The People to People Delegation at the Taj Mahal, one of the seven wonders of the world.
Updated Aug. 15
India's Youth Upbeat, Yet Troubled About Corruption
Today is Independence Day in India. The nation celebrates 64 years of independence from British rule. A survey conducted by the Times of India found "urban youth mostly upbeat about their own futures as well as the future of the country. They, however, identified corruption as a serious concern, a bigger threat than even terrorism."
Much of the political turmoil facing the current government focuses on the entrenched corruption that seems to be part of the culture. One of the Indians I had the pleasure of meeting shared with me, as an example of how casual corruption is here, that when stopped by a police officer for an infraction here, you pull out your wallet and hand the officer some rupees (the Indian currency) instead of your license.
'India of Future Resides in Young Minds'
As India struggles to reduce its poverty rate, many here realize that educating the masses will be of equal importance. A full page ad taken in today's paper advises that the "India of the future resides in young minds. The nation pledges to rejuvenate the education system to realize its destiny."
Setting Their Sights on Universal Education
They have their work cut out for them. With a 50% drop out rate and government (public) schools that are significantly inferior to the private schools attended by the upper classes, it will take much political will and resources to realize the dream. As we have witnessed in so many of the foreign countries we have visited, many aspire to the universal education of its populace, but few have achieved it to the level we have in the United States. It's too bad that so many Americans fail to appreciate the overall quality of our public schools.
Delma Josephson, Superintendent of the Diocese of Worcester Schools,
chatting with technology students in the Subodh School.
Updated Aug. 12
From Humble Beginnings, School Now Pride of Jaipur
Bela Joshi has been the principal of the Subodh School in Jaipur, India, for twenty-seven years. When she started the school was little more than a shack with a few students. The shack has grown into a formidable structure that now houses 3,500 students, K-12. Within the campus of the Subodh School is also a pre-school center and a college, providing students with the opportunity to go from pre-school at age two and a half through a college diploma without ever having to leave the same campus.
Private Schools Follow National Curriculum
Subodh, like many of the best schools in India, is a private school. However, unlike private schools in America, the private schools in India are required to follow the national curriculum and their teachers have to be paid according to the salary schedule established by the National Ministry of Education. Once Indian students reach the equivalent of our high school level, they have to select one of three tracks: Science, Commerce or Humanities. The private school students are also subject to the national examinations administered at the end of the tenth and twelfth grades.
Students Eager to Learn About American Schools
Delta Josephson, Superintendent for the Worcester, MA, Diocesan Schools, was impressed by how Subodh principal Bela Joshi structured our visit. After welcoming us to the campus, members of the faculty and students took us on a tour of the school. After the tour, each of us sat flanked by a faculty member and a student. We were free to ask all the questions we wanted about the school. But after our questions were answered, the students then grilled us about education in America.
"I thought it was wonderful how both students and staff became an integral part of our visit. It shows me how much Principal Joshi values the involvement of her faculty and students."
Good leaders, good teachers, good schools. You can't have one without the other.
PTP Delegates and former superintendents, Martin Brooks and Judith Johnson,
discussing Jaipur, the next stop on the itinerary.
Updated Aug. 11
India's Education Challenge: Human Capital
You think we have a teacher shortage? Within the next five years India will need one million more teachers to deal with their increasing pupil population. At a briefing in the US embassy we learned that there are 200 million students just in the 6-14 age group, the compulsory education age. Only 17% finish high school and 11% go on to higher education. Forty-four percent of fifth graders read at a second grade level, consequently, early grade reading has become a priority. A major part of the problem is low teacher quality. Government schools require only two years of college to teach at the K-8 level. It is not surprising to realize that India's literacy rate is 66%, compared to China at 93% and the US at 99%.
Aiming for Univeral Education
After a briefing with the Indian Ministry of Education, former AASA Executive Committee member Judith Johnson was impressed by India's recent passage of the "Every Child is Entitled to an Education" law. At the same time, she has become aware of the problems India will face in implementing the law, given their lack of human capacity (current low teacher quality and teacher shortage), and physical capacity as in lack of space and facilities.
Local Testing Favored Over National
Marty Brooks, former superintendent and currently director of the Tri-State Consortium of school districts in the New York/New Jersey/Connecticut area, is impressed with the recent Education Ministry decision to abandon nationally administered standard assessments in favor of teacher constructed assessments and grades. He sees a lesson here for our own education system in the US.
We're headed for Jaipur where we will visit more schools and meet with education officials tomorrow.
Deepalaya's children delight Dr. Evelyn Holman during People to People's delegation visit to India.
Updated Aug.10, 2011
From Slums of Delhi to Embassy Row
Yesterday we visited the Deepalaya school serving the children in the slums of Delhi with a student/teacher ratio of 40:1. Today we are at the Sanskriti school, admittedly one of the best schools in India, serving the children of the diplomats and the wealthy with a student/teacher ratio of 12:1. Whereas only 12% of Deepalaya's children go on to higher education, 100% of the Sanskriti children do. India is a country of haves and have nots, with no apparent in between.
The second most populous country in the world, with nearly 1.2 billion people, has placed education high on it's national priority list. A posh school like Sanskriti has allotted 20% of its seats to educate the impoverished children that live in the slums that can be seen just on the other side of the wall that surrounds the school complex. Poverty can be seen everywhere in India, even in the rich real estate of embassy row. The American embassy is just a few blocks away.
Bay Shore, New York, superintendent Dr. Evelyn Holman comments: "children light our hearts, our hopes and our future in Deepalaya and Sanskriti as they do in Bay Shore. What a wonderful experience those of us that are part of this delegation are having, visiting the Indian educational system."
Dan Domenech with students from the Deepalaya school in Delhi, India
Updated Aug. 9, 2011
Teachers, Rock Stars in Delhi
The children are reaching out to touch me. They want to shake my hand. Back home such attention is reserved for rock stars, not educators. But here in the slums of Delhi, teachers are rock stars. Deepalaya, meaning "house of lights", is a non-profit organization that supports the overall development of poor children living in the slums of India.
Our People to People delegation is visiting the school and the 600 children in attendance are delighted to see us. It's very hot here with high temperatures and humidity in the middle of Monsoon season. The school has no air conditioning but the 40 children in each classroom are happy to be in school.
The teachers get paid the equivalent of $200 per month, but they are devoted to their kids. The American educators in the group think of their districts back home and the economic recession that has plagued us for the last three years just does not seem that bad. Even in the worst of times, we're so fortunate to have what we have!