their regular curriculum, thus reducing the need for external coaching. This would allow students to prepare for exams without missing out on the broader educational offerings of the school.
  2. Focus on Skill Development: Beyond academic prowess, schools should enhance their focus on developing critical life skills such as critical thinking, problem-solving, creativity, and communication. These skills are crucial for success in professional and personal life and can make schooling more relevant.
  3. Counselling and Support Services: Enhanced counselling services can help students navigate their educational pathways and career choices effectively. Schools should equip students with the tools to make informed decisions about their futures.
  4. Experiential Learning: Schools must emphasise experiential and contextual learning, making education a more engaging, practical, and enjoyable experience. This can be achieved through project-based learning, internships, and real-world problem-solving scenarios.
  5. Parental Engagement: Engaging parents in the educational process and informing them about the importance of a balanced education can help shift the focus from mere exam preparation to overall development.
  6. Promotion of Arts and Sports: Encouraging participation in arts, sports, and other co-curricular activities can enrich students’ educational experience and support the development of a wide range of skills.

As the educational landscape continues to evolve, the challenge for schools is not just to prepare students for exams but to prepare them for life. In a world increasingly dominated by coaching centres, schools must innovate and broaden their educational offerings to ensure they remain valued not just as conduits to board results but as launchpads for the futures of students. It’s about striking a balance between academic rigor and holistic development, ensuring that schools remain the nurturing grounds for the leaders of tomorrow.

To read more on such trends that need to be called out and #un-trended, head to the April issue of our magazine here

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Rebalancing the Scales: The Urgent Call for Humanities in STEM-Dominated Curricula

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In today’s educational landscape, the scales are heavily tipped towards Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) fields, a trend that has sparked a crucial dialogue on the role of humanities in shaping well-rounded individuals. This discussion is not just academic; it reflects a deeper question about the kind of future we envision for our society and the individuals who will lead it.

Extra focus on STEM subjects is a broader issue: the sidelining of humanities in educational institutions, which reduces the vast expanse of human knowledge and creativity to mere footnotes. Students struggling to find value and meaning in a curriculum that doesn’t cater to their passion for history, literature, and the arts underscores a significant gap in our education system.

Recent studies highlight this imbalance. According to the National Foundation for Educational Research, students exposed to a balanced curriculum that includes humanities alongside STEM subjects exhibit a higher level of critical thinking, empathy, and adaptability. These skills are crucial not just for personal development but for navigating the complexities of today’s global society. Furthermore, a report by the American Academy of Arts and Sciences on the state of the humanities in higher education points out that students who engage in humanities courses are better prepared for leadership roles, showcasing the intrinsic value of these disciplines in cultivating informed and compassionate leaders.

Despite these findings, the preference for STEM subjects remains dominant, driven by the perception of better job prospects and economic benefits. This preference has led to a significant reduction in the availability and quality of humanities education in many schools. The scarcity of staff for humanities subjects and the absence of facilities like language labs not only hinder students from pursuing their interests but also limit the educational community’s ability to foster a diverse set of competencies among its students.

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The consequences of this imbalance are far-reaching. By prioritising STEM at the expense of humanities, we risk nurturing a generation equipped with technical skills but lacking in the critical thinking, empathy, and cultural awareness that are equally vital in addressing the challenges of our increasingly interconnected world. This dichotomy raises a pressing question: are we merely training the next generation of technicians and engineers, or are we committed to nurturing well-rounded individuals who can contribute meaningfully to society?

The journey towards a more balanced educational approach begins with acknowledging the value of all disciplines. For students, and indeed for our future society, the richness of education lies not in the depth of knowledge in a single field, but in the breadth of understanding across the spectrum of human experience. As we stand at this crossroads, the choice is ours: will we continue down the path of narrow specialisation, or will we embrace the holistic education that our future leaders deserve?

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Palette of Possibilities: Nurturing Creativity in Schools through Modern Art

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In the sphere of education in India, modern art often seems to be overlooked, relegated to the periphery of the academic spectrum. As a student who has traversed the diverse landscapes of Indian education, from traditional classrooms to the unique environment of boarding schools and experiential learning hubs, I find myself yearning for a more comprehensive exposure to the world of artistic expression, particularly modern art. The need for schools to step up, take responsibility, and actively involve students in art events is paramount, as it not only opens doors to diverse career possibilities but also cultivates a rich tapestry of creativity that can shape the coming generations.

As children, artistic expression often comes naturally. Young minds are unburdened by self-doubt or the constraints of societal expectations. Pablo Picasso quoted, “Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up,” encapsulates a poignant reflection on the innate creative capacity inherent in every individual. Modern art is not just about canvases and paint; it is a dynamic force that ignites imagination, critical thinking, and a deeper understanding of the world. Yet, in the rigid framework of Indian education, the appreciation for modern art is often confined to the sidelines, overshadowed by the emphasis on conventional subjects like science and economics. But here’s the societal humor in this drama – we’re living in an era where a meme can garner more attention than a paragraph from a history book. The world craves creativity, and schools need to acknowledge that modern art is not just a rebellious teenager’s way of expressing angst; it’s the language of innovation and adaptability.

One of the primary reasons why schools need to prioritize modern art is its unparalleled ability to nurture creativity. In a world that is rapidly evolving, fostering creative thinking is essential. Modern art challenges students to think beyond the conventional, encouraging them to question, experiment, and envision new possibilities. By integrating modern art into the curriculum, schools provide a platform for students to express themselves in ways that transcend the boundaries of traditional subjects. 

Expressive classes, extending beyond the conventional painting and sketching, open up avenues for students to convey their feelings using colors, drawings, and various artistic mediums. These sessions serve as a sanctuary where students can explore the depths of their emotions and thoughts, transcending the limitations of verbal communication. By tapping into the world of abstract expressionism, students are given the freedom to communicate through art, allowing for a richer and more nuanced understanding of their inner selves.

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Art events play a pivotal role in this process. Unfortunately, such opportunities are often sparse in the Indian education landscape. Cultural wit lies in the fact that many students are oblivious to the plethora of careers awaiting them in the creative industries. Schools need to take the initiative to expose students to art exhibitions, workshops, and interactive sessions that showcase the diversity of modern artistic expressions. These events not only broaden students’ perspectives but also serve as catalysts for potential careers in the arts.

The inclusivity of modern art is another facet that makes it indispensable in schools. Unlike some traditional subjects that may seem exclusive or difficult for certain students to access, modern art is a platform where everyone can find a voice. It accommodates diverse perspectives, allowing students of varying abilities, backgrounds, and interests to engage meaningfully with the subject matter.

In the context of a globalized world, where cultural understanding and appreciation are crucial, modern art serves as a bridge between different societies and histories. It exposes students to a rich tapestry of global artistic expressions, helping them develop a sense of cultural empathy and an appreciation for diversity. By studying modern art, students gain insight into the shared human experience that transcends geographical and cultural boundaries.

To fully harness the potential of modern art in schools, it is essential for educational institutions to take proactive steps. This includes providing adequate resources for art programs, organizing art events, and encouraging collaborations with local artists and art communities. By fostering an environment where modern art is valued and celebrated, schools can empower students to explore their creativity and recognize the broader significance of artistic expression.

In addition to fostering a conducive learning environment, organizing art events within the school can prove instrumental. These events may showcase the brilliance of local art forms, such as Rajasthani art like Phad, Thapa and Sanjhi, Thangka from Arunachal Pradesh and Madhubani from Bihar. By incorporating these regional nuances into the school’s art curriculum, students gain exposure to diverse styles and cultural influences, enriching their understanding of the broader art landscape.

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(Images- Phad, Thangka, and Madhubani art from India)

Moreover, numerous case studies show that exposure to art can sensitize individuals to social issues. One compelling example is the impact of community-based art projects in urban slums. The Dharavi Art Room, a non-profit organization, has initiated various art projects in the Dharavi slum in Mumbai. Through murals and community workshops, the project aims to empower residents, especially children, providing them with a creative outlet and a platform to express their stories. This case study may explore the impact of art on community dynamics, individual empowerment, and awareness of social issues within the slum. Through mural paintings and collaborative art initiatives, these projects have not only beautified the surroundings but have also brought attention to critical issues, fostering a sense of community and social responsibility. 

The integration of modern art into the Indian education system is not just a matter of aesthetics but a strategic investment in nurturing well-rounded individuals. It’s time for schools across the country to recognize the transformative power of modern art and actively work towards exposing students to its myriad facets. By doing so, we not only open doors to diverse career opportunities but also cultivate a generation of individuals who approach life with creativity, curiosity, and a profound appreciation for the beauty that art brings to the world.

Authored by-
Parinya Santlani, 
Student, 
Paradise School, Goa 

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