A Brainstorming Session on Minority Education
Educationists, academicians and intellectuals review and assess various initiatives for promoting modern education for religious minorities.
By A Staff Writer
The Centre for Study of Social Exclusion and Inclusive Policy (CSSEIP) at the National Law School of India University (NLSIU), Bengaluru, held a one-day seminar on “Strategies for Improving Quality of Education in the Minority Educational Institutions” on September 18, 2018. The Seminar was meant to look at the quality of education in minority community educational institutions being run by the Government of Karnataka as well as review measures initiated by the Department of Minorities Welfare.
Take a cue from Sikh and Christian Model
The Muslim community accounts for 72% of the total population of minorities. According to the 2011 Census, they constitute a sizeable 14.2% of the population. Despite their numerical strength, they are the most backward among all minorities.
There are two models for empowerment of a minority community, i.e., Sikhs and Christianity. The Sikhs of Punjab first made themselves economically strong by industrializing their areas and later established technical institutions to educate their own community to advance their economic interests. Due to this strategy, Sikhs now have a substantial number of skilled labourers, businessmen, and industrialists all over India who can take up the cause of the community.
The Christian community has been occupying a higher status in education, much better than any other minority community. They therefore have better representation in the decision-making bodies and administration. They run some of the best-managed educational institutions which turn out well-rounded intellectuals.
Studies reveal that Muslim representation gets reduced progressively in secondary and tertiary stages, though the enrollment at primary stage is on par with other general population. Early marriage of girls and large families contribute to discontinuance of education in the early stages itself. Laxity in inspection, supervision and monitoring of the Urdu schools by the officials of the Education Department results in low quality of education. Finally, lack of awareness of education being a tool of empowerment among Muslims themselves has been a major cause responsible for their low status in education. There seems to be a sense of contentment with little education and small income.
Following the presentation of the Sachar Report, the Union Government has implemented several schemes, such as 1. A total of 15% outlay under the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan for the Minority Concentration Districts (92 of them across India); 2. Scheme for Providing Quality Education in Madrasas (SPQEM); 3. The Scheme of Infrastructure Development in Minority Institutions (IDMI); 4. Jawahar Navovidyalaya Scheme; 5. Setting up of Girls Hostels, Model Schools under the Rashtriya Madhyamik Shiksha Abhiyan; 6. Jan Shikshan Sansthan (JSS); 6- Establishment of Model Degree Colleges; 7. Womens’ Hostels and Polytechnics in minority concentration districts, 8. Setting up Block Institutes of Teachers’ Education; 9. Appointment of Languages Teachers; 10. Providing modern education in madrasas under the National Institute of Open Schooling (NIOS) and easing of norms for affiliation of educational institutions set up and run by the minorities.
In a reply to a question in the Lok Sabha in 2015 the Union Minister for Human Resource Development said the following schemes were initiated for minority communities in the Central Universities implemented by the University Grants Commission during the last two Plan periods: 1-Centre for Professional Development of Urdu Medium Teachers in three central universities; 2- Establishment of Residential Coaching Academy for Minorities, SCs, STs and Women in four Central Universities and one in a Deemed University; 3- Establishment of Satellite Campus for UG, PG programmes in Arabic and Persian; 4- Establishment of two campuses of Aligarh Muslim University (in Kishanganj in Bihar and Malappuram in Kerala); 5. Introduction of the scheme of Maulana Azad National Fellowship for minority students funded by Ministry of Minority Affairs, Government of India.
In view of the above initiatives, some recommendations could be made to upgrade quality in education of minorities (chiefly Muslims):
While Urdu could serve as medium of instructions at primary stage, English teaching should be given impetus, particularly at the secondary school stage in order that when the child leaves the school, he or she is in a position to continue further studies without much difficulty.
Pedagogy in madrasas should be modernized. The curriculum should include natural sciences and social sciences together with English and local languages in order to facilitate their integration with the larger society.
Appropriate online courses should be developed on vocational education for the benefit of girl children who are compelled to stay at home for reasons beyond their control so that they can also be usefully educated and employed. These courses should be open to all students who have dropped out of the school.
Teaching should be made child-centred. Understanding the correct concept of child development is totally lacking among the teachers whose commitment is only to teach in the traditional way, with the stick. Hence emphasis must be laid on training of teachers in modern pedagogy. NGOs like Akshara Foundation, Bengaluru have developed several programmes which are comprehensive, scalable and replicable such as Ganitha Kalika Andolana which has been implemented in Hosakote, Kustagi and Mundargi block with a goal to address the learning outcomes related to Mathematical competencies covering around 12,000 govt schools. The programme included four key components, viz, the Maths Kit, capacity building of teachers, SMS- supported monitoring mechanism and the technology based assessments.
Low quality, Low Attainment is Bane of Muslim Education
There is high incidence of dropout among Muslim children. For children above the age of 17 years, the educational attainment of Muslim at matriculation is 17%, as against national average at 26%. Only 50% of Muslims who complete middle school are likely to complete secondary education compared to 62%at national level (ref. Sachar Committee Report). The reasons for dropping out include disenchantment with school, lack of support at home, negative experiences and having to repeat years because of poor performance. It must be checked at all cost.
One way of preventing dropout is to identify at-risk students early and take early action. This would require monitoring information on attendance, performance and involvement in school activities and having a concrete response to improve outcomes and prevent dropout.
Offering at-risk students good career guidance and counseling, as well as making the curriculum more flexible and diverse will be helpful.
A multilingual society recognizes the importance of education in languages. Learning through the mother-tongue, at least in the early stages of schooling, is also advocated. But, with regard to Urdu medium schools, as there is no availability of secondary or tertiary education in Urdu medium, the children drop out. Therefore, Muslim minority students should be allowed to take general education in either regional language medium or English medium as there is a general perception that children learning through English medium have advantage over others while entering the world of work.
Teachers need to take cognizance of social differences among students. A minority student can be easily marginalized or bullied for being different. The teachers should learn about different cultural practices by actively attending cultural competence workshops. They must learn about the religious disparities and should never make assumptions regarding a student’s background, and, if possible, they should try to become allies with their school’s minority parents.
Teachers should teach in a way that incorporates cultural diversity. To cater to minority students, one should use as many learning styles as possible. They may include logical-mathematical, linguistic, musical, spatial, bodily kinaesthetic, interpersonal, naturalistic, and even intrapersonal. Overall, the teachers should attempt to create an environment of acceptance for their minority students.
Developing competency in English Speaking, Writing
The Directorate of Minority Welfare of the Government of Karnataka has very appropriately adopted English as the medium of instruction for Minority Morarji Desai Residential Schools (MMDRS), which impart education from 6th standard onward. It has come as a boon as English happens to be the language of the labour market and its knowledge widens the employment market for them not only within India and even abroad.
There is a need to train these students both in English speaking and English writing skills of a higher order. I suggest that teachers should interact with children in English and encourage the children to speak each other in English, both in the classroom as well as outside.
Doctoral Education: The Directorate is funding several Ph.D. scholars in several state universities. I have noticed a deficit in that these scholars have not been trained as to how a research problem should be identified, research questions and objectives be formulated, and topic-related methodology be evolved. The Directorate couldask the scholar to present his research proposal and seek comments and suggestion from the experts assembled in a seminar like course.
MMDRS Schools should boost spoken English
M. A. Siraj
The Directorate of Minority Welfare has set up 98 Minority Morarji Desai Residential Schools in recent years while five Govt Muslim Residential Schools were set up 23 years ago. These admit children in 6th standard and provide English-medium instruction till 10th standard SSLC exam. Each class has a strength of 50, with boys and girls being in equal numbers. Seventy five per cent students belong to minorities, while others are taken from other communities. A study of these schools through personal visits and interactions with their heads over phone and in person reveals that they have excellent infrastructure and arrangements for lodging and board. Generally, all schools were producing over 90% passes in SSLC exam with large number of first classes even with distinction. Best scores were reported in Kannada, while generally those who failed or scored less marks did so in Mathematics and Science. Generally, there were no vacancies as all schools were reporting 10 teachers plus a headmaster and a warden. But since one teacher would be invariably on leave, there was shortfall of one teacher. There is a need for a gynaecologist to visit girl students at regular intervals, although some schools had a female nurse paid through additional funds. The schools in northern Karnataka generally had more than 50% girls, while the ones in southern Karnataka had more boys. Similarly, the Muslim children were less than the required proportion in schools of Old Mysore state districts.
The teaching of Mathematics and Science needs to be boosted. Children need to be trained in spoken English. The children mainly prefer BE or B.Com courses as future careers. They need to be made aware of courses in Agriculture, Defence, Pharmacy, Nursing, Journalism, Law, Designing and need to be trained to compete for exams like IIT-JEE, NET, National Defence Academy, IISER, NISER in order to diversify he professional profile of the minority community.
“Seeing is believing”. Since most students come from rural areas, they need to be exposed to modern gadgets, appliances, themes and ideas. Language labs could be set up to develop competency in English and Kannada. There is a need to frame a format for evaluation and assessment of the learning outcome of these schools.
Learning by Experience is Most Effective
Ex VC, Karnatak University, Dharwad
Quality in education is difficult to define or measure. Learning outcomes need not limit to themselves to cognitive factors such as academic achievement level. Learning outcomes may include psychomotor and effective components as well such as skills, attitudes, values, creativity, emotions, aspirations etc. Learning outcomes might be perceived in relation to problems that are confronted in their societies, eg., in Africa for many children the quality of education should include knowledge of HIV/AIDS and the ways of protecting them from such diseases.
Education is not merely transmission of information from teacher to the learner. Pedagogy should be child-centred. Children learn only in an atmosphere where they are valued. Our schools do not convey this to all children. The association of learning with fear, discipline and stress rather than enjoyment and satisfaction is detrimental to learning. A learner subjected to fear, intimidation and compulsion resists learning. Hands-on experience goes a long way in making learning more effective. John Dewey once said: ‘An ounce of experience is better than a ton of theory simply because it is only in experience that any theory has vital and verifiable significance’. Piaget’s psychology encourages the child to construct knowledge by themselves. If a child approaches the teacher with a question, the Piagetian teacher would encourage the child to try it out, instead of giving an answer as ‘Yes’ or ‘No’.