Report by India Education bureau, New Delhi: INDUS ACTION, an NGO working towards community mobilisation to influence public policy, recently launched a report on the need and status of social inclusion in private schools, at the Achieve Together Conference.
Section 12(1)(c) within the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act 2009 (RTE) mandates that 25 percent of entering class seats be opened up for children from weak and disadvantaged groups in all non-minority unaided private schools. This progressive policy has the potential to put roughly 1 crore children across India on a different life path in the next 5 years, making it the single largest opportunity seat scheme in the world.
The report titled “Making Social Inclusion Possible within private unaided non-minority schools under Section 12(1)(c) of RTE” discusses about the specifications of the Act to ensure social inclusion in schools, current on-ground realities and challenges, and recommendations and opportunities for improvement. The report was developed by INDUS ACTION, with the support of Central Square Foundation, a venture philanthropy fund and policy think tank focused on improving school education and learning outcomes of children from low income communities.
TarunCherukuri, Founder, INDUS ACTION, while talking about the need for social inclusion in schools, says, “Socially inclusive classrooms can help children with diverse backgrounds in a multitude of ways. It creates a safe environment for children are they are encouraged to seek help for their problems from one another and recognise that the differences between them are ordinary and not restrictive to their learning and growth.”
The presence of these 25 percent kids can alter the pedagogical nature of the classroom so that the knowledge base from where these children come from — farming, weaving, services, carpentry and construction, practical vocations like repair of vehicles, electricity, plumbing and so on becomes a part of the classroom. This greatly benefits the other 75 percent who are now cut off from the informal sector knowledge base that still dominates the Indian economy.
Talking about the challenges in implementing social inclusion in schools, BikkramaDaulet Singh, Associate Director- Accountability and Governance, Central Square Foundation says, “Provision of free and compulsory education of satisfactory quality to children from disadvantaged and weaker sections is not merely the responsibility of schools run or supported by the appropriate governments, but also of schools which are not dependent on government funds.Lack of accountability in schools and unawareness amongst parents about the provisions of this law deter many students and parents of availing the opportunity to enrol in private schools There is a need for collective action by the government, schools and NGOs to create awareness about this law to ensure that children from low income communities are provided an opportunity to enrol in high quality private schools and facilitate social inclusion in such schools to become a reality.”
The Social Inclusion report was launched by the Chief Guests, Sister Cyril Mooney and Ms. Jo Chopra who also appreciated the initiative of bringing together kids, parents, teachers & principals of different socio-economic backgrounds together. Sister M. Cyril Mooney is an internationally recognized educational innovator and the 2007 winner of the Padma Shri Award conferred by the Government of India. Jo Chopra is a writer, Executive Director and one of the founders of Latika Roy Foundation. She has worked on disability services, rights and awareness of the same for over 20 years. While Sister Cyril spoke of her experiences of bringing in street children of Kolkata to study in her schools, Ms. Chopra talked about how she used courage, compassion & wisdom to open her own school for children with special needs in a country that was foreign for her.
The theme of the conference was Courage, Compassion & Wisdom and the day was divided into thoughtfully designed workshops like Empathy, Drama, and Art from Waste, among others, that focused on social inclusion and the underlying theme of courage, compassion & wisdom. Children were divided into groups and encouraged to pick a workshop of their choice. Throughout the conference, how schools can be sites of inclusion, joy and humanistic citizenship was emphasized.With leaders in the field of education taking sessions for adults, the conference was a powerful platform to promote the idea of social inclusion and to build the schools of tomorrow.
This conference was a collaborative effort of INDUS ACTION and Achieve Together Conference who joined hands to organise this in the city for the first time. The conference that has seen 2 successful editions in the past 2 years in Mumbai, brings together inspiring individuals and facilitators who conduct workshops aimed at teaching students, lessons beyond the classroom. By bringing together leaders in the field of education along with parents, teachers, principals and students, the two organizations wish to inspire educators to push their thinking on equity and justice; to experience inclusion and appreciate diversity and essence of teaching and learning.
Talking about the theme of the conference, Fiona Vaz, Founder Achieve Together Conference, says, “Today’s children will inevitably play a crucial role in constructing a world of creative coexistence in the future. Wisdom, Courage and Compassion are the necessary qualities that make humanistic leaders. Through this conference, we want to awaken in children their unlimited potential, the power of celebrating diversity and the heart to share the strengths and weaknesses of each other. We want to ignite in them the hope that such a world is possible.”