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Do schools care?

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  • Tuesday, April 3, 2012
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    The launch of the Ten Talks on Friday, 30 March 2012 at the Royal Orchid Bangalore was a resounding success as a full house of Principals, teachers and teacher educators debated an extremely pertinent question: “Do Schools Care?”

    On the panel were Dr. Shekhar Seshadri, Prof. Department of Psychiatry, NIMHANS, Hansa Vithani, Director, Vidya Niketan School, Dr. Radha Ramaswamy, Consultant - Educational Research & Training,  Geeta Viswanathan, Teacher - Sishu Griha School and Maya Menon, Director, The Teacher Foundation.

    The discussion started off on a lively note with an ice breaker to get everyone warmed up! A film on the Safe and Sensitive Schools project piloted by The Teacher Foundation to redefine personal interactions in schools using Quality Circle Time and the whole school ecosystemic model approach provided the perfect platform to commence the discussion.

    Dr. Seshadri, in his inimitable style, started off proceedings by deconstructing the concept of 'positive discipline' stating that this posed “the need for a child to be disciplined”. Rather, he pointed out that the term 'positive engagement' suggested a less threatening framework to make schools truly caring. He also argued that the present education system “pandered to market forces rather than serving compassion” and called this a “subversion of the system”.

    The virtual world, which was abuzz with live tweets and comments, seemed to agree.  Veni Sukumar tweeted in to say: “The policy makers prepare a great model of education but those policies remain just that....as policies because education nowadays has become a lucrative business proposition. The fact is that we have more than 100 schools each swankier than the other, but why aren't the children coming out out these humane.” Archana Sarkar chipped in too saying, “Making education a business model is the greatest danger to imparting care!”

    Dr. Ramaswamy made a pithy statement about how children who did not conform were labelled as “misfits” thereby increasing the pressure on children to “fit in”. Her comment, “We are increasingly looking at conformity and there is great fear when we encounter someone who does not fit in” was echoed by Geeta Vishwanathan. She remarked,  “Children can be sometimes very cruel. They can be cruellest of the lot, I guess! That is where bullying comes from!”

    Many of our webizens defined caring as “being responsive” and “accepting children of different abilities'”. They also suggested that teacher training was one of the ways to redefine existing school spaces.

    Some of the participants were skeptical about whether a few workshops or training programmes could 'transform' schools overnight. But as Maya right pointed out that just as we follow the traffic or parking rules of another country as tourists, only a 'policy' of caring would ensure that schools demonstrate caring as a concerted attempt to make schools safe and sensitive spaces.

    Hansa Vithani made a very relevant observation about the need to care for teachers, as they were stressed out and overburdened. She also explained the importance of caring for little things like having a clean toilet which would go a long way in sustaining the ideology of a caring school.

    As a vibrant discussion came to a close, there was consensus that each one of us is responsible for a caring school. A caring school has to show that it cares in tangible ways. As Jenny Mosley wrote in from the UK, “caring means putting students at the heart of your school systems - and everyone listening!”

    We hope you are listening and would love to listen to your thoughts and comments too! Join us on Facebook or Twitter to participate in the discussion.

    Join us for the next of the Ten Talks. Watch this space for the announcement.

    Posted by Indira Subramanian, TTF Bangalore


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