“School ke liye fees thodi lagti hain, uniform lagta hain… uniform… !”
- Aamir Khan, in the movie ’3 Idiots’ (2009)
If you happened to be in India in the year 2oo9 and like to watch movies that do not require you to switch your brains off, chances are that you might have watched the movie ’3 Idiots’. One of the best things that I liked about the movie was the idea about how education ought to be – all learning that is in sync with your passion, the rest being details.
As mentioned earlier, when reading a book like Outliers, one starts to wonder whether the same principles that are applicable for individuals to reach Point B from Point A, are also applicable to organizations including businesses, schools and colleges at large.
Just recently, one of my former teachers from school, Ms. Diana Charles (fellow Columbans would fondly remember her as the person who inducted us into the Spelling Bee) shared a link on her FaceBook wall: What Americans Keep Ignoring About Finland’s School Success, which speaks about how the Finnish schools are achieving excellence in schools. Though the article focuses on 2-3 few key points, the one idea that really caught my imagination was the point that the Finnish schools were achieving great results by focusing on ‘equality’ more than excellence.
It was with a similar idea in mind that I had met up the co-founders of a social organization in early 2010. The team was working on the education of kids from disadvantaged backgrounds, and were doing this on the weekends from within St. Columba’s School (SCS), the classrooms being provided for free by the school towards this. The idea discussed was a simple one – to make efficient use of the ‘Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act‘, bearing in mind that just making the ‘right’ compulsory was not going to solve the problems. If you think about it, there is more to making the ‘right’ work than putting a child in a great school and hoping that we have solved the education problem. The usual hindrances being how the transition works out for the kid, and as to how he/ she adjusts to the new setup.
Factors that need to be taken into account
Factors include – the books, school bag, lunch (‘Stanley ka Dabba’ anyone?) , stationary, and last but not the least – the uniform*. Easier said than done though, because the list adds up to minimum INR 1,000, for a family whose monthly income would be in the range of INR 2200 – 3000 (or less).
* (The uniform, in my opinion, is amongst the greatest levellers out there. It brings everyone under one roof, fosters a sense of brotherhood, takes out most diversity issues and gives all kids a level playing field – for all you know: kids, teachers and even your school canteen guy thin slices students on a daily basis, but most are not aware of it at a conscious level).
Whilst I toyed with a few ideas as to how the school could leverage and lend support to this initiative by spending least money and effort, I also got teaching the kids at the social org on weekends (standards 2 to 5) during my free time to get an idea about their potential. My observations, in brief, were as follows: Read the rest of this entry »