Not yet a parting of the ways

Here is an outline of the project for my assignment

Here is an outline of the project for my assignment

Bangalore is never quiet. Traffic creates a steady din throughout the day and late into the night. I fall asleep each night to a discordant symphony of bleating horns and awake in the morning to a very similar grating tune. And these, all accompanied by a masala of barking dogs, screeching squirrels and men shouting from the streets form a typical backcloth to the starting day in Jayanagar. This morning was further marked by the call of the muezzin from the minaret of the mosque across the way. Real voice or recording I wonder? Who will respond to this early call to prayer? I glance at my watch 5.35am. The choice to roll over and return to sleep has gone, might as well get up, shower and start the day.

The early Saturday mornings of the modules we teach here are times for quiet reflection, seated on a balcony overlooking trees and beyond these the ever increasing high rise buildings that mark the Bangalore skyline. I always enjoy the wheeling acrobatics of the kites, an ever present feature of the skies here as they tumble and glide in an airborne ballet on eye level with my vantage point. The temperature in the early mornings so pleasant for an English visitor, is described as cold by Indian friends who wrap  shawls around their shoulders until the sun rises higher in the sky.

In some ways the day feels disjointed. We have so many little tasks to complete, feedback on recently marked assignments, tutorial support to ensure that students are ready for the next, reminders of the essential procedures of referencing and, of course, the inevitable module evaluation sheets. By far the most interesting part of the day is the time devoted to student presentations of their projected assignments for this module. Their task is to develop an intervention or procedure for use in their school, to apply this and evaluate how it goes over the next few months. This action research, focused upon their own teaching situation encourages them to apply the learning we have shared together throughout the week and to evaluate its application in the real world.

The planned actions are wide ranging and provide insights into the challenges that our students face in school. The encouragement of handwriting skills in a child with poor motor co-ordination; understanding the implications of inappropriate sexual behaviour in pubescent boys with learning difficulties; evaluating teaching attitudes and expectations in respect of inclusion; helping teachers move beyond teaching concrete operations in mathematics and towards more abstract learning. The diversity of topics represents some of the issues that are prevalent not only in schools here in India, but throughout the world. The opportunities that our students have to investigate an issue and develop approaches that can have a real impact in their schools is one of the most exciting aspects of this course.

Parting at the end of these intensive blocks of teaching is an emotional experience. Students and tutors alike have been united in an inclusive venture towards increased learning and understanding. There has been a definite frisson about many of the sessions this week as we have travelled together on a mission to explore inclusive teaching. Now will follow a period of individual tutorial support both here in India and at a distance, as each course participant is supported and challenged towards completing their assessed work. In April we will reconvene, not so much as students and tutors, but rather as fellow explorers trying to discover how together we can make our schools a welcome haven for all learners and their families.

A few more tasks need to be completed here before in a few days we will leave India. Parting is always tinged with sadness at saying goodbye to so many friends. But I will be happy to be reunited with my family who I always miss so badly during these times away and look forward to settling back into my home routines. But I also anticipate with joy returning here to strengthen old friendships and make new ones, to explore the promotion of inclusive schooling with teachers and students and to renew my efforts to understand this country, its culture, its peoples and its many contradictions.

It is 6.25 pm and the muezzin is renewing his call, thus the cycle of life goes on.




5 thoughts on “Not yet a parting of the ways

  1. Sounds like a wonderful, collegial learning experience you and your colleagues facilitated, Richard. I hope your students will stay connected – a network of Indian educators leading inclusion would certainly be influential.

  2. Richard, once you guys leave, we all miss not just you but the whole team of wonderful people from Northampton. It has been a pleasure knowing you guys, talking to you and learning from you. This process of inclusion started long ago in India. I am always reminded of Lord Macaulay’s words and how true it is to present context.
    I quote “The destinies of our Indian empire are covered with thick darkness. It is difficult to form any conjecture as to the fate reserved for a state which resembles no other in history, and which forms by itself a separate class of political phenomena. The laws which regulate its growth and its decay are still unknown to us. It may be that the public mind of India may expand under our system till it has outgrown that system; that by good government we may educate our subjects into a capacity for better government, that, having become instructed in European knowledge, they may, in some future age, demand European institutions. Whether such a day will ever come I know not. But never will I attempt to avert or to retard it. Whenever it comes, it will be the proudest day in English history. To have found a great people sunk in the lowest depths of slavery and superstition, to have so ruled them as to have made them desirous and capable of all the privileges of citizens would indeed be a title to glory all our own.[5]”
    I am sure Thomas Babington Macaulay, would be a delighted soul.

    • Thanks for your kind words Sunil, I am sure we are all only too aware of the privilege we have had in working with you all and making such good friendships. We look forward to regular return to work with our committed colleagues.
      I don’t think I have often heard an Indian speak with any real affection for Lord Macaulay’s views on education or much else for that matter. His approach was more about control and protecting the empire than for the wellbeing of Indian citizens.I think his comments about instilling European values is an indication of the lack of respect he showed to Indian culture. However, your charitable interpretation of his words may well be more accurate than mine.

  3. Yes Lord Macaulay may be happy because his wish is granted!! But by successfully destroying the system of education that existed in India, a very inclusive one at that, and one that had a wholistic curriculum, in actuality he did us a great disservice!!

  4. ‘The past is a foreign country; they do things differently there.’ We cannot forget and neither should we but we cannot change what was. Fortunately time moves us forward so we can create new ‘countries’. Here we can change what is and what will be. We can develop our own new ‘ideas of progress’. It is in our power to take the decisions and live our lives in ways that will lead to a more equitable world.

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