The big picture and the little details

When you’re working hard, and immersed in a hundred things, time goes very quickly. And when you’re in a month that has a few days less than others, it seems to go even faster!

February is when you begin to feel settled in the new year; you are finally getting the year correct when you write the date, and you still feel like you have enough time to get all the work done before the end of the academic session. But before you know it, the month has sped by, leaving you feeling a bit breathless.

We realized, then, that (in what seems to be a mere blink of the eye) the RTE Act was over three years old, and the deadline for compliance with its provisions was fast approaching. We had, at the time of its passage in 2009, carried several articles critiquing it and discussing possible responses. We had the sense that most private schools were ill prepared to deal with the provisions of the Act, in terms of resources as well as capacity. A casual inquiry among a few smaller schools in the city of Hyderabad revealed that some administrators were not even aware of the Act.

On the other hand, the alternative schools have from the very beginning seen the possibilities of foreclosure that the Act might bring, and have tried to resist its homogenizing impact. Some of these schools have spoken in this issue about why they do not agree with some of RTE’s injunctions, and describe why it is important to preserve the diversity that exists in education today.

There is no argument that we need to provide spaces where children can learn, and that all children must have access to such spaces. Children need to have opportunities to learn and must be given the support to grow into adults who can be happy, fulfilled, productive members of their communities and of society at large. But children – and the communities they come from – are different, with different needs and different expectations not only of themselves but of their relationship with their environments. A standardized curriculum, delivered by teachers with a certain specific kind of training, may not always meet these needs. The articles in this issue’s cover theme argue for the need to protect alternative systems, particularly for those who have so far had the least access to education.

But we recognize that while the “big picture” drawn by policy and system frameworks is crucial to debate and understand, we also need to do what we can to make learning happen in the spaces that we do have available to us. To that end, we offer our usual bouquet of articles, ranging from a completely adaptable project on “the things we cook and eat with” to ideas for geography teaching, to language games for younger learners. After all, we have only so much time to create our “magic” in the class – and we need to use it well, before another month runs by!

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