In addition to pioneering the Appropriate Education Programme in schools, CWC advocates across India for democratic, child-centred education. We have contributed to most significant consultations on education policy and our senior team members are considered important experts in the field.
National Curriculum Framework
CWC’s founder, Nandana Reddy, is a member of the monitoring committee of the National Council of Education Research and Training, and played an extensive role in the development of the latest National Curriculum Framework in 2005.
Work and Education
In her submission ‘Work and Education’, Nandana argued that schools must acknowledge the educational value of work.
Through work one learns to find one’s place in society. It is an educational activity with inherent potential for inclusion. Therefore an experience of involvement in productive work in an educational setting should make one appreciate the worth of social life and what is valued and appreciated in society…
The school curriculum from the pre-primary to senior secondary stage should be reconstructed to realise the pedagogic potential of work in knowledge acquisition, developing values and multiple-skill formation. As the child matures, there is a need for the curriculum to recognise the child’s need to be prepared for the world of work and a work-centred pedagogy can be pursued with increasing complexity but always enriched with the required flexibility and contextuality. A set of work-related generic competencies (basic, inter-personal and systemic) could be pursued at all stages of education. This includes critical thinking, transfer of learning, creativity, communication skills, aesthetics, work motivation, work ethic of collaborative functioning and entrepreneurship-cum-social accountability…
At present the education system does not address these needs and neither does the job market. This leads to frustration, disappointment and rebellion among adolescents. They begin to feel, quite rightly, that the state does not take cognisance of their needs and that there are no structures and programmes that address these issues.
Nandana’s testimony was reflected in the final NCF document, which acknowledged that “work transforms knowledge into experience and generates important personal and social values, such as self-reliance, creativity and cooperation.” The framework recognizes the importance of livelihood-based education and calls for a new national system for vocational education and training. Read the National Curriculum Framework.
In her submission on ‘participation’, Nandana argues that education in a democratic society must allow children the chance to contribute their opinions.
Children cannot wake up one fine morning when they are 18 and know how to participate in, preserve and enhance a democracy, 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 therefore 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; and it is through an integrated and well designed curriculum that enables children’s participation that these values can be best realised.
The existing environment of unhealthy competition in schools promotes values that are the antithesis of the values enshrined in our constitution. Therefore a positive ‘experience’ of democracy and democratic participation needs to be provided both within and outside the school, that actively engages children and young people in a way that encourages values of inclusion and recognition that leads the way to the realisation of the vision of a participatory democracy…
Children and adolescents are critical observers of their own condition and should be participants in decisions concerning themselves and their lives. These young people need to participate in finding solutions to the problems they face. They need to relate to society in an organised way, feel adult, and yet feel the protection and security needed by children. They should be encouraged to reason independently and have the courage to dissent. Use of conflict and crisis management as a pedagogic strategy to enable children to deal with difficult situations should be built into the process.
They should have the room to critique the methods used to impart information, the content of the text books and also address other constraints they may face in terms of access, quality, infrastructure and the economic and social conditions of their families and communities. This practical experience of participatory democracy (learning through doing) is essential for the molding of the ‘new citizen’. Only then will children truly accept the values and believe in democracy.
Critical to the realization of this would be the formation of Organisations or Unions of children that are autonomous from the teachers and management of the school.
Again, the NCF extensively reflected CWC’s input, acknowledging the need for “an integrated and well-designed curriculum that enables children’s participation” and calling for children to have a means to contribute to the development of school rules.
Twelth Five-Year plan: sub-group on adolescent education
CWC director Kavita Ratna is a member of the National Planning Commission’s sub-committee on adolescent education. She successfully argued for the Twelth Five-Year Plan to respond to the needs of out-of-school children.
Kavita argued that:
The ‘Right to Education Act’ and the ‘National Child Policy’, do not adequately respond to the needs and aspirations of Adolescents who are out of school. This group includes children and adolescents who are working, who combine work with education, who are migrants and who are in Juvenile justice institutions.
With regard to working children:
The present strategy of removing a adolescents child from work and putting them into an education institution has not worked because the social problems that pushed them into the labour market have not changed and remain a driving force both for the family and the young person.
Education needs to serve several purposes. Education can serve as one aspect of the alternative for an adolescent when s/he is released from labour only if the education so provided serves their needs and aspirations. Teachers need to be sensitised and equipped to address the needs of ex-child workers who are entering school for the first time… Special education should be provided to former working children – so that they can learn with ease and see the relevance of the class room transactions to real life.
Vocational education should be made available as part of all schooling. General (formal) education must be made flexible and thereby available to working adolescents.
And with regard to children involved in the juvenile justice system:
Every juvenile of compulsory school age has the right to education suited to his or her needs and abilities and designed to prepare him or her for return to society. Such education should be provided outside the detention facility in community schools wherever possible and, in any case, by qualified teachers through programmes integrated with the education system of the country so that, after release, juveniles may continue their education without difficulty.
Special attention should be given by the administration of the detention facilities to the education of juveniles of foreign origin or with particular cultural or ethnic needs. Juveniles who are illiterate or have cognitive or learning difficulties should have the right to special education’.
The concerned State Department of Education should held the responsible for the protection of the right to education of all children in need of care and protection and all juveniles in conflict with law in the JJ system, including children with disability. They should work in close co-ordination with the concerned Department of Women and Child Development, voluntary organizations, independent experts and academic institutions to develop customised educational programmes such as Bridge Courses, and Life Skill Education programmes, geared towards enabling such children and juveniles to be mainstreamed into neighbourhood schools.
Following CWC’s contribution, the sub-committee on adolescent education is expected to include recommendations concerning both out-of-school adolescents and those in the juvenile justice system. Other sub-committees dealing with young people are also expected to address the needs of children in the juvenile justice system as a result of Kavita’s input.
Parliamentary Committee on Sex Education
The National Curriculum Framework of NCERT, announced in 2005, recommended the introduction of sex education in schools. The Government of India set up a committee to review the proposal. CWC, which had been carrying out a two-year public education programme on gender and sexuality, provided testimony to the committee in support of the introduction of sex education.
CWC worked with a core group of 30 adolescents and young people, female and male, over a period of 2 years, facilitating them to develop a tool kit on their sexual and reproductive rights. This was a process oriented intensive work both for the participants and the facilitators. The outcome of the project were that participants were thoroughly informed on the subject, they acquired personal growth and maturity, handbook and materials were prepared and field-tested by them. During and subsequent to the project, the adolescents and young people disseminated information with their peers and the larger community, such as the women, school teachers, the Gram Panchayat, etc. As part of the project, they developed very simple but successful strategies to deal with child marriage, female foeticide, discrimination against PLHAs, gender violence, sexual harassment and abuse, problems related to adolescent growth and maturity, etc.
Making available information to adolescents and youth is also critical to protect them infections. India is the most HIV infected nation, after South Africa. We are not far from the situation of Sub-Saharan Africa, where a generation of productive population is wiped out. Over 50% of all new infections in India take place among young adults below 25 years. Recent studies indicate that adolescents in all socio-economic groups in India are vulnerable to infection.