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Indian School Education: An Assessment

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By Rahul Singh:

Last month, a 13 year old student from Long Island, USA used the Fibonacci sequence to devise a more efficient way to collect solar energy, earning himself a provisional U.S. patent. The sequence — for those of you unfamiliar with the term- is a series of numbers where each number is equal to the sum of its two predecessors, and is bizarrely manifested widely in nature in the form of patterns.

Back to the main issue, are we sure our school levels are capable of such level of thinking processes never mind actually doing something like this? The answer would inadvertently be a “NO”. But do not think from this short prelude that this is another article heavily criticizing the Indian education system. It is not. Actually I feel we have a very good school level education system. It focuses very heavily on being good at mathematics (which easily makes us superior to our US counterparts in this field), science, basic grammar of languages and to an extent history and geography. The competitive nature of our whole education prepares us for the cut-throat life ahead and internationally Indians are lauded for our work ethic. But there are negatives of the system and pretty big ones at that.

  1. Lack of innovative ability and prevalent rote culture — Though well versed in mathematics and laws of science, we often are limited by the practice of solving numericals following strict model solutions, often ending up memorizing methods. Very few schools (those only the elite can afford) have regular projects, on science as well as humanities, to bring out the creativity and rational thinking in students. We need to develop a system where young minds are encouraged to develop a thought process aimed at nascent thinking, for solving problems or creating alternate methods based on their understanding. We do have science fairs but only the most studious of students participate in them. By complementing theory with practical examples school should be made more fun. That way we can ensure that most students are interested in class and no one has to suffer being called a “weak” student
  2. No leadership traits instilled — I feel that school is the time that we build our confidence and that is very crucial to our future prospects. Schools should look to make the students interactive and encourage public speaking. For example, they could have a system where students speak on their theories on how a certain historical discovery would have been made and discuss it with classmates on the same. It has been found that Indian students, in spite of being very intelligent, struggle to get their point across and fall behind in professional life. Opportunities of exhibiting leadership qualities should be given in extra-curricular activities like sports, social work, cultural participation or even managing a small event at school. For a developing country like us it is very important that we breed a generation that can lead India ahead by initiatives in Entrepreneurship, governance and other fields.
  3. Plight of students faring poorly in exams and peer pressure — While the current examination systems are fair to an extent, they give a lot of emphasis on mugging for exams. The evaluation should be spread all over a academic year not just on some 3 hour exam. Also, not all students will show aptitude in doing well at studies alone. Every person has a talent. It could be at sports, acting, painting, managerial or any other field. Herein exists the bane of peer pressure. There is a prevalent view that only engineering, medicine and management are the significant fields for taking up a career in. People, especially parents, need to realise that commerce, arts, etc. are not necessarily only for students who did not qualify for the science stream cut-offs. They are equally rewarding fields and on-par in national importance. The students’ higher studies must be based on their interests only and not on pay packages in job. The significance of point 1 is amplified by this notion as only when students will be given exposure to various fields at school level they will identify their interests and make fulfilling careers in them and not careers dictated by cut-off marks.
  4. The need for teachers — A student is as good as his teacher. This is a dialogue from the cult movie “The Karate Kid” and it holds good in actual life as well. Recently in Gujarat it has been discovered that teachers in most schools are not qualified for their jobs and are minting money from parents by promoting their own tuitions. We need motivated teachers who will seek joy in the success and intellectual progress of their students. But again, for that to happen, the teachers need to be well paid to enjoy their work. A public private partnership could be crucial for this as then we might develop an eco-system where teacher and student and education can complement each other.
  5. Rural education and education for the poor — All the above points discussed above can be implemented with ease only in cities but to realize the dream of education for all, there has to be significant development in the poorer section of society as well. India has work towards establishing an infrastructure of state funded school in rural areas. For starters, there has to be patronisation for families to send their children to school. This can be done by promoting awareness campaigns and also by giving financial assistance to bright students.

Hopefully, soon India will have leaders in the field of research and development along with the corporate pioneers we already have and we will truly be on a path to becoming a world superpower.

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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