Small Scale Education

Education has always been considered by planners as being for the people. Consequently, a lot of effort by private and public entities have placed great effort and emphasis on just one aspect – how do we educate people?

This is not entirely democratic.

A democratic view of education also considers education to be by and of the people. This means a shift from centralized top-down standards based global approaches to local and indigenous, decentralized system of education albeit centrally facilitated and guided by national goals.

This means that we have to look at empowering local community and small scale industry/agencies to support and take ownership, directly or indirectly, reducing the dependence on large scale national players as the only option for public private partnership.

What does this imply? This approach is not in conflict with government controlled initiatives and structure. It is merely a different way of looking at the problem with a certain relaxation of control and greater autonomy to local stakeholders.

While a nationally centralized approach may mandate guidelines like the NCFTE (National Curriculum for Teacher Education, 2009) or the NCF (National Curriculum Framework 2005) , a centralized approach cannot work for implementation, given the kind of diversity that exists in terms of language, culture, economic, social & political barriers.

Which implies that if the approach changes from being a producer of education for a mass audience to a facilitator, guide and coach model that encourages local participation that is tuned with regional, national and global needs, then we have chance of meeting our needs quickly, affordably and reliably.

Imagine an ecosystem where the local community provides some of the necessary resources for implementation of NCF and NCFTE goals alongside the resources provided by the government through SSA/MSA (Sarva Shiksha and Madhyamic Shiksha Abhiyaan) and RTE (Right to Free and Compulsory Education, 2010).

The local community includes both the resources and skills to support many educational endeavors. Structured and guided properly, a small scale industry can emerge that acts as a supplier of low cost electro-mechanical kits, lecture-demonstrations, project work, experimentation, counseling and other products and services for the local student and teacher population.

Local materials (available in the location) would be used to create these resource materials and the SSIs could be trained to efficiently produce these materials or deliver expertise based classroom support.

Let us take an example. A teacher in remote Bihar decided to teach the archaeological process as an essential in History the Harappan Civilization). She did not go with a CBSE textbook in hand or a kit produced by a giant national factory, but instead took a few artifacts similar to what existed in that civilization, dug a pit, put the artifacts in and covered it back up. The next day, she asked the students to pick up their shovels and excavate the site. With each object discovered, there was excitement and curiosity from all the students.

On a local factor scale, the community could be relied upon to meaningfully create many of these experiences and innovate over time. This would be private local entrepreneurship generating employment and incubated at the grassroots.

Essentially, what we are saying that we should try and meet scale with scale, instead of centralizing and standardizing.

What we are also saying is go local, go global, which means that while we give greater flexibility to local ingenuity, we also connect them into a regional, national and international network that they can leverage and contribute to, as well as shape their efforts to meet policy level goals of the government.

We are also making a call for disaggregation or an unbundling of resources from the current suppliers of these resources, an unbundling of the professions from  the skills and dismantling a mindset that only degreed educators can educate.

All that is good, but how does one operationalize it?

That is equivalent to asking how we would operationalize a massively parallel network. Models for these abound in the network and viral marketing world and is similar to how we would propagate virally – just that someone needs to seed the model with a structured set of products and services, provide a platform for awareness generation and seed the initial few initiatives to demonstrate effects.

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