Education in India (B1-B2/v610)

Introduction

Properly educating all the children in India represents an enormous challenge and some schools have come up with a controversial method of trying to meet that challenge.

Script

Journalist:  The school turns out highly educated young women, who will go on to play their role in the new Indian dream of prosperity and international recognition. But these privileged pupils are now taking in the city’s street children and teaching them basic maths, reading, and writing skills. The kinds of things that at home we take for granted. The kids in the school, they’re now teaching other children? The kids in the school, they’re now teaching other children?

School teacher:  We’re preparing actually the “Rainbows”, street children as you call them, for regular Bengali medium school or English medium school year. A child comes to us, we have an aim for that child that she should be put into a regular school in the mainstream of life because we meet them on a regular basis of…

Journalist:  Fantastic. So, it’s a great social responsibility that’s recycled in a way. You know, kids come from the streets, they learn here, and then they teach the other kids from the streets. Can I sit here? Thank you. So, these kids speak Bengali, or Hindi, or…?

Schoolgirl:  Bengali.

Journalist:  Okay. Okay, ready? [starts showing them cards]

Kids:  Cat.

Journalist:  Yes, she’s good.

Kids:  Kitchen.

Journalist:  Very good.

Kids:  Net.

Journalist:  Yes!

Kids:  Chair.

Journalist:  Yes, chair.

Kids:  Mum.

Journalist:  Very good. One more.

Kids:  Eat.

Journalist:  Yes, very good, very good! How long have you been teaching these children?

Girl student:  Them? Four years.

Journalist:  Four years. That’s great. So, you’d like to be a teacher as well?

Girl student:  Yes. I have practiced a lot before in my school days. I have practiced a lot. So, it would be easy to teach.

Journalist:  Is there any subject that you like especially?

Girl student:  Physics.

Journalist:  Physics? Really? But your English is so good. You could be an English teacher. You could teach me English. That’s great, physics. Why physics?

Girl student:  Because physics is… I thought that it is a very easy subject.

Journalist:  [laughing] Physics is an easy subject? Okay. There’s a real mix of emotions when you come  somewhere like this. It’s incredibly energizing, you know, it’s just so vital, and the kids are so kind of… passionate about sharing their education with them, and the street kids like here, you know, they’re passionate about learning. Just their eagerness to do better.

I mean, you know, the little girl who was teaching the other kids was thirteen or fourteen, and her English is fantastic, and she wants be to a physicist. You know, in this environment, she wants to be a physicist. It’s not… you know, the ambitions and the dreams, they aren’t about being a pop star. Or they’re not about kind of being a glamour model. You know, they’re really tangible. It’s something that they want to do that they can then feed back into their communities.

And the fact that this is recycling, the kids come from the streets, they learn here, and they wanna go back. And Sanghita, who started this whole thing, was telling me that, you know, during the school holidays, they will go around knocking on people’s doors where they know there’s a kid there and say “Can I spend an hour with them?”. That’s kind of like, you know, I’m welling up now thinking about it.

But that’s kind of… It’s a remarkable recycling of kind of positive practical energy and emotion and incredible acts of humanity from, you know, the people who’ve experienced it the least in our world, you know. Here it is. I need a cup of tea now. So…I’ve got a lump in my throat, I need to bring it back down.

Quiz

1. The girls who graduate from the school in the video generally don’t get a very good education and have little hope for their future prospects.
2. The street children who come in for basic education from the other students are known as “Rainbows” in India.
3. Most of the students in the school speak Hindi.
4. The young girl to whom the journalist speaks with the most wants to be a chemist, but she thinks it will be very, very difficult to become one.
5. The BBC journalist is extremely moved by the spirit, innocence, and generosity of the student teachers.

Discussion

  1. What is your opinion of the Indian method of “recycling” education in order to teach the basics to their many thousands of street children?
  2. What are some of the potentially positive and negative effects that this program might have on the Indian student “teachers”?
  3. Do you think any kind of similar, more structured, system might one day be possible in your country?

Resources