Saturday, February 8, 2014

National Level Seminar: Addressing Equity Issues in Education

National Level Seminar: Addressing Equity Issues in Education

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Report by Santanu Ganguly, New Delhi; CARE India, an NGO in partnership with UNICEF in Delhi organized a National Seminar on 'Addressing Equity Issues in Education'. The Seminar aimed at achieving recognition that systemic support and encouragement of equitable educational practices is the key to breaking most social barrier. It also engaged stakeholders from across the country in fruitful deliberations leading to a greater understanding of Teacher’s Role Vis-a-Vis factors which influence their behavior. The three day seminar talked about developing a consensus on the need to offer systemic support to educational institutions and the teaching community and also looked into the development of a status, best practices/and it also served as a catalyst to bring about desired changes/across govt run schools in India.

Out of all the discussions at the seminar many solutions came forward. Here is the gist of the dialogues at the forums and thoughts that came forward.

Education is believed to have a catalytic influence in fostering more equitable social relations, yet classrooms are not totally free from manifest or hidden prejudices and inequities. Layers of inequity interwoven in our social fabric and education system are no exception. Students inherit not only economic status from their parents but social divides like caste, religion, gender, location and the customs and biases based upon all these divides as well.  Students coming from rural or tribal backgrounds, lower castes, belonging to minority religions, physically or mentally challenged and of feminine gender are a disadvantaged lot.

The detrimental effect of such skewed educational practices is harsher on girls. Over the past two decades, governments across the world and in India have voiced their commitment to addressing gender and social biases in all areas of education, particularly at the elementary stage. This period is characterized by radical changes in what constitutes quality education and how this can be provided for by teachers. More recently, greater momentum has been provided through the National Curriculum Framework (NCF) 2005, which provides a comprehensive approach and ways of providing inclusive quality education to all children. The Right to Education (RTE) Act, 2009 further strengthens and reinforces this stance for making quality education a reality for all children irrespective of gender and social category. This shift in the paradigm of teacher education clearly highlights the need for teachers to be sensitive to each child’s unique requirements, provide child centered teaching-learning and understand the diversity in their social-cultural contexts.

In context of the continuum of efforts by government and voluntary organizations to make equitable education a reality within the context of the NCF 2005 and RTE Act 2009 it is important and relevant at this juncture to understand, appreciate and strengthen the role the teacher can play specifically in making equitable education and schooling a reality.

“This seminar was a platform for emerging debates, deliberations and sharing of experiences in this area, arriving at evidence based recommendations to promote the optimal realization of educational equity through teacher development and sharing best practices in context of promoting teachers effectiveness in the delivery and practice of equitable education in schools-classrooms” said Dr. Muhammad Musa, CEO, CARE India.

In view of the above, the seminar was an endeavor to understand how teacher’s beliefs, attitudes and practices influence classroom processes and how  teacher effectiveness can be strengthened and promoted  through professional development programs in ensuring equity in  elementary  level schooling practices.

“The objectives of the seminar were geared towards, understanding the existing status, recent efforts and identifying gaps with a view to meeting educational equity targets essentially through teacher preparation and professional development, understanding linkages between teacher’s beliefs, attitudes and practices and educational outcomes of children from diverse contexts and marginalized groups and in developing evidence based understanding on factors that influence teachers’ beliefs, attitudes and practices in school-classrooms” said Suman Sachdeva,Technical Director, Girls’ education program, CARE India.

CARE has been working in India for over 60 years, focusing on ending poverty and social injustice. We do this through well-planned and comprehensive programmes in health, education, livelihoods and disaster preparedness and response. Our overall goal is the empowerment of women and girls from poor and marginalised communities leading to improvement in their lives and livelihoods. We are a full member of CARE International Confederation working in 84 countries for a world where all people live in dignity and security.

In India CARE focuses on the empowerment of women and girls because they are disproportionately affected by poverty and discrimination; and suffer abuse and violations in the realisation of their rights, entitlements and access and control over resources. Also experience shows that, when equipped with the proper resources, women have the power to help whole families and entire communities overcome poverty, marginalisation and social injustice.

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