04 July 2010

Knowledge, Skills and Values: Core Components of Curriculum

Everyday, a young boy, about 12 years of age, delivers my morning newspaper. He comes without much fuzz, places the paper at the gate, and bicycles away. When we look at him, he casts a pleasant smile. This morning, when I paid the monthly bill, he gave me the receipt. The receipt contained the newspaper agent’s name and his phone number as well, in very neat handwriting, which is a rarity, in `fast’ cities such as Chennai. I admire his pleasant manners and dedication to work. He had written in good English, which meant that he is studying in some school.  I wish that he comes up in life in flying colours, thanks to the newly introduced Right To Education Act, which I hope is implemented fully and justly all over the country.

This morning's incident took me down my memory lane to the year 2005.  We had some carpentry work going on in the school where I was working. As I walked along the corridor in front of the biology lab, during morning teabreak, I came across a teenager cutting a piece of wood with a chisel. As he was doing his work, he was singing a well-meaning Tamil song with a lot of happiness gleaming through his eyes. As I went near him, he politely stood up. I patted him on the shoulder, and told him as to how I liked his dedication to work and respect to elders.  I added that there was no need for him to stand up. Immediately, he told me that he was taught to give respect to elders, by his parents. Later that morning, I came to know from someone that he never attended school.  That very afternoon, my colleague, who was handling "Guidance and Counseling" to students, was happy to organise a meeting, in which the boy could explain as to why he liked his job that much, to our Grade 11 students.  It was a very informal sharing of ideas.  (I had always liked inviting people from wide range of occupational backgrounds to deliver lectures, present their success stories and enable my students get their doubts clarified). At the end of the informal interaction, we came to know from our students that they learnt a very important principle: dedication to work.  I wish RTEA paves way for quality education to this boy in some alternative schooling system, so that his financial support to his family would not cease. 

Two years back, I was attending a group discussion in which there was a young girl, in her early ‘20s. The venue was the conference hall of a large university in New Delhi. When the discussion was at its peak, the girl, politely moved out. Within seconds, she got completely engaged in rescuing a stray dog that entered the compound, from the security guards. When the organisors of the GD told her that she might loose the benefits of taking part in the GD if she didn’t return, she replied, “No problem, I prefer to be outside the GD and do something more important”.  I respect her standing for principles.

When we were young, mothers used to teach values to children by setting themselves as examples.  We used to have moral education periods in the school curriculum. Even today, all Syllabus Boards require schools to allot a minimum number of periods per week, for value education. But unfortunately, many schools don’t follow the guideline, and replace these periods by English or Mathematics. Parents too seem to endorse the trend.

School inspection authorities should visit schools without giving any advance notice, take time (at least a week) to observe what happens in schools, give them a transparent and candid feedback with guidelines to improve and ensure that the guidelines are followed in a consistent manner.  

I think that it is a moral obligation on the part of schools to impart not only education that empowers children with practical knowledge and employable skills but also value based attitudes so that they can be happy and make others in the community happy.

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About Me

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Chennai, Tamilnadu, India
I am a retired K-12 Education Management Professional. I have worked at different levels in K-12 school systems, textbook publishing, elearning and Education NGOs. I have held memberships in The Association for Science Education (UK), American Association of Physics Teachers and The Malaysian Institute of Physics. I hold a 1st class B Sc Degree in Physics followed by B Ed [English and Physical Science] and M A [Childcare and Education] degrees. My published works include 59 articles in teacher development magazines in India and the US and a book entitled `Creative Classrooms and Child Friendly Schools' (listed in Amazon). This book is almost an anecdotal account of my professional experience in six countries (including Cambodia where I worked as Technical Adviser to the Ministry of Education, Youth And Sports). I served as mentor in the Certificate of Teaching Mastery Program offered by Teachers Without Borders.