Ekalavya and Drona shape collective expectations from a teacher and a student: Ekalavya branded residential schools in tribal areas

Drona-Ekalavya: How mythology has ruined teaching in India

Prachur Goel, Medium, Dec 4, 2016 | Read the whole story >>

Culture and mythology drive our instinctive beliefs and if you ask anyone about a teacher-student story from our mythology, chances are that they will think of Drona and Ekalavya. The narrative shapes our collective expectations from a teacher and a student and I think has played a major role in poor education in our country.

Ekalavya was a tribal, not an upper caste like Drona’s students, the Pandavas and the Kauravas. Drona rejected Ekalavya, an aspirational student, because he didn’t have the right family background. He later did the same thing to Karna. However, Ekalavya clings to Drona’s image. He makes his statue and practices by himself. His motivation and ability is so high that becomes a serious archery stud. When Drona finds out about his brilliance, Ekalavya tells him that he considers Drona as his guru. Drona has no qualms in accepting himself as the guru. Even worse, he demands Ekalavya’s thumb as Guru Dakshina which he readily cuts and hands over. […]

The story represents hierarchy at its most oppressive. Hierarchy between teacher and student. The teacher can be selfish, prejudiced and arrogant and teach nothing, yet the student must respect the teacher and credit him/her for all learning. There is no dialogue, just obedience. Whatever the teacher asks of the student, no matter how ridiculous, the student is duty-bound to comply. It is expected that the compliance is done joyfully.[…]

Our government runs Ekalavya branded residential schools in tribal areas. Do they view themselves as Drona? […]

Source: Drona-Ekalavya: How mythology has ruined teaching in India
URL: https://medium.com/@prachurgoel/drona-ekalavya-how-mythology-has-ruined-teaching-in-india-118ecf4a2a42
Accessed: 20 April 2018

“We shall first have to give up this hubris of considering tribes backward. Every tribe has a rich and living cultural tradition and we must respect them.”

Vice President M. Venkaiah Naidu on India’s Constitutional obligation to respect their cultural traditions
Gandhiji at Prayer Time, Parnakuti, Poona (1944) by Chittaprosad, the great advocate of the rights of workers and revolutionary artists. | Learn more in “Gandhi, Secularism, and Cultural Democracy” by Vinay Lal >>
Gandhian social movement | Constitution >>

“Air is free to all but if it is polluted it harms our health… Next comes water… From now on we must take up the effort to secure water. Councillors are servants of the people and we have a right to question them.” – Mohandas K. Gandhi, Ahmedabad address on 1 January 1918; quoted by his grandson, Gopalkrishna Gandhi, in “On another New Year’s Day: Mahatma Gandhi’s ‘khorak’ a 100 years ago” (The Hindu, 1 January 2018)

Read the full text of “A View of Higher Education in India”, a public lecture by Prof. Ganesh Devy delivered on September 26th, 2010 at the National Institute of Advanced Studies, Bangalore

To read the full Commentary in The Economic Times, click here >>

“Their parents sent these children, belonging to the most marginalised segment of Indian society, to these schools in the hope that education would liberate them from poverty and want. Instead, lack of basic facilities — drinking water, sanitation, healthcare, poor nutrition — and an excess of administrative callousness killed that hope. Those responsible must be punished.

More to the point, institutions must be put in place to prevent recurrence of such tragedy. Accountability is clearly missing. The residential schools in question, the Eklavya Model Residential Schools, patterned on the Navodaya Vidyalayas catering to children in class VI to XII, and ashram schools set up as part of a centrally sponsored scheme under the tribal sub-plan, are under the ministry of tribal affairs, unlike other state-run schools, which are overseen by the ministry of human resource development and state education departments. […]

The tribal affairs ministry and its outposts in the states are ill-equipped to run these schools properly. As a result, tribal residential schools are monitored and held to account far less effectively than other state-run schools. […]

There are no easy answers to how and how fast tribal communities join the mainstream. Taking their brightest children out of their homes and away from their culture, only to maim or kill them, is certainly not one of them.”

Source: Commentary in The Economic Times titled “Schools for tribal kids or for horror?” (Economic Times, 19 April 2016)
URL: https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/blogs/et-commentary/schools-for-tribal-kids-or-for-horror/
Date visited: 11 April 2020

Objective of EMRS [“Eklavya Model Residential Schools”]
[Peruse the government guidelines here or in the 2010 backup included below]

i. Comprehensive physical, mental and socially relevant development of all students enrolled in each and every EMRS. Students will be empowered to be change agent, beginning in their school, in their homes, in their village and finally in a large context.

ii. Focus differentially on the educational support to be made available to those in Standards XI to X, so that their distinctive needs can be met.

iii. Support the annual running expenses in a manner that offers reasonable remuneration to the staff and upkeep of the facilities.

iv. Support the construction of infrastructure that provides education, physical, environmental and cultural needs of student life. […]

Source: REVISED GUIDELINES FOR SETTING UP EKLAVYA MODEL RESIDENTIAL SCHOOL (EMRS)June 2010
URL: https://tribal.gov.in/DivisionsFiles/sg/EMRSguidlines.pdf
Date visited: 30 Jul7 2021

There are many indices one can use to measure the shocking failures of education, even as it is conventionally understood, in India today. The stories of state-run schools that are in absolute shambles are legion, and have been documented by thousands of researchers, journalists, and social workers. More than seventy years after independence, the effective countrywide literacy rate is less than 50%; in some districts of Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Jharkhand, and Madhya Pradesh, female literacy rates still hover at 10%.  The best public universities have been gutted; all that is left is a shambolic display of awards of “excellence”, a word as shorn of content as any.  In one instance the award has been to an institute of higher education that does not even exist. Yet all this is far from what Gandhi had in mind when he pondered over the ruins of education and I wonder how he would have struggled to even comprehend the “hardheartedness” of the educated in India today. Let there be no mistake:  what really ails Indian education is the fact that at its center is the “undeveloped heart.”

Source: “The Undeveloped Heart: Gandhi on Education” by Vinay Lal, 15 October 2019
URL: https://vinaylal.wordpress.com/2019/10/15/the-undeveloped-heart-gandhi-on-education/
Date visited: 1 July 2020

Vinay Lal, Professor of History & Asian American Studies, University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) | Faculty page: https://www.history.ucla.edu/faculty/vinay-lal | YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/user/dillichalo | Blog:  vinaylal.wordpress.com | Quoted on the present website >>

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