Overall, it was a wonderful learning experience. It was really good to know about these things and the present state of India. Born and brought up in Ahmedabad city, I thought I knew about the life in village and education in municipal schools but as it turns out, to know is very different than to experience. To live in a village for a day, talk with people staying in there and how do they work gives an insight to an entirely different facet of the society.
On the first day, we had training on how to conduct education survey. To be frank, we were bored in that session spanning across the day but it was necessary to learn so that the observation that we were to do in the field would be consistent and eventually extrapolated to district->state->country in statistical evaluation. We cannot reach each and every house in our VERY large country.
The next day, there was a demo field visit to a village, where we were taught by the instructors how to go around a village, note down observations and approach different stake holders like Principal of Municipal schools, Sarpanch of Village and finally the people.
At a first glance the village turned out to be quite wealthy ;). Walking in the village, one can see SUV’s parked outside houses. It is the first village in Gujarat to implement a Smart School Project developed in PPP (Public Private Partnership) mode. They had an advanced Computer lab in the Municipal school and had installed large LED TVs in each classroom from Std 1 to 8. All the LED TVs were connected in a network and teachers could stream a lesson with visual aids to teach students using a software known as Guruji.
On the final day, we visited a village in a different district. Far from the busy city, the village had a tranquil environment. No noise of machines or traffic. The day seemed to move slowly and peacefully. It started with visiting the government school which as the Principal said was built 20 years earlier and no repairs had been done since. There was a computer lab but because of dampness, the (age old) computers had stopped working. The school had an astounding number of enrolled students – around 400 from Std 1 to 8 – but enrollment fell abruptly from lower to higher grades. The classes had adequate teaching aids.
It was very sad to see, the primary students had to work like cleaning their classrooms, washing mid-day meal utensils.
After school, it was time to go in each house and test the kids in reading and math skills.
Among the 20 houses we surveyed in a day, children were very good in reading skills but it was unfortunate to see that not a single child could correctly solve a simple subtraction problem. Children till Std 4 could only identify digits but not do basic arithmetic operations.
As cog sci students, we had to consider the possibility – were they afraid to answer because we were strangers? Could this have been the case with every child? This seems unlikely. It is difficult to ignore the status.
Other things: the village was very near to a lake and had 24 hrs water supply. Enough hand pumps to easily fetch water. All the houses had TV sets with cable.
People were all inviting. Some even offered tea and snacks. I will especially never forget the (real) tea I had. Strong and made from pure milk of buffalo (yes, non pasteurized and thick, no water content). Literally I said… Waah ! 🙂
To welcome a stranger so gracefully was a thing to learn.
– By Ujjval Pamnani
The overall experience was enriching. Somehow I felt more connected to rural India, the actual India. The village that we visited in Sanard district nearly 25 Km from Ahmedabad has a population of 10,000, filled with buffalos, tractors, and hamlets divides on basis of caste.
It starts with a big pond and almost ends with the middle school (Std 1 to 8) at the opposite end. The houses are very close to each other with proper supply of water (almost every 2 house have a hand pump) and electricity (even the kaccha huts have television).
Villagers are having their own sense of decoration and style. Some houses have brass buckets hanging directly above the bed on the roof. The wall is decorated by the systematic arrangement of brass and steel plates kept on horizontal and vertical rows.
After this survey it is very clear that there is a lot of difference between theoretical study and actual survey. Simple facts like the age of couples and kids can have completely different angles. For example, we asked a young woman her age, she just blushed and didn’t reply, other women took it as flirting, and some said that her age is 33 and she has a 19 year old kid.
The sad part of the village is that out of 20 houses none of them have family member who are more qualified than Std 8. None of the students (even Std 8 students) are able solve simple subtraction even after going to school daily. Even though Gujarat is dry state, still parents of school going kids are drunk at 12:30 pm in noon.
This survey has changed and given me a different view of Indian village and the Indian education system.
-By Pallavi Chilka