1. Hmm… RTE good in principle only; kids cliquish and will be that way, and because the “underprivileged” will never uplift/integrate, it is better – and I prefer – that they study separately elsewhere?
    My two cents:
    (a) Kids are cliquish. But kids are also remarkably aware of each other. The old days, when information was accessible only to the privileged few, are gone. The underprivileged third grader, though he lives in a slum, is more aware of Britney Spears or California wine than we think. Also, what happens when the prim and propah private school finds that the underprivileged kid is the one who runs the fastest or draws beautifully or sings rings around the others? My money is on the fact that your kid will probably love to show off her new friend when his picture – with his shiny track medal or art award – is printed in the paper. “Meet X, our own Picasso”. (Not talking out of my backside; I went to convent too, and Lord knows that Amole, the guy who lived in the Wadala slum, could never be outrun.)
    (b) I would venture to guess that what’s needed is the right steps for the (private) schools to deal with this new demographics. Right steps are to hire counselors and such to help the newcomers cope with the new world and help the existing lot integrate as they should. “Integrate” to me is a comprehensive program of learning, sharing experiences (student2student counseling) and extra-curricular activities. If the private school must raise fees for this additional help then I, for one, would not mind paying it. After all, if my kids have to work with the 3 billion emerging-out-of-poverty lot in their time, it’s fair tuition for them to learn something of it. Money well spent.
    (c) This *will* disrupt the school. So dig it. Make the most of it. The 75% have to work with the new 25% and complete a workshop about life outside their urban apartment-cubicle. The curriculum will have to evolve: new subjects/assignments that focus on learning from each other as much as learning from a textbook (sort of a co-Montessori thing); new activities that take kids outside school walls; and new programs that focus on, say, “Eagle scout”-like projects to be worked in the underprivileged community.

    These ideas are hardly new. (Gandhi wrote something like this to guide students to work better with each other.) Ultimately we can only hope that the RTE act achieves its real goal – education (in the academic and the social-integration dimension). If we get this done, then India wins. Otherwise we will have the bloody mutiny of 400 million underprivileged forcing their way into “private” society.

    (the ballad of) R 🙂


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