I started on the last day of my journey on the 5th of October. I left Kanpur at around 6 in the morning to be able to reach Lucknow by 12:30 where I had to attend a conference on Education organized by STIR.
On reaching Lucknow, I met Samina Bano, founder of Bharat Abhyudaya Foundation (BAF). Over the last few years BAF is working in Uttar Pradesh on school education, focusing largely on quality of education government schools. Talking about education, Samina remarked that we needed an education that imparted life-skills, something that she felt is clearly lacking today, that would give children a sense of confidence and help them deal with people as they grow-up.
I met many teachers at the conference. All the teachers echoed that we need herculean efforts to address the learning crisis facing the education system of India. Remarkably, teachers felt that both private and government sectors have a vital role to play in improving quality of education. They also expressed the need for private and government schools working together towards realizing this goal.
My interactions on the last day of my trip were limited—I had to pack my bike and catch a flight in the evening back to Delhi. Once I got back I had some time to think about my journey. Here are a few of the things I have been thinking about since—
Throughout my journey, what made me really happy was that people were eager and willing to talk about education. I interacted with people from all walks of life–priests, school children, police officers, teachers, truck drivers, many of whom I had no direct stake in school education yet the question of education touched all of them.
Some of my interactions, particularly those with people who had left education to take up various skills-driven jobs, made me wonder about quality of education we are imparting. Consider a tourist guide, who has studied up to standard 11, earns more than an engineer who has spent 4 years in college. Moreover the tourist guide is happy with his profession whereas the engineer regrets the time and money he spent on his education. What does this say about the quality of education, and why should children aspire to be engineers when our education system equips them poorly, and consequently, limits their ability to earn nor gives them a joy of doing what they aspire to do?
A sentiment that was expressed by many people was the need to make education more relevant and holistic, of ‘imparting life skills.’ How do we do this?
Talking to the teachers, disparity in pay, between contract teachers and full-time teachers was one point that came up in a number of interactions. This is leading to a lot of dissatisfaction among teachers–how do we address this? How do we keep our teachers motivated?
It seemed to me, at times, that people were a little too rigid in their outlook. The professor I met in Engineering college firmly believed that nothing can be changed, the journalists were certain that no real change in education was possible, private schools were convinced that they were better than government schools (and vice versa) and so on. It seemed to me that people need to give up these judgements and firm notions and come together to work toward creating a robust education system.
Overall, charting through India’s educational landscape has given me much to think about. Talking to people has given me some sense of what they aspire and wish to see happen for themselves and their children. It has been a very rewarding experience, and one that I will cherish forever. I cant wait to be on road again, this time in Southern India!
With this post we conclude first part of NEP on Wheels series. We will be running another series of blogs in December when Prashant joins the Tour of Nilgiris. I hope that you have enjoyed the blogs. We would love to hear your thoughts and reflections and of course, words of encouragement for Prashant and others who are emerging as bright spots in India’s education system. Please do share your thoughts here or email to us on firstname.lastname@example.org
Also, Prashant needs to self-fund his next tour. Please do consider contributing to his tour here.