A voice under 35: Class notes from a Bihar school

The state has achieved near universal enrollment. The challenge now is to guarantee learning for every child. Start by letting teachers concentrate on academic work

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When a scheme, especially one with monetary incentives, is introduced, everyone engages with it. However, these same people are not interested in what goes on in the school. (Source: Illustration by CR SasiKumar) / Picture from INDIAN EXPRESS


INDIAN EXPRESS | Shailendra Singh | OCTOBER 26 2015

Even in today’s age of technology, teaching in rural areas remains a challenge. Almost all children have access to school. Now the main issue is how to help them learn. Even after four or five years in school, many children are unable to acquire basic skills of reading with understanding, or arithmetic. Why is this?

There are many factors that contribute to these challenges. Despite a lot of work by the government, many rural schools still lack basic infrastructure. I teach in an upper primary school in a village in Bihar. We still do not have enough teachers or rooms for the number of children in the school. This hampers the work we do. I am sure there are many other schools like mine.

Another, even bigger, challenge is the fact that, in every class, there are children at many different levels of learning. You can see this from Class I to Class VIII. For example, in the same class, there are children who can read a story fluently and understand it, as well as students who struggle to read words, and others who are not familiar with letters. It is impossible for an educator to teach all the children in such a class. Even if we wanted to group children by their level of…continue reading



Panchayat undemocracy

In an unequal society, exclusions from the democratic process based on social indicators reflect elitist bias.



An argument is advanced that such conditions will encourage people to go to school. This is rubbing salt in deep wounds. Was it Dalits who did not want knowledge when molten lead was poured in their ears? Was it women who chose to be enslaved in their homes by upper-caste patriarchal norms? The burden of historical injustice lies heavy in today’s India precisely because we have not only failed to eliminate injustices but have continued discriminatory practices, reflected in the statistics above. Without free education and the full…continue reading