Participation of All Children

Participation by itself has little meaning. It is the ideological framework surrounding participation that defines it and gives it a political construct. For example, work participation within an authoritarian frame would give participation a very different form from participation within a democracy. Today, the participation of ‘civil society’ has become part of the rhetoric in developmental circles, but the nature of that civil society and the object of that participation have been moulded by a specific interpretation of what it means to be a citizen. Today, civil society participation has come to mean NGO participation, and attempts to enable the participation of individual citizens, for example, in local governance is posing a major challenge.

India is one of the largest and oldest democracies in the world; this curriculum framework is built on an understanding of this foundation. Education defines the fabric of a nation, and has the capacity to provide each child a positive experience of democratic functioning. Like the texture, colour, strength, and nature of each thread that is woven into a tapestry, each Indian child can be enabled to not only participate in a democracy, but to also learn how to interact and form partnerships with others to preserve and enhance democracy. It is the quality and nature of the interrelationships among individuals that determines the socio-political fabric of our nation. However, children are often socialised in to discriminatory practices. Children and adults learn from what they experience at home, the community and the world around them. It is important to recognise that adults socialise children within the dominant socio-cultural paradigm. This paradigm would include the role models that children see the mass media including television. This experience conditions their perceptions of caste and class, gender, democracy and justice. These perceptions, if and when reinforced by repeated experiences of the same kind, are converted into values. At a community level, when a group of people have the same experience and therefore share the same values, these values get converted into culture, and sometimes even ideology. This is a spiral, and each time the cycle is repeated the values and culture get reinforced unless there is a variation in the experience. The counter - experience needs to be strong and real enough to transform the earlier perceptions. Children cannot wake up one fine morning when they are 18 and know how to participate in, preser ve and enhance a democr acy, especially if they have had no prior personal or even second - hand experience of it, nor any role models to learn from.

The participation of children is a means to a much larger end, that of preserving and adding a new vibrancy to our culture of egalitarianism, democracy, secularism and equality. These values can be best realised through an integrated and well-designed curriculum that enables children’s participation. The existing environment of unhealthy competition in schoolspromotes values that are the antithesis of the values enshrined in our Constitution. A positive ‘experience’ of democracy and democratic participation must be provided both within and outside the school. This experience must actively engage children and young people in ways that encourage values of inclusion, eventually leading the way to the realisation of the vision of a participatory democracy.

Enabling democratic participation is also a means of empowering the weak and the marginalised. If India is to realise her dream of a nation based on egalitarianism, democracy and secularism, where all her citizens enjoy justice, liberty, equality and fraternity, enabling the participation of children would be the most fundamental step in this process. Enabling learning through participation in the life of a community and the nation at large is crucial to the success of schooling. The failure to provide this will result in the failure of the system, and hence needs to be treated as the utmost priority. It is not only as essential as the teaching of mathematics and science, but takes on even greater importance as an indispensable component of all disciplines. It is a running theme, and has to be integrated into all learning processes and arenas, and given top priority in the development of all curricula and syllabi.

Children’s Rights

India has signed the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC). The three most important principles of this Convention are the rights to participation, to association or the right to organisation, and the right to information. These are essential rights if children and youth are to realise all their other rights. CRC does not concern itself only with the protection of children and the delivery or provision of services and programmes, but also ensures that children have the right to determine the quality and nature of these services and programmes. Moreover, all the articles of the CRC have to be seen within the overarching principle, that of upholding and preserving the best interests of children.

Although CRC guarantees children the right to express their views freely in all matters affecting them, and to exercise freedom of expression, children are frequently denied the opportunity to participate in decision-making processes and activities that effect their lives and futures. The right to participa tion also depends on the realisation of other primary rights such as access to information, the freedom of association, and the right to formulate opinions free from influence and coercion. The principle of participation should be integrated into all areas of concern for children.

In reality, social, political and economic str uctures are still very much hierarchical; children and youth are the most marginalised sections of society; their effective participation depends largely on the extent to which they are given the opportunity to organise themselves. Coming together gives them visibility, strength and a collective voice. The participation of individual, ‘hand-picked’ children or youth is fraught with discrimination, and is ineffective because such ‘representatives’ represent no one but themselves; it excludes the less vocal and less visible; and it gives more room for manipulation.

On the other hand, the organised participation of children and youth, especially the more disadvantaged children, gives children strength, access to more information, confidence, an identity and ownership. Individual children or youth representing such groups voice the views and aspirations of the collective. Their coming together also enables them to find collective ways to solve problems. However, what needs to be ensured is that all children and youth have an equal right to participate in the development of this collective voice.

Policy of Inclusion

A policy of inclusion needs to be implemented in all schools and throughout our education system. The participation of all children needs to be ensured in all spheres of their life in and outside the school. Schools need to become centres that prepare children for life and ensure that all children, especially the differently abled, children from marginalised sections, and children in difficult circumstances get the maximum benefit of this critical area of education. Opportunities to display talents and share these with peers are powerful tools in nur turing motivation and in volvement among children. In our schools we tend to select some children over and over again. While this small group benefits from these opportunities, becoming more self - confident and visible in the school, other children experience repeated disappointment and progress through school with a constant longing for recognition and peer approval. Excellence and ability may be singled out for appreciation, but at the same time opportunities need to be given to all children and their specific abilities need to be recognised and appreciated.
This includes children with disabilities, who may need assistance or more time to complete their assigned tasks. It would be even better if, while planning for such activities, the teacher discusses them with all the children in the class, and ensures that each child is given an opportunity to contribute. When planning, therefore, teachers must pay special attention to ensuring the participation of all. This would become a marker of their effectiveness as teachers.
Excessive emphasis on competitiveness and individual achievement is beginning to mark many of our schools, especially private schools catering to the urban middle classes. Very often, as soon as children join, houses are allocated to them. Thereafter, almost every activity in the school is counted for marks that go into house points, adding up to an end-of-the-year prize. Such ‘house loyalties’ seem to have the superficial effect of getting all children involved and excited about winning points for their houses, but also distorts educational aims, where excessive competitiveness promotes doing better than someone else as an aim, rather than excelling on one’s own terms and for the satisfaction of doing something well. Often placed under the monitoring eye of other children, this system distorts social relations within schools, adversely affecting peer relations and undermining values such as cooperation and sensitivity to others. Teachers need to reflect on the extent to which they want the spirit of competition to enter into and permeate every aspect of school life— performing more of a function in regulating and disciplining than in nurturing learning and interest.
Schools also undermine the diverse capabilities and talents of children by categorising them very early, on narrow cognitive criteria. Instead of relating to each child as an individual, early in their lives children are placed on cognitive berths in the classroom: the ‘stars’, the average, the below - average, and the ‘failures’. Most often they never have a chance to get off their berth by themselves. The demonising effect of such labelling is devastating on children. Schools go to absurd lengths to make children internalise these labels, through verbal name calling such as ‘dullard’, segregating them in seating arrangements, and even creating markers that visually divide children into achievers and those who are unable to perform. The fear of not having the right answer keeps many children silent in the classroom, thus denying them an equal opportunity to participate and learn. Equally paralysed by the fear of failure are the so- called achievers, who lose their capacity to try out new86
things arising from the fear of failure, doing less well in examinations, and of losing their ranks. It is important to allow making errors and mistakes to remain an integral part of the learning process and remove the fear of not achieving ‘full marks’. The school needs to send out a strong signal to the community, parents who pressurise children from an early age to be perfectionists. Instead of spending time in tuitions or at home learning the ‘perfect answers’, parents need to encourage their children to spend their time reading storybooks, playing and doing a reasonable amount of homework and revision. Instead of looking for courses on stress management for their pupils, school heads and school managements need to de-stress their curricula, and advise parents to de-stress children’s life outside the school.
Schools that emphasise intense competitiveness must not be treated as examples by others, including state-run schools. The ideal of common schooling advocated by the Kothari Commission four decades ago continues to be valid as it reflects the values enshrined in our Constitution. Schools will succeed in inculcating these values only if they create an ethos in which every child feels happy and relaxed. This ideal is even more relevant now because education has become a fundamental right, which implies that millions of first-generation learners are being enrolled in schools . To retain them, the system — including its private sector — must recognise that there are many children that no single norm of capacity, personality or aspiration can serve in the emerging scenario. School administrators and teachers should also realise that when boys and girls from different socio-economic and cultural backgrounds and different levels of ability study together, the classroom ethos is enriched and becomes more inspiring.

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DSSSB, CTET & KVS Exam Preparation | Clear CTET: Other Pedagogy Notes - Inclusive Education as Fundamental Right
Other Pedagogy Notes - Inclusive Education as Fundamental Right
DSSSB, CTET & KVS Exam Preparation | Clear CTET
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