One of the objectives of any society or community is to help all individuals to flourish and be the best version of themselves. Such individuals, in turn, help the society grow on various dimensions such as social, cultural and economic. The democratic process in such societies are also robust and true in their letter and spirit. We believe good quality education is critical for this vision of a society - especially the education available to children during their foundational years (school education).
However, providing access to quality education to all, has been a challenge for decades in our society. In a country as diverse as India - divers in its economic, linguistic, cultural and geographic landscape, the education system faces a huge challenge catering to the educational needs of its children and its youth. Since the quality of private education, more often than not, depends on the amount of money the parents can afford to pay, it usually becomes a system that excludes the underprivileged and poor from receiving quality education. A strong public education system is therefore critical for any society and its individuals to flourish.
However, with approx. 1.5 million schools and 2 million teachers, ours is the largest public education system in the world. In addition to challenges posed by its scale, it also faces challenges such as teaching children with different mother tongues, assisting first generation learners, single teacher schools that necessitate multi-grade multi-level classrooms etc.
In this ancient cultural region of Mithila, lying between the lower ranges of the Himalayas and the Ganges, where Aripana is based - the problem of poor quality of education is compounded by highly endemic poverty and the fact that 76% population lives under the recurring threat of flood and devastation due to Kosi, Kamla Balan, Gandak and other Himalayan rivers. This has far reaching consequences on the children and youth of the region - with limited opportunities for meaningful learning and growth, their potential remains untapped and their dreams buried forever.
A combination of these factors, make the running and improvement of the public education in the region, both essential and extremely complex. We believe that Civil Society Organizations must play an active role by supporting the government, if quality education is to be made accessible to all. The CSOs, not driven by the motive of economic profit, and bringing with them an understanding of the social, philosophical and psychological aspects of education, can act as effective partners to the public education system, working towards a common goal - good quality education for all.
Sustainable and qualitative change in the public education system requires the active support and participation of various stakeholders. Children and their interests, growth and learning must of course be at the heart of any such effort. But in parallel, it also requires the close engagement and support to and of teachers and head-teachers, parents and community, education functionaries and officials etc.
Additionally, one must develop a deep understanding and appreciation of how good quality education depends of a number of other factors, skills, knowledge etc. - ranging from curriculum and TLM development, classroom management techniques and lesson planning, content knowledge and content pedagogic knowledge, meaningfully integration of arts and physical education, creating and using teaching moments during a nature walk or nature observation with children etc.
We believe, any effort that doesn't take into account the above (involvement and critical role of stakeholders and the complexity and depth of the actual teaching-learning process) will remain at the surface level and/or be unsustainable in the long run. And we see our primary role as helping all stakeholders enable deep-rooted improvements at the level of school-clusters.
We are currently working closely with one school-cluster in Darbhanga esp. in the areas of language education, science and environmental science/sustainability education, and setting up and running of libraries.
COVID 2nd Wave Update: The on-ground work is currently on pause based on government advisories, but our team continues to support interested teachers and students of the cluster, by helping them design and deliver online sessions on language and science education. We also plan to hold sessions around books and children's literature soon.