Children's Knowledge and Local Knowledge:
The child’s community and local environment form the primary context in which learning takes place, and in which knowledge acquires its significance. It is in interaction with the environment that the child constructs knowledge and derives meaning. This area has generally been neglected both in the conceptualisation of textbooks and in pedagogic practices. Hence, in this document, we emphasise the significance of contextualising education: of situating learning in the context of the child's world, and of making the boundary between the school and its natural and social environment porous. This is not only because the local environment and the child’s own experiences are the best ‘entry points, into the study of disciplines of knowledge, but more so because the aim of knowledge is to connect with the world. It is not a means to an end, but both means and end. This does not require us to reduce knowledge to the functional and immediately relevant, but to realise its dynamism by connecting with the world through it.

Unless learners can locate their individual standpoints in relation to the concepts represented in textbooks and relate this knowledge to their own experiences of society, knowledge is reduced to the level of mere information. If we want to examine how learning relates to future visions of community life, it is crucial to encourage reflection on what it means to know something, and how to use what we have learnt. The learner must be recognised as a proactive participant in his or her own learning.

Day after day children bring to school their experiences of the world around them the trees that they have climbed, the fruits they have eaten, the birds they have admired. All children are alive to the natural cycles of day and night, of the weather, the water, the plants and the animals that surround them. Children, when they enter Class I already have a rich language base of small numbers, and the rudiments of operations are already in place. Yet rarely do we hear the knowledge that they already have and which they bring into the classroom. Rarely do we ask children to talk about or refer to the world outside the school during our lessons and teaching. Instead we resort to the convenience of the printed word and picture, all of which are poor replicas of the natural world. Worse still, today in the name of computer-aided learning, the living world is being turned into animation strips that children are expected to watch on their computer screens. Before starting a lesson on living and non-living, if a teacher was to take her class out on a walk through a field near the school, and on returning asked each child to write the names of ten living things and ten non-living things that she/he saw, the results would be amazing. Children in Mahabalipuram in Tamil Nadu may include in their list of things sea shells, pebbles and fish, and those in Chhattisgarh near the Dandakaranya forest may include nest, bee hive, and anklet. Instead, children are usually required to look at a drawing in the textbook, or a list of words, and sort the things out as living and non-living. During a lesson on water pollution, children could examine the water sources and water bodies and then connect these with different types of pollution. This exercise could also raise issues regarding how lack of safe water affects health. Instead, children are expected to see pictures of polluted water and comment on them. When studying the moon and its phases, how many teachers actually ask the children to look at the moon at night and then talk about it the next day? Instead of asking children the names of local birds and trees, our textbooks name ‘ubiquitous’ things that seem to belong everywhere and yet belong nowhere. Only if children in, say Class VIII, can connect the chapter on photosynthesis with the real plants around would they think of asking questions such as, ‘How do crotons, which have coloured leaves but no green leaves, manage to manufacture their food?’ Only when the living world around becomes available for critical reflection within the school will children become alive to the issues of the environment and nurture their concern for it. The local environment is thus a natural learning resource, which must be privileged when making choices regarding what should be included, what concrete examples should be cited in planning for their transaction in the classroom. In the case of content selection for the Social Sciences and language, it is important to keep in mind the ideals and values enshrined in the Constitution. Inclusion of the local context in classroom transaction would imply a serious attempt by the teacher to make choices in a manner that is pedagogically imaginative and ethically sound. When children living in Kerala are introduced to the habitat of the desert in Rajasthan, the descriptions must be rich and detailed so that they can get a feel of the natural world there, in all its particularities and diversity, rather than evoking images of the typical sand dune and the camel. They should wonder how in a place so hot people wear more rather than fewer clothes. They should also be able to compare life there with life around them in their local community, and ask what things would happen in the same way, and what things would happen differently.

The local environment consists not only of the physical and natural world but also the socio-cultural world. All children have a voice at home, and it is essential for the school to ensure that their voices continue to be heard in the classroom as well. Communities also have rich cultural resources: local stories, songs, jokes and riddles, and art, all of which can enrich language and knowledge in schools. They also have rich oral histories. By imposing silence we stifle children.

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Clear CTET - Coaching Institute for CTET, DSSSB and KVS: Children's Knowledge and Local Knowledge
Children's Knowledge and Local Knowledge
Clear CTET - Coaching Institute for CTET, DSSSB and KVS
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