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The Social Context of Education

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The Social Context of Education: The education system does not function in isolation from the society of which it is a part. Hierarchies ...

The Social Context of Education:

The education system does not function in isolation from the society of which it is a part. Hierarchies of caste, economic status and gender relations, cultural diversity as well as the uneven economic development that characterise Indian society also deeply influence access to education and participation of children in school. This is reflected in the sharp disparities between different social and economic groups, which are seen in school enrollment and completion rates. Thus, girls belonging to SC and ST communities among the rural and urban poor and the disadvantaged sections of religious and other ethnic minorities are educationally most vulnerable. In urban locations and many villages, the school system itself is stratified and provides children with strikingly different educational experiences. Unequal gender relations not only perpetuate domination but also create anxieties and stunt the freedom of both boys and girls to develop their human capacities to their fullest. It is in the interest of all to liberate human beings from the existing inequalities of gender.

Schools range from the high- cost ‘public’ (private) schools, to which the urban elite send their children, to the ostensibly ‘free’, poorly functioning local- body - run primary schools where children from hitherto educationally deprived communities predominate. A striking recent feature is the growth of multigrade schools in rural areas, based on the mechanical application of ‘teacher - pupil ratios’ to the need to provide a school within 1 km. of each habitation, yet unsupported by the necessary curricular concepts or clarity on materials or pedagogy. Such developments unintentionally reinforce privilege and exclusion in education and undermine the constitutional values of equality of opportunity and social justice. If ‘free’ education is understood as the ‘removal of constraints’ to education, then we must realise the importance of other sectors of the state’s social policy for supporting and facilitating the achievement of UEE.

Globalisation and the spread of market relations to every sphere of society have important implications for education. On the one hand, we are witnessing the increasing commercialisation of education, and, on the other hand, inadequate public funding for education and the official thrust towards ‘alternative’ schools. These factors indicate a shifting of responsibility for education from the state to the family and the community. We need to be vigilant about the pressures to commodify schools and the application of market-related concepts to schools and school quality. The increasingly competitive environment into which schools are being drawn and the aspirations of parents place a tremendous burden of stress and anxiety on all children, including the very young, to the detriment of their personal growth and development, and thus hampering the inculcation of the joy of learning.

The 73rd and 74th Constitutional amendments, and the institutionalised statutory space they provide for local communities to participate in decision making in education for their children, are important developments. However, parental aspirations for education are belied by endemic poverty and unequal social relations, and by lack of adequate provision of schooling of equitable quality. The concerns of the burgeoning population of the urban poor are still not reflected in planning. The expectations and aspirations of the poor for education cannot be set aside as being outside the frame of curricular concerns.

The social context of education in India thus presents a number of challenges, which must be addressed by the curriculum framework, both in its design as well as its implementation. The discussion on guiding principles has drawn attention to these challenges as well as some of the ways in which they can be addressed. Opening the concept of knowledge to include new areas of knowledge and experience, inclusivity in selecting learning tasks, pedagogic practices that are alert to promoting participation, building self-confidence and critical awareness, and an openness to engaging with the community to explain and share curricular decisions are among the new ideas discussed in different sections of this document.
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CLEAR CTET: The Social Context of Education
The Social Context of Education
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