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The Importance of Educating the Poor

Education has helped two young boys from the upper reaches of Himalayas, who migrated practically penniless. They are now an electronic engineer and a merchant marine officer. Growth of their mind and their attitude to life has helped these two boys plan a life of comfort and luxury.

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G K Swamy, Founder-Secretary Purkal Youth Development Society, on the only tool with the power to break the cycle of poverty

“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” ~ Nelson Mandela

“Education is not preparation for life; education is life itself.” ~ John Dewey

In 1740 South Carolina had passed a law making it a criminal offense, punishable by imprisonment, to help blacks learn to read and write. Most Indians are familiar with Thomas Macaulay’s warning in 1840, about how the colonists needed to destroy the then prevailing excellent Indian educational system that imparted both character and culture, before they could hope to conquer this country. No better testimony to the power of education to transform the poor!

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South Carolina was petrified by education’s ability to metamorphose. Macaulay knew that education had imbedded the culture and the living philosophies of India into its people. It is this understanding that led Purkal Youth Development Society (PYDS), to practice this as our business for nearly two decades. We educate the poorest. Education remains the key to escape poverty while poverty remains the biggest obstacle to education. Targeted investments at PYDS are designed to counteract the effects of poverty on educational achievements, via intensive preschool help, extended school hours, providing healthcare and nutrition support, as well as parental training and mentoring programmes.

We realize that poverty is an inter-generational pattern. This is about a family where the father and mother were uneducated and unskilled. They lived hopelessly 15 years ago. With a piece of unirrigated land they were eking out a life. The man was 34, married with two daughters and two sons. With very little cash, they lived in penury. Despairing he lived dishonestly and remained inebriated. Chance and grace brought the children to PYDS and all are now at various stages of a career. The master of the house has become a teetotaller; built a home and is building his family. Education gave him hope. They have moved from poverty to looking forward to a fulfilling life.

Education has helped two young boys from the upper reaches of Himalayas, who migrated practically penniless. They are now an electronic engineer and a merchant marine officer. Growth of their mind and their attitude to life has helped these two boys plan a life of comfort and luxury. PYDS made this possible.

A girl who was abandoned due to poverty at age 13, survived with her robust emotional intelligence, escaping suicide. With 8 years of PYDS care, she is now a proud executive paying back to our society, a monetary contribution she believes she owes. Her robust emotional intelligence is complemented by her quality education. This is a case that helps me conclude that people, who faced acute adversity, emerge much stronger than those who did not go through this fire.

One example can trigger paradigm changes in many minds. The daughter of a roadside vegetable vendor won a scholarship to the US. Stimulated, we now have three from the school in the US. SAT is now an aspiration. One successful child changing into a self-confident bread earner can change the fortunes of the entire family. A family of 9 children who were rag pickers on the streets are all attempting successful lives, investing in education. Their next generation will prosper, since mothers have discovered the power of education. Investment by PYDS in food security, nutrition and education has helped to reduce malnutrition and increase the children’s ability to learn. Educated girls help prevent maternal mortality by making sure of trained healthcare during births. Lower birth rates have already happened as well as delayed marriages and motherhood. One of our Muslim girls, from an extremely poor family of 11, tells me how she escaped marriage at 16 because we took her on providing boarding and lodge. She finished her high school very creditably, and in four years will qualify as a physiotherapist.

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The educational experiment that we have carried out has helped our direct beneficiaries escape poverty and prevented the transmission of poverty to future generations. But what children learn matters. We need to focus on quality, learning and teachers. Contents are important since it must help communities tackle changes, preserve nature and its resources. Poor children cannot access higher education because of their inability to afford tuition and fees. If we promise our children a future, we need to make it attainable.

At PYDS we also make quality higher education affordable. Immense lack of job opportunities for youth is a major challenge globally. Education for entrepreneurship and business management is important to educate and enable young people to develop their own business. Relevant technical and vocational education is an important support for this purpose. An education that promotes innovation and efficiency can contribute to productivity. Indeed education is the only tool that has the power to break the poverty cycle.

About the Author:

Mr G.K. Swamy is the CEO & Secretary of the  Purkal Youth Development Society (PYDS). PYDS educates the poorest. For Swamy and PYDS, education remains the key to escape poverty while poverty remains the biggest obstacle to education. His wife Chinni heads the “Purkal Stree-Shakti Samiti” a sister Society, which creates designer hand- made patch worked quilts and other quilted products with the help of girls living in around the Village. Over 175 women earn a living due to Stree Shakti. Swamy and his wife Chinni spend their entire Life working for and raising support for the Mission that they have created. Both of them give their services entirely free.

This article was originally published in the Anniversary (August 2017) issue of ScooNews magazine. Subscribe to ScooNews Magazine today to have more such stories delivered to your desk every month.

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Education

Embracing Emojis in the Classroom: A Fun and Polite Approach to Modern Learning

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Today, on World Emoji Day, let’s celebrate these small, expressive icons that have become an integral part of our digital communication. While some argue that emojis threaten the sanctity of language, there’s a fun, quirky side to these tiny pictures that can actually enhance classroom interactions, making them more relevant, polite, and engaging.

Remember the thrill of getting a gold star on your homework? That star wasn’t just a sticker; it was a symbol of achievement, recognition, and encouragement. In many ways, emojis serve a similar purpose. They convey emotions and reactions succinctly and can add a personal touch to written communication. So, why not harness the power of emojis to make our classrooms more dynamic and student-friendly?

1. Enhancing Feedback: Traditionally, teachers use phrases like “good job” or “well done” to praise students. But imagine the added excitement if those words were accompanied by a clapping hands emoji 👏, a star ⭐, or even a trophy 🏆. Such visual cues can amplify the impact of positive feedback, making it more memorable and encouraging for students. Conversely, gentle reminders can be softened with a thoughtful emoji. For instance, a neutral face 😐 or a thinking face 🤔 could be used to indicate that a student might need to revisit a particular concept without causing undue stress or discouragement.

2. Encouraging Polite Communication: Emojis can also help maintain a polite and respectful tone in classroom discussions. For example, if a student disagrees with a peer, using a handshake emoji 🤝 or a smiling face 😊 can convey their differing opinion respectfully. This approach can foster a culture of kindness and consideration, crucial for productive and positive learning environments.

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3. Making Learning Fun: Integrating emojis into lesson plans can make learning more interactive and enjoyable. Teachers can create emoji-based quizzes where students match emojis to historical events, literary characters, or scientific concepts. For example, an apple 🍎 and a book 📖 could be used in a quiz about famous inventors, prompting students to guess Isaac Newton. These activities not only make lessons more engaging but also encourage creative thinking.

4. Bridging Language Gaps: In classrooms with diverse linguistic backgrounds, emojis can serve as a universal language, helping bridge communication gaps. A thumbs-up 👍, a heart ❤️, or a smiling face 😀 can convey appreciation and support across different languages, fostering inclusivity and mutual understanding.

5. Digital Citizenship: As students increasingly navigate the digital world, teaching them about appropriate emoji use is crucial. Educators can incorporate lessons on digital etiquette, highlighting how emojis can enhance communication when used appropriately but can also be misinterpreted or cause misunderstandings if overused or used incorrectly.

6. Custom Emojis for Classroom Culture: Teachers can create custom emojis that reflect their unique classroom culture. For instance, a specific emoji could symbolize a class mascot, a special event, or a unique classroom achievement. This personal touch can strengthen the sense of community and belonging among students.

In conclusion, emojis are not a threat to language; rather, they are an evolution of it. They offer a unique and fun way to enrich classroom communication, making feedback more impactful, interactions more polite, and learning more enjoyable. So, on this World Emoji Day, let’s embrace these expressive icons and unlock their potential to make our classrooms brighter, kinder, and more engaging places to learn. 🌟🎉📚

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Edutainment

Navigating Teen Emotions: The Essential Lessons of ‘Inside Out’

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Inside Out 2 | Source- Disney Movies

Amongst all other animated movies, ‘Inside Out’ not only stands out due to its new way of telling stories but also for its profound study into the human mind. It was a 2015 release from Pixar Animation Studios that looked at emotions in a very complicated manner, focusing on how an 11-year-old girl called Riley operates internally. As I saw the sequel “Inside Out 2,” in a theatre full of parents, kids, and young adults, it is important to revisit what we learnt in the original film and why it should be watched by teenagers and their parents.

“Inside Out” personifies five primary emotions: Joy, Sadness, Anger, Fear and Disgust. These are the characters that walk with Riley through life’s difficulties especially after her family moved to another city. This movie ingeniously demonstrates this emotional rollercoaster which accompanies such major changes making it relatable for children as well as adults.” Inside Out” helps adolescents who often cope with multiple emotional issues identify and understand that they are real.

Teenagers usually feel overwhelmed by growing up’s flood of emotions. The transformations accompanying the shift from childhood to adolescence are generally confusing and hard to express in words. “Inside Out” addresses these changes by showing that it’s normal to experience a wide range of emotions, sometimes all at once. Riley’s journey teaches teenagers that it’s okay to feel Joy, Sadness, Anger, Fear, and Disgust; these emotions are all part of the human experience.

Among the most touching messages of the film is that one must accept all the emotional states, not only positive ones. Joy, at first, tries to put Sadness aside and believes Riley should always be happy. Eventually however Joy realizes Sadness is vital for Riley’s emotional health. This could be a great revelation for teenagers who are mostly pressured to maintain an image of being ever-happy. “Inside Out” teaches them that it’s okay to feel sad and that acknowledging and expressing this emotion is a crucial part of emotional well-being.

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As for parents, “Inside Out” serves as a gentle yet powerful reminder on why empathy and open communication are important in parenting. With our curriculum known for its single-minded commitment towards good grades and high moral standards, mental health has often been pushed aside. This movie indicates that one way of doing this is by understanding the children’s emotions’ needs. Parents can watch Inside out with an aim of learning how they can create an atmosphere where their children will have freedom to express themselves without fear.

The characters’ interactions in Riley’s mind might help parents understand how complex their teenager’s emotional world can be sometimes. As soon as they see that each emotion contributes to Riley’s overall wellbeing, parents may grow more patient and empathetic toward their children’s emotional struggles. This understanding is pivotal in nurturing a child’s emotional health and building a strong, supportive relationship.

“Inside Out 2,” introduces new emotions like Anxiety, Envy, Ennui, and Embarrassment, and makes it clear that the emotional landscape becomes more intricate as children grow into teenagers. The sequel delves deeper into the emotional challenges that accompany adolescence. A memorable scene from the upcoming film features Anxiety taking over from Joy, emphasising the need for more sophisticated emotions to navigate Riley’s more complex life. This transition is a stark reminder that growing up is not just about physical changes but also about evolving emotional needs.

One of the critical aspects of “Inside Out” and its sequel is the portrayal of anxiety. In the sequel, Anxiety explains that Riley’s life now requires more sophisticated emotions. This portrayal can help teenagers and their parents understand that anxiety is not inherently bad. Instead, it’s a natural response to challenging situations. The film can be an essential tool in discussing mental health issues like panic attacks, which are often overlooked in Indian communities.

By presenting anxiety as a part of Riley’s emotional toolkit, “Inside Out 2” can teach teenagers to listen to their inner voice and reassure themselves that everything will be okay, even in difficult situations. This understanding can help them develop healthier coping mechanisms and reduce the stigma associated with anxiety and other mental health issues.

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Inside Out is more than just an animated film; it serves as an important resource for teenagers and parents alike. It allows viewers to have a nuanced understanding of emotions; stresses on embracing all feelings and assists them in becoming empathetic as well as encourages open communication. Now that Inside Out 2 has been released and is currently running at theaters across the country, this may be a good time to take the kids to watch the film or to revisit the original movie so that our kids and their guardians can watch it.

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Knowledge

Navigating Future Horizons: The Imperative Need of Updated Career Counsellors in Indian Schools

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Image Source- Envato Elements

In the evolving landscape of education, the role of career counsellors in schools has become increasingly indispensable. Today, as we stand on the cusp of technological advancements and globalization, the need for informed career guidance has never been more critical. This article delves into the necessity of updated career counsellors in Indian schools, shedding light on misconceptions, highlighting new-age career paths, and emphasizing the importance of equipping students with the requisite skills and knowledge for their future endeavors.

Misconceptions and Realities
One prevalent misconception is that career counselling is only necessary for high school students approaching graduation. However, career development is a lifelong process, beginning as early as childhood and continuing throughout one’s professional journey. By integrating career counselling into the curriculum from an early age, students can explore various interests, talents, and aspirations, thus making informed decisions about their academic and career paths. Another misconception revolves around the notion that career counselling is solely for students struggling academically or uncertain about their future. On the contrary, career counselling is beneficial for all students, regardless of their academic prowess. It helps students align their interests, skills, and goals with suitable career pathways, fostering a sense of purpose and direction.

New Age vs. Conventional Careers
The contemporary job market is witnessing a paradigm shift, with emerging sectors such as artificial intelligence, data analytics, and renewable energy gaining prominence. While conventional careers like medicine, engineering, and law continue to hold sway, the landscape is diversifying rapidly, offering a plethora of unconventional yet promising career avenues.

In this era of innovation and disruption, students must be exposed to a spectrum of career options beyond the conventional ones. From digital marketing and sustainability consultancy to content creation and app development, the possibilities are endless. However, navigating these uncharted territories requires expert guidance and up-to-date information, underscoring the need for informed career counsellors in schools.

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The Crucial Role of Career Counsellors
Career counsellors serve as the bridge between students and their future aspirations. They possess the expertise to assess students’ aptitudes, interests, and personality traits, thereby recommending suitable career pathways. Moreover, they stay abreast of industry trends, market demands, and educational policies, equipping them with the knowledge to guide students effectively.

In the Indian context, where the education system is often rigid and rote-learning oriented, career counsellors play a pivotal role in challenging traditional mindsets and fostering a culture of innovation and exploration. By advocating for skill-based learning and experiential education, they empower students to embrace their uniqueness and pursue unconventional career paths with confidence.

The Need for Informed Career Counsellors
India’s demographic dividend, characterized by a burgeoning youth population, presents both opportunities and challenges. While the youth bulge holds the potential to drive economic growth and innovation, it also underscores the urgency of equipping young minds with the requisite skills and knowledge to navigate an increasingly competitive global landscape.

In this regard, informed career counsellors serve as catalysts for change, guiding students through the intricacies of career selection, course planning, and overseas education opportunities. They demystify the application and admission processes for prestigious institutions, provide mentorship for entrance exams, and facilitate internships and industry interactions, thereby nurturing well-rounded individuals poised for success.

As we march towards a future characterized by uncertainty and rapid transformation, the role of career counsellors in schools becomes paramount. By dispelling misconceptions, embracing new-age career pathways, and championing skill-based learning, they pave the way for students to embark on fulfilling and meaningful professional journeys.

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In essence, investing in updated career counsellors isn’t just a necessity; it’s a strategic imperative for shaping the future workforce and fostering socio-economic development. As educational leaders, let us recognize the pivotal role of career counselling in shaping the destinies of our students and strive towards creating a generation of future-ready individuals equipped to thrive in the dynamic world of tomorrow.

Authored By- 
Archana Singh
Principal, Sunbeam Suncity (School & Hostel),
Varanasi

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Education

An Alarming Future: India’s Extreme Heatwaves and the Urgency for Environmental Education

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As we mark World Environment Day, the searing heatwaves sweeping across India this year serve as a dire warning. The temperatures, reaching unprecedented highs, underline an urgent message: our current environmental trajectory is unsustainable. If we fail to act now, we won’t have the luxury of choosing to be climate activists or champions in a decade; we’ll be forced to address the catastrophic consequences of our inaction.

This year, India has experienced some of the hottest temperatures on record. From the arid landscapes of Rajasthan to the bustling streets of Delhi, the oppressive heat has not only caused widespread discomfort but has also had severe repercussions on public health, agriculture, and the economy. Heatwaves have become more frequent and intense, a stark indicator of climate change’s accelerating impact.

A Message from the Future

The extreme heat is a glimpse into a future where climate change dictates our way of life. If we continue to prioritize short-term development over long-term sustainability, we are setting the stage for a scenario where environmental degradation becomes irreversible. The deforestation, pollution, and rampant urbanization we often justify in the name of progress are, in reality, regressions. They are actions that are eroding the very foundation of our future.

Ten years from now, the choice to become a climate activist will no longer exist; it will be a necessity. Our children and grandchildren will inherit a world where survival might hinge on how well we manage the environment today. The trees we cut for new infrastructure projects are the same trees that could have mitigated flooding, reduced urban heat, and cleaned the air. True development cannot occur without sustainable practices at its core.

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More Than Just Theory

Environmental studies should transcend the boundaries of theoretical knowledge. To cultivate a generation that values and protects the environment, we must embed practical environmental education into the curriculum. This means moving beyond textbooks and exams, and instead fostering real-world experiences and actions.

Schools should integrate activities like tree planting, waste management projects, and community clean-ups. Such hands-on experiences instill a deeper understanding and respect for the environment. Moreover, incorporating environmental ethics into daily school life can help students see the direct impact of their actions on the planet.

Films and Books for Environmental Curriculum

To enrich the curriculum, here are five films and books that vividly illustrate the importance of environmental conservation:

  1. Film: “An Inconvenient Truth” (2006)
    • Al Gore’s documentary highlights the science of climate change and the urgent need for action.
  2. Book: “Silent Spring” by Rachel Carson
    • This groundbreaking work raised public awareness about the dangers of pesticides and sparked the modern environmental movement.
  3. Film: “Before the Flood” (2016)
    • Leonardo DiCaprio’s documentary showcases the impact of climate change across the globe and explores potential solutions.
  4. Book: “The Lorax” by Dr. Seuss
    • A classic children’s book that tells the story of the environment through the character of the Lorax, who speaks for the trees.
  5. Film: “Our Planet” (2019)
    • This Netflix series, narrated by David Attenborough, showcases the beauty of our natural world and the urgent need to protect it.

The extreme heatwaves in India are a clear, urgent call to action. We must rethink our approach to development and education, ensuring that environmental conservation becomes a core value. By integrating practical environmental studies into our education system and using powerful films and literature to inspire change, we can hope to create a future where true development is sustainable, and our children can live in harmony with the planet. On this World Environment Day, let’s commit to making these changes, for there’s no time left to lose.

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Education

What It Takes to Be Well-Educated; Not Just Well-Read

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The need to bridge the gap between what should be and what’s being delivered in the school educational system in India is most severe than ever before. As we see the rise in the number of Indians as global leaders in the corporate, tech, art and political sector we must ask ourselves whether we are catering to the demand of 21st century and doing justice to our younger generation or not!

It won’t be an exaggeration to say that India is living in one of its best times in terms of industrial growth, demand of higher education and service sector, religious and spiritual awakening and humongous rise in the national infrastructure and the commitment to grow further can definitely be seen when 3.3 percent of total GDP has been outlaid for infrastructure in Union Budget 2023-24 but at the same time this peak also alarms the need to prepare thought leaders, logical/critical individuals, go getters and prepare the most efficient workforce for the years to come.

What we need to deliver to the younger generation along with the industrial and employable skill is the idea and importance of mental health, argumentative skills, decision making skill, communication skill and to summarize the contemporary demand in a single word is to be the ‘human’ first in a way that the almighty intended us to be i.e. just, fair, hardworking with balanced scientific temperament. Even World Health Organization expressed serious concern over mental health issue of adolescents by stating that globally, one in seven 10-19-year-olds experiences a mental disorder, accounting for 13% of the global burden of disease in this age group.

NEP 2020 points out several changes in the formal education policy right from the pre-school till the university space but the right steps for its most efficient implementation so as to achieve a holistic and comprehensive development is still a long way to go. As per the All India Survey on Higher Education 2019 report, India’s higher education sector consists of 3.74 crore students in nearly 1,000 universities, 39,931 colleges, and 10,725 stand-alone institutions. Thus, a countrywide implementation of this mega education policy is going to be a mammoth exercise involving multiple stakeholders at the state, district, sub-district, and block levels.

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Change and regularly updating the curriculum, minimum standard maintenance of quality education, teachers training and uniformity amongst several state and national board are few urgent and at most necessary steps amongst other factors. And the functionaries of these changes aren’t just educational leaders and teachers but the parents and students themselves. They need to ask the right questions, consider all the factors such as time, investment and opportunities and be firm while saying a big NO to sub standard institutions which are just making a hole in their pockets in return of nothing more than a window dressing in the name of mark sheet and degree based system.

We have already achieved remarkable feet in terms of numeracy and literacy skills for foundation classes/toddlers, the Annual Status of Education Report says that in 2023, 73.6% of 14-18 year-olds could read a Class 2 level text, and arithmetically, in 2023, 43.3% of youth could do a simple (class 3-4 level) division problem; our graduates are breaking glass ceiling with every passing hour when it comes to innovation, design and product enhancement, Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade (DPIIT) recognized 1,17,254 startups as on 31st December 2023 and as per the Economic Survey Report 2022-23 in 2022 alone, homegrown startups generated 2.69 Lacs jobs in the country. 

With the rising trend of Ed-tech and content creation through media there is plethora of knowledge awaiting to be learned but international exposure, state of the art facilities and hefty charges alone cannot cater to the students’ needs but developing emotional quotient, awakening self awareness and the sense of integrity and service motive is what’s going to sustain the social ecosystem in a way which will result into an overall development of the younger generation thus achieving social, economical, political development and a level playing field for every opportunity that our beautiful world has to offer.

This article is co-authored by:
CA, Suresh Prabhu, Founding Chancellor , Rishihood University; Visiting Professor at London School of Economics; Former Union Minister of Railways
Rajat Shah, Advocate; Edupreneur/Trustee, Narayani Public School; Visiting Professor of Law and Management.

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Education

Education Through a ‘Humane’ Lens

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Picture Credits: Anipixels

Our history has traditionally embraced the importance of building relationships with animals. From an animal’s loyalty to bravery, various instances have been highlighted in historical texts and scriptures (Mahabharata and Ramayana). Many children grew up listening to stories, stories of compassion; further encouraging them to experience the human-animal bond. But in recent years, as we witness an increase in animal cruelty and pet abandonment cases, compassion seems to be at a loss today.

According to the report findings by the Federation of Indian Animal Protection Organisations (FIAPO) and All Creatures Great and Small (ACGS), between 2010-2020, a total of 4,93,910 animals were victims of crimes committed by humans. Keeping in mind that many cases go unreported, out of the 720 documented cases of crime against street animals, 20 cases were of assault by children. With nearly 50% of India’s population under the age of 25, such revelations underscore the urgent need to cultivate empathy and compassion from a young age. Humane Education, an approach that cultivates children to be empathetic and compassionate not only towards fellow beings but also all sentient beings, is an important pillar of 21st-century sensibilities. 

(Picture Credits: Peedu’s People)

“Children are human beings to whom respect is due, superior to us by reason of their innocence and of the greater possibilities of their future.”Maria Montessori

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Founded in 2021, India Animal Fund (IAF) along with NGOs like Peedu’s People; are working to ensure wholesome child development through holistic learning for school children. For young children and students to make informed and ethical choices, through humane education sessions, we introduce them to this concept via experiential, learning, observational and application learning. “Along with our partner Peedu’s People, we have delivered over 250 sessions across India. Around 10K+ children were introduced to humane education and workshops reached over 55 schools. The next steps involve expanding the programme and integrating it into the NCERT syllabus for broader reach.” says Sandeep Reddy, COO – India Animal Fund (IAF). From environmental conservation to social justice, such initiatives are crucial for creating a sustainable and equitable society. 

Another study from Science Directs indicates that children who exhibit cruelty towards animals may have witnessed or experienced family violence and are at risk of engaging in human-directed aggression during adolescence and adulthood. Implementing such programmes not only prevents violence, but also increases the likelihood of detecting and intervening early. Not only would it be beneficial for the children from K-12, if implemented in the school curriculum, via teacher training programmes, educators or schoolteachers can also be equipped with the tools and resources needed to integrate humane education into their teaching practices.

While we have animal protection laws in our country, this strategic investment may lead to a cornerstone of our educational system. By nurturing empathy and compassion among children today, we can empower the next generation to build a better world for all living beings, for them to navigate an increasingly interconnected and complex world.

Authored By-
Nidhi Gupta
Manager- Content and Communications,
India Animal Fund (IAF) 

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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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Image Source- BBC Hindi

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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unsupervised school trips for kids
The image is generated using AI

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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