19 July 2012

Crafts and arts in the school curriculum

This post is related to some extent to my post published on 1 July. This afternoon there was yet another nice TV programme on Podhigai channel (a Central Government channel beamed from Chennai studios). It was on cottage industries such as weaving and silk production. It was pleasant to see people of different religions working together.

When I was a school boy, I remember how we used to enjoy our weekly `weaving' periods. In those days, every school's timetable consisted of certain periods for Arts and Crafts in which children received training in local art and craft forms. Currently much talked about Private Public Partnership used to be silently functional on much healthier ground with values at its core in those days. Children enjoyed their spinning wheels and developed a respect for their parents' and other elders' occupations (In contrast to the present scenario where village based occupations have been pushed to take a backseat). 

Our K-12 schools are still expected by law, to include such arts and crafts in their curriculum (with a far wider choice than in those days). But the problem is that many schools don't implement it in practice because they think that academic subjects (particularly English, Mathematics and Computer Science) are far more important as these will help children to score `marks', obtain `ranks' in largely memory testing Grade 12 Board Exams and thereby help them get into any University in India (or in countries such as USA, UK or Australia with the only aim of settling down). 

As any seasoned education professional would agree, today there is an obvious deviation from pedagogic aims of providing quality education at the K-12 level in India.

We can easily find from our newspapers or by visiting K-12 schools that arts and crafts are taught in general outside school working hours or on weekends and parents are charged extra fees for such programmes. Of course there are K-12 schools which do impart arts and crats education well within their curriculum, but their proportion is small. 

NCERT, CBSE and State Boards of Education need to revamp the manner in which they view these issues and make their documents more practical so that our children get quality education in every sense of the term.  Most importantly, there should be an effective watchdog mechanism to monitor as to whether schools function as well meaning catalysts of socio-economic change.

I remember having a read a book written by a western writer on this issue which is global, not confined to India. The author says that the ingenuity of the village artisan in India is superior than what the textbooks seem to be delivering in classrooms. Probably the author is very right. I think that this applies to all cultures in the world today.

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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.