Written by Rohit Rajan, Shiksharth Rural Fellow and India Fellow
The Pathway to Contextual Learning in Rural India
Let me begin with Malcolm Forbes quote “Education is the purpose to replace an empty mind with an open one”. Education develops curiosity and exposes us to the vicinity of immense knowledge. Knowledge feeds on the one, who feeds on it. The thought process gets succumb to the information which an individual achieve through this progression. The perplexing notion that encapsulate in education is internment of the individual minds to the finite spectrum which have a propensity to codify the infiniteness of the already existing knowledge and which are revealed by now.
Haven’t the education made our life more advanced and composite? Haven’t the General theory of relativity made us aware of Time and Space. Apples were falling from the trees even before Newton had the curiosity to think why it is falling down and not going up. Haven’t it enabled us to learn about gravitation. Haven’t it taught us to break the escape velocity and wander to the heights which once was impossible. Haven’t the discovery of subatomic particles made us to uncover new energy sources which eventually powered our industries and revolutionised the development landscape of the world. Haven’t the law of inheritance made us aware of the gene memory which pass through generations. The list is never ending. Humans have made the very race wonderstruck with infinite capacity of the thought process.
But in this information era education has also become a means to an end. Education has been made a tool to obtain an employment which essentially qualifies its purpose as the popular trend. Right to education became so fundamental that no one should be deprived of it. However the problem of equivalence between education and employment pertains in limiting the scope of education to a mechanical process rather than a learning process. The reduction of utility of education just for obtaining an employment has inadvertently hindered the essence of holistic development of mind, body and spirit. Even the employment which is obtained by education is yet to have the spill over effect on the entire population. The mainstream urban population only have access this aspect where as the rural agricultural population still depended on unorganised sector for major employment even by having access the education.
In India the estimated population of by age group 6- 15 is around 25 crores out of which the Scheduled Tribes (ST) population in the same category is around 2.41 crores. The level wise enrolment of ST students from 1st to 10th is 2.36 crores. But average annual dropout rate of ST students is 24.68%. Access to education is has been improved over the years but the availability of quality education in rural area is limited and especially in ST population is inadequate for them to gain better employment opportunities outside the unorganised sector. Let take the case of Chhattisgarh state where in 3rd standard 4.5% cannot even read a letter, 12.5% can’t even read a word, and 17% can’t even read 1st standard text. In 5th standard 2.5% can’t even recognize 1 to 9, the percentage of students who can recognize 10-99 is 37.9% and 72% can’t do basic division. The case of Bastar district is even more feeble, number of students in standard 1-2 who can read only a letter is 55.95%, only 60.16% of the standard 1-2 students can recognize 1to 9 or more, also 70% of the children in standard 1 and 2 don’t understand the class room language i.e. Hindi
The statistics can also be deceiving that the actuality can be even shoddier which can be tackled by assimilation of local knowledge into the pedagogy where by creating a contextual learning through the process. Contextual learning occurs when the teachers are presenting information in which students are able to construct meanings drawing experience from their own surrounding environment. The lack of contextual learning in the rural area and the mainstream education always tending to follow the one size fits for all approach essentially is incompatible to the rural population. Incorporation of contextual education practically enables the opportunity for enhanced learning among the students. The mainstream pedagogy needs to be redefined in the rural setting to create an alternate way of instruction without trailing the predefined learning outcome of students. Multi lingual education is significant element in the process which can formulate students to relate and make them further comfortable with the pedagogy. The Teaching Learning Material (TLM) should be localized for the understanding of students. Language, Science and Mathematics concepts can be developed by congregating information from the local context. The tribal culture reference in the lesson planning and execution phase could make the kids have a better understanding of concepts.
Contextual pedagogy can be used as to incorporate Multilingual Education (MLE) the into classroom environment which eventually build the love for their language as well as provoke their inquisitiveness to learning new languages. Languages of the marginalised sections are viewed with an angle of discrimination which makes them feel that their language is of having nominal importance where the more prominent languages like Hindi and English gain position in their mind. The sinister segregation of the mother tongue of the voiceless marginal community which in turn give pre eminence to the killer Languages like English which thrive and spread at the cost of other languages. However with the help of multilingual structure we can decentralise the education with having enough reputation to their own language which eventually become a medium for their whole learning process. Learning through mother tongue by understanding the context and relating it to the larger environment is the way to Multilingual Education (MLE). Every child must have the opportunity to the incredible world of many languages capable of nurturing and invigorating, protecting and intensifying, enrooting and unshackling.
The empty mind is always open to learning. What is learned will be transferred which is the beauty of education. Education is self evolving and intensifying. No knowledge is limited to status quo. It travels through inevitable process of change. Flat Earth become round, Planet revolves around The Sun and even the Pluto’s cease in becoming a planet. The purpose of education is relatively subjective. But it is followed by a chain reaction of events from gaining knowledge to dissemination of information, educating the self to educating the family, Better employment and increasing the living standards which eventually lead to growth and development of nation, demystifying the dogmas and disregarding all the separation of cast, class, culture, customs, costumes and cuisines. Eventually becoming spirited humans with strong morale is the underlying power of Education.