Déjà Vu?

Our second day in Bangalore was so busy I actually heard my bed cry out, “Aeriale!” at its conclusion. It was perfect, though! The activities included an enlightening school visit with a lively, honest debriefing; an introduction to the Indian school system by our lovely and smart hosts from The Teacher Foundation; a talk about the history, culture and politics of India by former Indian ambassador to UNESCO, Chiranjiv Singh, who is a genius; a successful shopping trip (I bought a sari!) and another delicious Indian dinner.

I have pages and pages of notes. The journey could end here and I’d have enough material to post on this blog for months. I’m obsessed with so many of the topics we discussed today – high quality instruction, history, culture, colonialism, decolonization, etc., etc. And I really want to share the heartening small moments I experienced during our school visit. (It was such a wonderful experience I actually got chills!) I, however, think I’ll start with what we learned about the Indian school system.

As I wrote yesterday, our hosts are very open and forthcoming about the challenges India faces. Their presentation of the school system was equally rooted in hope and concern. They introduced us to the structure of the Indian school system, including the roles of the union (federal) and state governments and public and private schools. Some facts (and perhaps some could be interpreted as opinions) that resonated were:

  • The union government’s expenditure on education is 3.8% of the GDP in India ($140 per child per annum) compared to the federal government’s 5.2% of GDP in the US ($12,401 per child per annum).
  • The number of private schools is increasing astronomically causing the “systematic emptying of government schools, even in rural areas.”
  • Education is a fundamental right protected by law for children ages 6-14 and is the government’s attempt at “social reengineering” to combat the effects of the caste system, which is legally abolished but still exists.
  • Most Indian schools are simply “coping with poorer kids.”
  • Language is the single most divisive factor in Indian education.
  • There is a huge shortage of teachers in India due to the systematic undermining of the profession and disempowerment of teachers, including poor remuneration and lack of teacher voice in policy making.
  • Many teachers are inadequately trained both pre and inservice. Professional development is required, but often just skims the surface of what teachers actually need and is not ongoing or classroom-embedded thus ineffective.
  • The Indian school system has a systemic absence of vision, purpose, and urgency. There is a culture of convenience wherein schools are not action-oriented and fail to create collaborative, professional environments.

This information resonated with me for a reason. What do you think, US colleagues? Does any of this sound familiar? I don’t want to lead the witness, so I’ll just leave this here for now and wait for your comments below. Reflections later. . .