From becoming the first women police officer of Indian Police Service (IPS) to hauling away vehicles of the powerful in New Delhi, introducing meditation in Tihar Jail, participating as a leader of the Anna Hazare’s anti-corruption movement, winning the Magsaysay Award, now being the Governor of Puducherry, etc, Kiran Bedi continues to draw admiration for her efforts to improve the public administration at whatever post, position and responsibility she takes. She was in auroville a few months ago where disbanding her vehicular entourage, she bicycled along with the representatives of the residents to see around and was reportedly impressed. After her official visit to Kalapet near auroville, on bicycle, during last weekend her press release mentioned where the key is for the right kind of village education and development. Coming from some one who had fared high in the prevalent education system, it is especially valuable. At a children’s home at Kalapet she had suggested to the management to train the kids on all skills instead of orienting them to limited syllabus.
Almost the entire school educational funds of the national and state governments are channeled towards the govt. boards’ syllabus oriented education but admittedly there has also been a marginal shift towards a skill-oriented education but which is, again, not free of the diseases of the former. A better skill development education would be to conduct the same without the usual examinations and diplomas and include developing the character and body of the youth as other objectives. Enlightened education envisaged by Sri Aurobindo and The Mother whose message continue to play a significant role in some of the outreach educational activities of auroville can play a crucial role in bringing such a change in the region around auroville.
As the law prohibits children below 14 from being employed those around the age limit can be drawn to a holistically designed skills developing education. Such youth are most likely already enrolled into fulltime mainstream courses and therefore skills development can be held during weekends and term holidays. A variety of skill development courses may be offered to suit different interests and youth who have dropped out of the main stream education ought to be specially welcomed. Number of students of a course need not exceed 10 so each participant can get adequate attention of the teacher. As the students are not forced by the societal or parental compulsion to join such courses, as it is more likely the case with mainstream education, but more likely motivated by their innate interest the learning time required will be less and running of the courses, which would be naturally of short lengths, wouldn’t cost much.
Most essential to such an education is to try to provide teachers who are engaged as professionals in the skills they teach. Being guided by a teacher who lives by his profession would also help the students understand the viability and difficulties of the work in the field. The existing infrastructure in schools and education centers, without needing to add much, could be utilised as they are mostly free of activities during holidays and term vacations. Some courses can be conducted even under the trees and the teachers may also bring their own tools.
Theory part of the course should be minimal but adequate to serve as a basis to commence and develop the skill selected. Apart from skill developing the students should be encouraged to organise outdoor activities among themselves such as games, athletics etc. and wherever possible provided with facilities for the same with the aim of not only winning but excelling themselves and developing their character. Sessions on work ethics, meditation and yogasana ought to be part of such courses. For those inclined to start their own skill based service centers a course on entrepreneurship with the participation of local banks may be organised.
Other problems of villages such as the occurrence of crime and lack of computer literacy that Kiran Bedi spoke of and were highlighted in the news reports can also be better achieved with the integral kind of skill development courses.