IntroductionBy its definition, innovation always means seeking to do new and different things. This always means breaking the status quo. Dotted throughout the country are rural schools, some even up to the plus two-stage, that teach through the mother tongue. For purely economic reasons, the children of the poor study in such schools are characterized by demotivated students and teachers, lack of even basic infrastructure, lack of basic minimum exposure, and lack of parental involvement. It is not that the parents are not interested. In a State where Social Justice is the very foundation of economic development such as Tamil Nadu, almost every single rural area parent would love to see their children speak good English and become a graduate. However, when even their day-to-day survival is a challenge, they do not know the means to get there. They lack resources and they always lack support. It is in this context that innovation makes a big difference.
In the main, Innovation in teaching in rural schools, throughout India, should involve and include a) The three concentric circles concept b) Knowledge beyond three concentric circles c) Community support for urban-rural interaction of schools d) Involving all stake-holders for creative suggestions and e) Seeking Corporate support for improving rural school infrastructure.
The Three Concentric circles concept The three concentric circles concept would mean knowledge acquisition and awareness about one's State, the Nation that is India, and the Wider World in the third concentric circles. There is a lot of inter-dependent knowledge that becomes relevant and this will cut across all the three circles. Such knowledge should also be taught systematically. For instance, every rural student should know about industries, their nature, their importance, agriculture in their district and the other parts of the State, and so on. Only such knowledge will enable rural students to be relevant in modern times. However, as a rule, the State Government syllabus will not necessarily cover such aspects and it is here that the teachers need to chip in. For example, most rural students in Tamil Nadu, even when they study in the plus two levels in Tamil Nadu, may not know that there is an organization called Neyveli Lignite Corporation in a place called Neyveli near Cuddalore. The next natural question is to understand what is meant by thermal power and the environmental issues associated with thermal power. Naturally, there is Solar power and wind power as well, in Tamil Nadu. Even an eighth standard child should know all this information. Such knowledge becomes extremely important in the first concentric circle.
Quite apart from such knowledge that will pertain to his or her State, the practical knowledge of the immediate neighbourhood, extending to a thirty kilometres radius is also important. For example, the organic food revolution and the use of organic fertilizers are now increasing day after day. All suck knowledge is important as well.
Knowledge beyond three concentric circlesTake imports from China or the presence of Chinese goods in literally everything we use today. This is not knowledge that is specific to the three concentric circles. For example, any ninth standard student should be able to understand how an Indian company such as ITC is present in the rural areas with its biscuit brand called Bingo. They should also understand what is meant by competition in the rural market, what is the role of multinationals and so on. For example, it is common to find Coca Cola and the local brand called Bovonto in the same shop. Am an ordinary photo taken from the shop can help illustrate the difference. This sort of understanding as to what happens around him or she can be very useful for learning and knowledge acquisition beyond the three concentric circles. Normally, such knowledge will touch all the three concentric circles.
It is in this kind of an overall context that the student should know far beyond the three concentric circles. The knowledge that comes from the intersection of the three circles will greatly enhance the self-confidence of the rural student.
Community support for urban-rural interaction of studentsWhen the rural area students rub shoulders with their urban counterparts, their exposure will increase; the socialization process could lead to far better outcomes in terms of knowledge and sharing of cultural practices and so on. For example, if there are cultural functions involving students from three rural schools and three urban area schools from the biggest city of the district or even surrounding district, the socialization opportunity will itself lead to far better self-confidence and bigger empathy of the urban area students.
Involving all stake-holders for creative suggestionsThis is another important aspect. There are various stake-holders like the local Panchayat President, the MLA, the parents, influential members of the local area, philanthropists, and so on. Their suggestions and ideas will impact each of the innovative steps discussed above and also any other aspect of innovation that may come up for discussion. One of these will pertain to the extensive and comprehensive use of Information Technology, using the knowledge that is now available on tap, in every Indian language, including Hindi.
The facilities for imparting such knowledge is rather limited in the rural areas and there need to be far better opportunities for both training on basics of computer operation and knowledge of basic IT skills. For example, if the rural students of the seventh standard can learn MSword and MS Excel, that will do them a world of good. They will be motivated to look far ahead in life and also aspire to not only study well but also be hard working to achieve far greater success in whatever they do. The scope of such innovation is huge and all that needs to be done is to put in place an infrastructure that addresses the exact requirements in any given situation.
Seeking Corporate Support for improving rural school infrastructureIf Google can be convinced to provide free WiFi facilities in so many Indian Railway Stations, the same Google that has a substantial presence in India, and the likes of Apple Computers can be approached to lend their help in building rural Infrastructure and vastly improve it. A massive spoken English initiative should be launched with Corporate support. This will enable the students to develop self-confidence and also become as competitive as their urban counterparts.
Similarly, students need a lot of support in terms of desktop computers. Once this infrastructure improves, the rural area students will and can develop the skills to store data in pen drives and emails. This is the sort of learning that is urgently needed. There are plenty of videos on YouTube in various Indian languages. These videos do explain most of what is needed in terms of knowledge. This kind of learning through local languages can go a long way in introducing many innovations in teaching in rural schools. There have been quite a large number of good schools where the Government teachers have gone all out of the way to develop many such schools and also seek community and even Corporate support. Many of such success stories can go a long way in making the rural schools and the poor students who study in such schools, stay relevant and also become as competitive as possible in the modern-day context. All that is needed is a massive number of initiatives that need to be Kickstarter and then taken to their logical conclusion in several ways.
The scope for innovation is very high. There are several thousands of people who are ready to help and they can also support Corporate initiatives. The role of significant elders in the local community is always high and they should be part of the change process. The basic template can and should be the learning through and by a focus on the three concentric circles discussed above.
ConclusionIt is extremely important to bridge the urban-rural divide in education. It is the rural schools that should be the focus of every development. The more we have focused efforts in this direction, the better. The three concentric circles concept discussed above can and will be useful for any innovation. Of course, much of such innovation is also situation-specific and context-specific. When the process of innovation starts in specific pockets, the focus of all efforts can be fine-tuned to make the entire exercise meaningful in terms of results. The time to act is now.
A good article from the author. In rural areas also these days we are seeing some good private institutions are opening their branches. The rural rich we can afford the fees and other expenditures are sending their children to such schools. But many people who can't afford this expenditure are sending their children to government schools only. The government schools are having qualified teachers. But there is no commitment from them. So they never try their best to educate the child in a proper way. As long as this change will not come in the teachers it will be a herculean task to provide good facilities to the children. Moreover, the government is paying more importance to social welfare programmes in schools like Mid-day meals, free supply of books and other related activities.
Corporates should adopt at least 2 or 3 rural schools in their area and see that the schools are equipped with all the facilities what a good school in an urban school. Then we can see a good chance. Each school should have a committee which will oversee the performance of the school and necessary inputs can be given. As mentioned by the author important people from that are can be the members in that.