It is certainly a platitude to say that learning can happen everywhere and at all times, at the most unexpected places and moments in our lives. However, that said, we also recognise that the school is a very valuable place of learning: formally and systematically in a graded way,level upon level so that we can tackle end-of-stage examinations which help us to choose our futures. But while all this is happening, a lot of undocumented and stimulating learning is going on simultaneously, In this issue, articles on experiential learning about the environment, reading as a means of expanding horizons as well as acquiring language skills, the morning assembly as a treasure house of the learning experience- are all here. Other articles have given detailed accounts of science as a dispeller of superstition and an enhancer of a spirit of enquiry and curiosity. Sports do more than just teach the rules of the game, suggests an article: they can internalise values, inculcate inclusion and gender equality. There is an array of perspectives on the learning within learning which, paradoxically, falls outside of it. All in all, this issue confirms what has long been felt and known - the learning that occurs outside the classroom is as vital as the formal pedagogy which takes place inside.
Teaching Learning Materials (TLMs) and Aids, which form the focus of this issue of Learning Curve, an indispensable part of a teacher’s bag of tricks, is a generic term that describes any material that supports and buttresses teachers’ efforts in getting a class of diverse capabilities to understand the basics of any learning. They have to fulfil some basic requirements: simplify concepts, provide the chance of practice, increase interest and motivation, help to explain complexities, concretise abstractions, enrich the course - though, of course, a single TLM may not meet all the above criteria.
This issue contains thoughtful articles on what textbooks are at present, what they should be, ways of using them optimally, new ideas that they can generate in the teaching of science and environmental science for example are presented. Several of the writers have had personal experience in being part of this process and their articles are very valuable because their articles contain the seeds of how teachers can use them in the best possible way.
Education initiatives are part of governments all across the globe, guided by a much-deliberated system of principles influencing decisions that are aimed at achieving pre-determined outcomes, which, in turn, are perceived to be beneficial to a particular country’s goals. Much thought goes on behind creating initiatives: they are statements of intent and, equally, the task of implementation is a very complex one. Not just that, innovative education initiatives have the huge additional responsibility of creating and shaping future generations, who, in turn, are any country’s future. The initiatives have to keep in mind the cultural and social norms of the country, while creating the atmosphere for salutary change. Another aspect that has to be taken into account while designing innovative government initiatives in education is the changes in society and its demands, both locally and globally, and rethink their strategies in order to benefit a new and contemporary scenario which will equip children to face and handle challenges of current times.
The classroom experience is unique - it is different for each one of us which is why when people reminisce about their school, opinions can differ about the same subject or teacher. The teacher, for her part, also has unique relationships with the class she goes to. It is a dynamic, organic process. The same concern, involvement and thoughtfulness that was evident in the experiences recounted in the first part are present in the narratives of this Issue too.
This issue we have a number of articles which explore the boundaries of the classroom and its importance as an investment for the future. Practising teachers have written about the ‘experiments’ they have had success with, others which were not quite so successful because they were ahead of their times. Other articles recount and convey the sense of responsibility a teacher feels when she realises that she has to play a gamut of roles, the sense of achievement and satisfaction when an unexpected learning lakes place. Documented, too, is the tremendous hard work and thinking that most teachers put into their work, thereby enhancing the sense of optimism in these exciting new times.
The theme of public education is one that affects every society across the globe. All over, there has been fundamental dissatisfaction with the systems, though the idea itself is intimately linked with a democratic society: one in which the individual is taught her place in the larger society. In India there has been disaffection with both public and private schooling, especially in urban centres, where private schooling flourishes at exorbitant cost, many times with inadequate space, facilities and less than adequate teaching. Every single person in the country is crucially involved in what form education takes, since it matters to us what the future of our society is going to be. It reveals too the tremendous hope that we all have that there are solutions, elusive perhaps, but they exist and it is for us, and others who follow, to find these solutions. This hope is all the more attenuated when we hear stories, as we do, of our public schools in the remotest of places, where teachers are doing a wonderful jobs, coming to braving the weather, working under very challenging circumstances, their enthusiasm unabated.
The starting point of this issue is Mahatma Gandhi’s Nai Talim which he envisaged over many years and made available in 1937. Children learn by making and doing and it is by relating these two to the larger context that the understanding of the whole picture is obtained. It is this larger picture that this issue has tried its best to present. This issue has also attempted to take a long, hard look at the relevance that Nai Talim has in the India of today, nearly eight decades later. The explorations are on the idea of Nai Talim and the overall visions of a ‘good society’, rethinking Nai Talim in the light of the NCF of 2005, as well as in the present context. This has been done against the background of experiments with present day ideas of education and work. Keeping all this in mind, the way forward is for us, as an emerging society, to draw lessons that help us to create knowledge with an emphasis on values that sustain and are in turn sustainable.


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