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Unschooled – Diary

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Is a focus on school the only way to achieve the SDG-4 targets, especially when it comes to educating out-of-school children? In fact, many might see it as part of the problem rather than the solution. This is not intended to ignore the important role that the school plays as a social institution in public education, but rather to highlight its limitations in enabling inclusion by meeting the needs of all children, especially from poor, oppressed and socially marginalized backgrounds. . If this point seems plausible, it is suggested that achieving SDG-4 requires planning and acting on multiple alternative measures to ensure that no child is left behind in the process. education (here, the term “education” is broad and goes beyond schooling).

The world of school and the world of poor children are oceans apart. There is often a contradiction between what is “compulsory” for schools and what is “necessary” for children from disadvantaged backgrounds. The flexibility to reconcile the two is absent and as a result children drop out of school or never attend.

Let’s compare the two “worlds”: the typical school world and snippets of a typical day in the life of a poor child.

The school world is made up of a certain pattern of actions and activities governed by a set of rules and regulations. Some of the processes governed by it could include: admission criteria, fees, schedules, exams, etc. By enforcing the rules and regulations, the school aims to regulate time as well as the mind, body and heart of the subjects i.e. the children. All those who wish to be “students” must comply with the rules established by the school. But such rules and regulations may not be for everyone.

The world of school and the world of poor children are oceans apart.

Compare the demands of school with the world of a child living in poverty. Take the example of a 12-year-old boy who is forced to take on financial responsibility for his family from an early age due to his father’s poor health. What would his usual routine be? This boy’s day would start soon enough. He would go to the sabzi mandi to buy vegetables, organize his vending cart, go from street to street trying to sell his wares, and after working nearly eight to ten hours, he would return home with a small sum of money. money to buy medicine and insufficient food for the family. With such a routine, how can he be present at school in a neat and clean uniform when the bell rings in the morning, signaling the start of the school day?

Thus, the schools’ claims contradict the lived realities of economically disadvantaged and socially marginalized children. Instead of being sympathetic to the situation of these out-of-school children, they are often labeled as ‘illiterate’, ‘uneducated’ and ‘deficient’. Such labeling needs to be questioned – if we were to look beyond the formal literacy box of the formal three Rs (reading, writing and arithmetic), we would find that these children exhibit a high level of intelligence social, interpersonal skills, communication skills, spatial intelligence (critical awareness of social spaces and risks) etc.

A challenge in this regard is that academia, including formal educational institutions, has not developed a reliable ‘translation’ mechanism that can validate these extracurricular literacies and confer the status of ‘legitimate’ knowledge.

There is a need to “de-school” the educational imagination globally to open up alternative ways of learning that appreciate the complexity of the lived realities of marginalized children in society. The process of reinvention can benefit from identifying these children’s “out-of-school literacies” and life situations as starting points and building blocks for improving their quality of life.

It is recommended that in designing inclusive development for out-of-school children, instead of adopting a school-centric approach, a more sensitive view of the edge be adopted in order to rethink inclusive educational and social policies and to design interventions to ensure the well-being and development of marginalized children.

Perhaps the agenda of SDG-4 (equitable, inclusive and quality education for all) could be better served if the whole issue was reframed as “children out of educational reach” instead of “children unschooled”. This inverted view can open up multiple inclusive pedagogical possibilities.

Let us recognize that it is not the children who have “fallen” out of “school”, but rather “school” which seems to “fall” out of their lives.

The author is an educational sociologist and educational ethnographer.

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Posted in Dawn, August 2, 2022