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Making Education & not the School itself, A Desirable Necessity:

Today’s education system has become a rote-learning manufactory designed for grinding out uniform results without any understanding and popping out degrees and certificates like popcorn. A mouthful does not get you anything, a handful is not sufficient. To top it all, it is the exorbitant costs that make higher education unaffordable for the vulnerable poor.

The Government has been trying its bit to fulfil the basic educational needs of children through its various programs towards providing free textbooks and uniforms, bicycles and mid-day meals, to protect them from malnutrition. But the children have still remained elusive from education for fear of examinations, failures and many other factors. Education, to many in the rural areas and urban slums, is only a second priority after work and play. With the new RTE (Right to Education) Act this week, the landmark Voucher System is proposed, as per which, every private school will reserve 25% seats for the economically poor children and the expenses towards the same would be subsidised by the Govt. Going by the past track record and the current “15 Paisa to a Rupee” kind of trickle down rate, execution of the same still remains the major cause of concern.

The very concept of making education as attractive as a movie, and the school as attractive as a playground, lags far behind. Scores of successful experiments on fun based learning models have remained limited to small groups, and on-the-job work based education has not been recognised by the Government.

It is not the freebies but the assurance of employment or some skill set development that can guarantee them their livelihood in the long term can only attract poor children to education. Theoretical education is considered a waste of time that leads to nowhere, by many in rural areas and urban slums. The faith on the education system to be able to provide jobs is dwindling.

Education is considered the foundation of the country and every individual has a fundamental right to quality education. Yet there is a huge disparity in the quality of education of a rich child and a poor child in the same city. If there is a disparity in the foundation itself, how can we dare to dream of equality in our country? In the same city, while a rich child gets the best infrastructure, best teaching aids and 5 Teachers (B.Ed) for one class in a private school, a poor child gets minimal infrastructure, almost no teaching aids and 1 Teacher (Non B.Ed) for five classes in a municipal school.

Organization for Awareness of Integrated Social Security (OASiS), a non-Government social organisation based at Bhopal (MP), embarked upon a mission to remove this disparity in quality of education in urban areas, identify and collaborate with different learning centres, and educate the school runaways, dropouts and the never-been-to-school ones, from the economically and academically deprived society to groom them as independent and responsible citizens.

The education pattern at OASiS is based on the learning from a study conducted by OASiS on established experiments in Education like Guru Rabindranath Tagore’s Shantiniketan (WB), and Aurobindo Ashram’s International Centre of Education (Pondicherry) and The Japanese system of Education. OASiS has combined the best practices of all these models to design its project “PARVARISH” that provides holistic education and grooming of a complete, independent and responsible citizen.

OASiS strongly believed that School itself should not come into the way of imparting education to the young ones. OASiS believed that the museums in a city provide the best learning atmosphere and the exhibits and working models help in learning practically without any books or references. No teaching aids in any school can ever match the quality of the exhibits of the Museums. Yet the exhibits are not used as teaching aids by anyone.

The Museum School approach thus designed by OASiS, identifies Museums in the city and collaborates with them to make them the school for the children, uses the exhibits and working models in the museums as teaching aids and collaborates with colleges conducting B.Ed courses for practice teaching by B.Ed students. The children of The Museum School come to the Museums (their school) everyday by school bus (just like other privileged children), and are taught by the B.Ed students through the exhibits of the Museums according to the curriculum. Thus the model provides poor children with the best school infrastructure already set up by the Government (The Museums), the best teaching aids (Exhibits and working models in Museums), and the best teachers (B.Ed students doing practice teaching) and removes the disparity in quality of education without any further investment.

The model follows a curriculum designed to provide holistic education starting from behavioural changes to literacy, to academics, physical and adolescence education, and finally ending with vocational skills and entrepreneurship development. While the children are mainstreamed through the National Open School for examination and certification, the objective is to make them self-employable, confident, responsible and independent in Society.

Brainchild of Mr. Pradeep Ghosh (Ashoka Fellow), founder member of OASiS, was called Project PARVARISH. Parvarish at Bhopal is successfully running since last four years independentally by Mrs. Shibani Ghosh, a highly trained & committed Teacher herself, adding on poor children from the slums who are basically rag-pickers, year on year. Of course, in collaboration with 3 Museums: Regional Science Centre, National Museum of Mankind and Regional Museum of Natural History.

8th August 2009, The Museum School is scheduled for a soft launch in Chennai as “EUREKA – The Museum School”. Three museums in Chennai: Egmore Musuem, Birla Planetarium and Dakshinachitra have offered their consent for their premises to be used for the weekend classes.

It will shortly start in Delhi, where 5 Museums: National Science Centre, National Museum of Natural History, National Crafts Museum, National Rail Museum and Shankar’s International Doll Museum have already expressed their interest and acceptance.

Through this model, OASiS is trying to show that the urban poor can also be given the same quality of education as that for the urban rich, by just making optimum and effective utilisation of existing infrastructure (The Museums) at practically the same or maybe lesser cost that the Government today incurs on urban education.

Let us give the Museums their true place in the Education System.

OASiS is always looking for suitable partners who would like to replicate ‘The Museum School’ in their cities, for poor urban slum children.