Social inclusion by making education appropriate to children’s cultural context: A comparison between in India and Brazil

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Higher education can be used for the social and economic mobility of underprivileged sections. This is achieved usually by providing admission to a set of students from these sections in universities and other institutes of higher education through the reservation or a quota of seats.

India has been using this reservation policy for many decades. It has helped a section of students from the so-called backward communities, scheduled castes and tribes to enter the institutes of higher education and a sub-set of them to get jobs which require such education. Many among them would not have received admission in universities and other such institutes in the absence of such a reservation policy. […]

In summary, this approach to use higher education to achieve social inclusion is necessary and to be continued. However it is not adequate in India. That is the reason for thinking about an additional model. 

The Second Model

Before writing about this one, let me briefly summarise two experiments that have been going on in Brazil during the last decade. Universities there have come out with a special teacher-education program for the indigenous people. (This would be equivalent to a special B Ed program for the Scheduled Tribes in India). This cannot be a typical teacher-education program.  The school education for indigenous children, if it is to be effective and useful, should be appropriate to their social and cultural context. […]

Source: Social Inclusion through Higher Education: Need for an additional model and how Academic Brahmanism may subvert it in India – Economics in action
Address: https://vsanthakumar.wordpress.com/2017/09/11/social-inclusion-through-higher-education-need-for-an-additional-model-and-how-academic-brahmanism-may-subvert-it-in-india/
Date Visited: 10 November 2020

[…] I view myself as a teacher/academic whose job is to enable students to make sense of their real world. As a researcher, I belong to the school of thought, which stresses more value in understanding an issue. As a participant in public discourse, my objective is to communicate even with those who don’t agree with my views. […]

India’s political transformation has been slow and hence it has enabled the sustenance of regressive elements. Elite control/capture still persists in parts of the country. Sections of non-elites are not mobilised politically. The competitive politics is yet to become intense in a few states. Even when there is competition at the national level, a substantial section of voters in rural areas do not experience it in their democratic choices. The size of the middle-class continues to be small in most parts of the country. All parties have played a role in the stagnation of the political development in the country. […]

Enhancing human development (as an instrument for empowering people) does not seem to be its focus as evident from its much celebrated Gujarat model. The BJP will fail (even if it may continue as a national party) if it is espousing the upper-caste patriarchal values, as these would not enable building a strong and vibrant India.

Source: “Why am I not against the BJP?” by V. Santhakumar (Azim Premji University) (Economics in Action, 30 January 2021)
URL: https://vsanthakumar.wordpress.com/2021/01/30/why-am-i-not-against-the-bjp/
Date visited: 3 April 2021

Casteism [*] is the investment in keeping the hierarchy as it is in order to maintain your own ranking, advantage, privilege, or to elevate yourself above others or keep others beneath you.” – Book review quoting Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents by Isabel Wilkerson

“Two prominent figures who have significantly contributed to this discourse are Mahatma Gandhi, Father of the Nation, and Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar, Father of the Constitution. The two stalwarts of Indian politics, while revered equally by the public, had contrasting views on the caste system. […] And yet, despite their differences, they developed an understanding to work for the betterment of the marginalised.” – Rishabh Sharma in “How Ambedkar and Gandhi’s contrasting views paved way for caste reservation” (India Today, 6 October 2023)

[*] Some clarifications on caste-related issues by reputed scholars

Understanding “caste” in the context of Indian democracy: The “Poona Pact of 1932”
“Mahatma Gandhi and BR Ambedkar differed over how to address caste inequities through the electoral system. Their exchanges led to the Poona Pact of 1932, which shaped the reservation system in India’s electoral politics. […]
Two prominent figures who have significantly contributed to this discourse are Mahatma Gandhi, Father of the Nation, and Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar, Father of the Constitution. The two stalwarts of Indian politics, while revered equally by the public, had contrasting views on the caste system. Their subsequent debates have shaped the course of Indian society and politics. While Gandhi denounced untouchability, he did not condemn the varna system, a social hierarchy based on occupation, for most of his life. He believed in reforming the caste system through the abolition of untouchability and by giving equal status to each occupation. On the other hand, BR Ambedkar, a Dalit himself, argued that the caste system disorganised and ‘demoralised Hindu society, reducing it to a collection of castes’. […] 
And yet, despite their differences, they developed an understanding to work for the betterment of the marginalised.” – Rishabh Sharma in “How Ambedkar and Gandhi’s contrasting views paved way for caste reservation” (India Today, 6 October 2023)
URL: https://www.indiatoday.in/history-of-it/story/ambedkar-gandhi-caste-system-poona-pact-1932-reservation-2445208-2023-10-06

~ ~ ~

“That upper caste groups should declare themselves to be OBCs [Other Backward Castes] and want to avail of the reservation policy is a pandering to caste politics of course, as also are caste vote-banks. It is partially a reflection of the insecurity that the neo-liberal market economy has created among the middle-class. Opportunities are limited, jobs are scarce and so far ‘development’ remains a slogan. There’s a lot that is being done to keep caste going in spite of saying that we are trying to erode caste. We are, of course, dodging the real issue. It’s true that there has been a great deal of exploitation of Dalit groups and OBC’s in past history; making amends or even just claiming that we are a democracy based on social justice demands far more than just reservations. The solution lies in changing the quality of life of half the Indian population by giving them their right to food, water, education, health care, employment, and social justice. This, no government so far has been willing to do, because it means a radical change in governance and its priorities.” – Romila Thapar  (Emeritus Professor of History, Jawaharlal Nehru University) interviewed by Nikhil Pandhi (Caravan Magazine, 7 October 2015)
URL: https://caravanmagazine.in/vantage/discipline-notion-particular-government-interview-romila-thapar 

~ ~ ~

Casteism is the investment in keeping the hierarchy as it is in order to maintain your own ranking, advantage, privilege, or to elevate yourself above others or keep others beneath you …. For this reason, many people—including those we might see as good and kind people—could be casteist, meaning invested in keeping the hierarchy as it is or content to do nothing to change it, but not racist in the classical sense, not active and openly hateful of this or that group.” – Book review by Dilip Mandal for Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents (The Print, 23 August 2020)
URL: https://theprint.in/opinion/oprah-winfrey-wilkerson-caste-100-us-ceos-indians-wont-talk-about-it/487143/

~ ~ ~

“The theoretical debate on caste among social scientists has receded into the background in recent years. [However] caste is in no sense disappearing: indeed, the present wave of neo-liberal policies in India, with privatisation of enterprises and education, has strengthened the importance of caste ties, as selection to posts and educational institutions is less based on merit through examinations, and increasingly on social contact as also on corruption. There is a tendency to assume that caste is as old as Indian civilization itself, but this assumption does not fit our historical knowledge. To be precise, however, we must distinguish between social stratification in general and caste as a specific form. […]
From the early modern period till today, then, caste has been an intrinsic feature of Indian society. It has been common to refer to this as the ‘caste system’. But it is debatable whether the term ‘system’ is appropriate here, unless we simply take for granted that any society is a ‘social system’. First, and this is quite clear when we look at the history of distinct castes, the ‘system’ and the place various groups occupy within it have been constantly changing. Second, no hierarchical order of castes has ever been universally accepted […] but what is certain is that there is no consensus on a single hierarchical order.” – Harald Tambs-Lyche (Professor Emeritus, Université de Picardie, Amiens) in “Caste: History and the Present” (Academia Letters, Article 1311, 2021), pp. 1-2
URL: https://www.academia.edu/49963457

~ ~ ~

“There is a need for intercultural education. We all need to work together to bridge these divides not only between religions and castes but also regions. It is not correct to think that one part is better than the other. Some of the limitations of India as a whole are due to our common heritage, say the one that has restricted women from having a flourishing life for themselves.” – Prof. V. Santhakumar (Azim Premji University) in “On the so called North-South Divide in India” (personal blog post in Economics in Action, 13 April 2024)
URL: https://vsanthakumar.wordpress.com/2024/04/13/on-the-so-called-north-south-divide-in-india/

Instead of “aa se aam”, children in the tribal regions of Chhattisgarh will soon be learning “aa se aak patta (peepal or sacred fig leaf)”. In around 19,000 anganwadis across the state, the Chhattisgarh government is going to start teaching pre-school children in 10 different tribal languages. […]

“We first made a linguistic map of each district and the languages spoken in the region; then we made a linguistic map of the state. The ten languages we have included in this program are Gondi, Halbi, Madiya, Bhatri, Dhurva, Dorli, Singrauliya, Sargujiya, Sadri and Kudukh,” said Siddharth Komal Pardeshi, Secretary, Women and Child Development Department. […]

For the first time, we don’t have to train our frontline workers. All the anganwadi teachers are well versed in their regional language. They connect to the people in those languages. In fact, we have been taking their help to design the books and teaching material.” […]

“There is no script in most Adivasi languages, they are phonetically driven. In 2018, a dictionary in Gondi was released by Kannada University in Hampi. There is a need to preserve these languages and to ensure that children who have grown up speaking such languages don’t feel left out at schools,” Dada Jokal, an author of several books in Gondi and who now teaches school teachers the language, said. […]

In schools, teachers often have a hard time connecting with students because of the language divide. I had an interesting case, when a primary school teacher approached me that the children just kept repeating what he said, without understanding a word. They would keep repeating his questions at him, thinking that was their lesson. This is because of language barriers, which other linguistically prosperous states have understood and exploited,” Dada Jokal said.

According to education expert Ujjwala Shankar, the idea of ensuring pre-primary and primary education in one’s mother tongue is necessary for many reasons. “When the course imparted is in a language that the child is already familiar, the interest to learn more increases,” she said.

Source: Chhattisgarh: Tribal languages to be a medium of education in pre-school by Gargi Verma, Indian Express (Raipur), 17 February 2020
URL: https://indianexpress.com/article/governance/chhattisgarh-education-reforms-tribal-languages-to-be-a-medium-of-education-in-pre-school-6271547/
Date Visited: 10 November 2020

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