Teacher Plus is not a news magazine, and so our issues do not usually reflect a sense of current events, although we try to stay abreast of – and tuned into – the larger issues of the day. And what are these “larger issues”? Clearly, at the top of the list is the state of the planet, which was the focus of the discussions in Paris at the Conference of Parties (COP21) as also the humanitarian crises unfolding around the globe, many of which can be directly traced to struggles over diminishing natural resources and unsustainable ways of living.
Just this past month, we’ve had two major stories in the newspapers that relate to these issues. One, the National Capital Region’s high levels of atmospheric pollution led to an unusual ruling by the state government, to limit vehicles on the road on the basis of their licence plate number. And then the news that dominated the front pages in most south Indian newspapers for the better part of December – the Chennai floods. While the impact of the disaster in Tamil Nadu was immediate and drastic, leading to massive losses both of life and property, the pollution in Delhi will be felt over months, years, and will take its toll in the manner of a slow-acting poison.
Our classrooms, like Teacher Plus, need to work at two levels. On the one hand, we need to build skills that will enable students to become learners, and to acquire the ability to read, work with numbers, and solve problems of various kinds. But on the other, we must give them the tools to live in the world, to apply the knowledge and skills acquired in the first instance, to understanding and dealing with real world situations. But there’s also a third ingredient. They need the sensibility to perceive something as a problem for which they might be able to think of solutions, they need the sensitivity to see this as important or worthy of their attention, and they need the courage to act upon their judgment.
In this issue of the magazine, we offer a bouquet of articles that focus not on how to teach, but how to create the environment for learning – the right mix of stimulus and material (text and context) that will allow children to independently explore their own learning instincts, and over time, sharpen these instincts. Alongside, the effort is also to allow children to see that their actions and decisions can have a ripple effect; that what they do in a local or domestic context can have consequences elsewhere.
Let’s hope this year (and the ones that follow) takes us on a sustainable turn toward halting or at least slowing, climate change, and all the problems that it has led to.