Sunday, May 03, 2009

Fast ForWord and India

Had not been for my exposure to Fast ForWord I would have never in my life time understood what a child is going through and that the solution for learning problems are as simple as playing games. This is exactly what excited me, and as a business man I saw the money, but as a human being I saw the changes one can bring about in the Indian society with the Fast ForWord interventions.

If Fast ForWord is used as reading intervention program in the West I believed that it could be used to transform people and families in India. As a student I have first hand knowledge on the trauma of an 'average' student, the low performing student is dead. Fortunately my children have performed well academically but as they relate the gory stories in school, the teaching standards and the ignorance - I am appalled.

Now look at what happened with three children recently as reported in The Hindu
... I have reproduced the case of Akriti below, but I sincerely hope you would read the main story in The Hindu.

Goldy Malhotra, the artist-educationist principal of Modern School in Delhi was in the middle of a disciplinarian’s nightmare. Reduced to impotent gesticulation and loud protestations of innocence, she was being harangued by the enraged classmates of 17-year-old Akriti, who died of an asthma attack. That elite school had no first-aid facilities, no doctor on call, and no arrangements to rush her in time to hospital. Instead of offering an unconditional and complete apology Ms. Malhotra came out with a memorial statement: “Akriti hamaari bachchi thi,” she announced mournfully to the assembled media. The very next moment (as yet unrecorded by the print media) she put Akriti in an all too predictable slot: “Academically she was just average.”

Average… A damning word, in our democracy! Pardon me, Ms. Malhotra, your slip is showing. The word “average” does not begin to approach the utter intellectual mediocrity of the methods by which children are branded in our schools. The common people are all just average! Akriti’s grade point average was used to put her down in life, and is now used as a shroud to wrap up her very memory. That she was not a school topper defines her! Do only the so-called “best” and “brightest” ( judged by our abysmally mediocre educationists) deserve to live?

And Shanno — why did that 11-year-old in class II of a municipal school in Delhi die on April on 17? For being “just average”? Not good enough to sit inside the school with the other children, because she was irregular, because she failed to recite the full English alphabet string? An expert took a look at her handwriting in her notebook, announced that she was dyslexic and observed loftily that teachers in government schools don’t know how to deal with it. Does this imply that private schools are staffed with certified B.Eds who know all about learning disabilities? Should we hand over even more of our government schools (and their prime real estate) to the private school lobby?

Shanno’s autopsy, they say, does not rule out epilepsy. Her classmates have said that she was made to crouch like a chicken, with bricks on her back, in the hot sun. It’s entirely possible for anybody to throw a fit, in such circumstances. Maybe it didn’t happen like that…but what did happen?

Now if we do not have a solution and if we are content with shedding a tear, I guess its okay.

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