Only benefits of education are not strong enough to draw students of marginalised families to attend school

When a team of educators from the UK visit an NGO in Bangalore. They discover that marginalised families need much more than a promise of a good education. They also need assurance of material gains and a stronger relation with the school.



Here is an insightful account of a Professor from the University of Sheffield along with this team of PGDE students who visited Bangalore to teach mathematics, science and geography to mixed-age group of pupils. There biggest takeaway from the trip was that the long-term benefits of education were insufficient to motivate parents to send their children to school. There had to be something more and it was revealed unexpectedly at the Annual day celebrations of the Parikrma School where the team was teaching.

Parikrma is a non-governmental foundation that runs four mixed, 5-18 schools in Bangalore. Students attending school hail from any of the 800 slums areas strewn across the city. Some students had been abandoned or orphaned, and all come from homes where the average income is less than £30 per month.

Parikrma’s motto is to support the all-round development of its children and families. In addition to a balanced and high-quality curriculum, delivered in English, all pupils are fed and uniformed.

The proceedings of the Annual Day begin with an opening address by the founder and CEO of the Parikrma Humanity Foundation, Shukla Bose. I settle down in anticipation of the customary notes of encouragement and general bonhomie that is conspicuous back home. But nothing could have prepared me for this. Ms Bose begins by directly challenging the parents.


“How many of you have opened bank accounts since I spoke to you about this last year? Put your hands up!”

Ms Bose continues: “How many of you are saving for your children's higher education costs? Let me see your hands.”

A final question from Ms Bose: “And how many of you will not allow your daughters to be betrothed at 14 years old? Show me your hands!”

There is a low murmuring and a long, long silence. “Good,” says Ms Bose.

The rest of the evening continues with a semblance that most Annual days bear, with presentations of music and dance. A group of 4, small, junior-aged children perform a Christina Rossetti poem:


“Who has seen the wind?
Neither you nor I.
But when the trees bow their heads,
The wind is passing by.”

While travelling home each of the trainees and me are mulling over our experiences. In a week’s time, they will be back in their placement schools. Will they encounter the same eagerness to learn as demonstrated by Parikrma pupils? The same sense of vision? Of possibility? Of belief in the power of education? Of ambition and identity? Will their pupils at home share the sentiment– which is rampant in these slums – that education is the best and perhaps the only opportunity for advancement and happiness?

It is meaningless to make comparisons between the attitudes to education of families and children who face difficult and challenging lives in Britain and in India due to dramatic differences in the societies, cultures, expectations and values.

As mentioned earlier, the biggest takeaway from our Parikrma experience is that the educational ambitions of Parikrma are go hand-in-hand with a commitment to improve the material lives of the children, parents, families and communities it serves. The people at Parikrma understand that a hungry child will not learn, neither will a distrustful and suspicious community embrace the opportunities it offers. The education of the children of Parikrma is the result of a demanding and binding contract negotiated with the families and the communities of the slums of Bangalore. Under the contract, the school expects, no actually demands the support of parents and the parents need the trust and reassurance from the school and the teachers.

Parikrma managed to balance expectations and create mutual respect and trust based on a faithful delivery on promises made: promises to work with parents to provide a well balanced care and education for their children and promises of commitment from parents to support their child’s schooling.


My mind thinks of ways to integrate this approach in schools serving challenging community contexts in the UK. Could it be possible to build these relationships, and secure these results for the most needy children and families in UK?

In almost every possible way, our Parikrma experience has left us humbled, inspired and transformed.

For more information, visit the Parikrma Foundation or Sangam Projects websites.

Mick Connell is PGDE English tutor at the University of Sheffield's School of Education. He is vice-chair of the National Association for the Teaching of English.



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