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Psychology and its Impact on Education in India  

Farida Abdulla Khan

Educational studies in India has its roots in teacher training, beginning with an apprenticeship model for primary school teachers in the 19th century. It was subsequently formally instituted in “normal” schools, then colleges, and finally as departments of teacher education in universities by the mid-20th century. In moving beyond school-level subject competence and school-based practical skills, the intellectual and academic foundations and the professional character of teacher education were sought to be strengthened by adding a disciplinary component of the “foundational” disciplines of history, philosophy, sociology, and psychology of education. Of these, psychology, as the then-emerging science of human behavior, with a growing corpus of scientific research, was most easily able to integrate into the programs and to contribute applicable academic and research inputs into the professional content. Serious engagement with the more socially and critically oriented foundational disciplines was more difficult, and although they formed part of the teacher education (TE) curriculum, their integration with the programs remained superficial. When a more comprehensive field of study to explore the landscape of education beyond teacher education began to be imagined, the established departments of education and the educational community were reluctant to create a parallel field of study in education. Given their long association with and commitment to teacher education and its eclectic character, the departments were keen on retaining the TE framework and directing all study of education through this lens. The established and familiar empiricist and positivist model of psychology that had been adopted by teacher education was therefore to seriously influence the development of the new discipline, with long-term consequences for its teaching and research.

Article

Inclusive and Special Education Services in Rural Settings  

Jayanthi Narayan and Nibedita Patnaik

Education is a fundamental right of all children, including those with special educational needs. Efforts to achieve education for all has resulted in the focused attention of governments around the world, thereby improving the quality of education in schools and leading to dignified social status for students previously marginalized and/or denied admission to schools. This worldwide movement following various international conventions and mandates has resulted in local efforts to reach rural remote areas, with education provided by the government in most countries. Though there has been significant progress in reaching children, it has not been uniform. There are still many barriers for children in rural and tribal areas or in remote parts of the country that prevent them from receiving equitable education. The essence of inclusive education is to build the capacity to reach out to all children, thereby promoting equity. In the 1990s, special needs education was a focus, and integrating it into the overall educational system led to reforms in mainstream schools which resulted in inclusive education that addressed the diverse learning needs of children. How successful have we been in these efforts particularly in the remote and rural areas? There are various models and practices for special and inclusive education in rural and remote areas, but reaching children with special educational needs in such areas is still a challenge. Though there are schools in these areas, not all are sufficiently equipped to address the education of children with special needs. Furthermore, teachers working in rural areas in many countries are not adequately trained to teach those with special needs, nor are there the technological support systems that we find available in urban areas. Yet, interestingly, in some rural/tribal communities, the teachers are naturally at ease with children with diverse needs. The schools in such areas tend to have heterogeneous classes with one teacher providing instruction to combined groups at different grade levels. Evidence shows that rural teachers are less resistant to including children with special needs compared to urban teachers. Because of their homogeneous lifestyle, community supports in rural areas offer another supportive factor toward smooth inclusion. Though primary education is ensured in most rural and remote areas, children have to travel long distances to semi-urban/urban areas for secondary and higher education; such travel is further complicated when the child has a disability. In many rural areas, children with special needs tend to learn the traditional job skills naturally associated with that area, though such skills are not always blended into the school curriculum. Preparing teachers to provide education in rural areas with the latest technological developments and a focus on vocation is bound to make that education more meaningful and naturally inclusive.

Article

Mathematics and School Reform in India  

Farida Abdulla Khan and Charu Gupta

Initial efforts toward reform in mathematics education in India evolved out of a more general concern for educational reforms as they assumed a pivotal role in the agenda of modernization and development after independence. Mathematics as a foundational aspect of science and technology assumed a privileged status with recommendations to keep up with developments in technologically advanced countries. This led to the creation of an unduly loaded curriculum with little attention to children’s cognitive and developmental capacities and other more social and humane aspects of a well-rounded education. The early decades after independence were largely focused on providing access, and other than the rhetoric of equality and quality and overarching recommendations, little investment was made into researching the more nuanced aspects of learning and teaching and the social implications of schooling. Several important national commissions and two major policies put forward important recommendations for reform in mathematics education with suggestions for both curriculum and pedagogy. The early decades after independence saw a greater commitment to higher education, especially in the sciences and technology, and this began to shape the school curriculum, with mathematics as a major concern. Although critiques of the system were never totally absent, efforts at intervention in schools and at the ground level were initially made by smaller groups and nongovernmental organizations (NGOS), and then also nationally and regionally, to transform processes of schooling and learning with a focus on the learner rather than the content alone. A particularly large and comprehensive national effort at reforming school education in all subject areas was the National Curricular Framework, coordinated and initiated by the National Council of Educational Research and Training in 2005. This was a radical attempt at framing an alternative idea of schooling and learning, focused on the child, but with an acute awareness of the larger social, economic, and political structures within which schools, classrooms, teachers, and students are implicated.

Article

Southern Theory and Postcolonial Comparative Education  

Mousumi Mukherjee

Since the late 1960s and early 1970s, there has been a great deal of criticism of the colonial heritage of early ethnographic research. In the first decade of the twenty-first century, scholars have also raised concerns also about the colonial heritage of comparative education. Erwin Epstein defined comparative education as “the application of the intellectual tools of history and social sciences to understand international issues of education.” Hence it is important for comparative education as a global field of study to engage with the recent debates in social sciences to generate deeper understanding about educational problems embedded within specific international contexts. The dominance of Northern theory in analyzing research data from the Global South has been increasingly critiqued by scholars in a number of scholarly publications since Raewyn Connell published her book Southern Theory in 2008. They have argued that Northern theory arising out of the colonial metropole is provincial in nature and, therefore, provides incomplete interpretation of data and generates misunderstanding or limited understanding of social phenomenon occurring in the hybrid contexts of the Global South. Therefore, lately scholars have been debating about postcolonial comparative education to argue for the relevance of Southern theory in conducting postcolonial comparative education research for both analytic (ideological), as well as hermeneutic (affective historical) engagement with research data. Drawing on the methodological insights from an empirical case study, this article demonstrates why Southern theory drawing on Tagore’s philosophy of education was found more suitable to analyze research data arising out of a case study designed to conduct an institutional ethnography in a particular international context. It demonstrates how contextually relevant Southern theory helped to provide deeper comparative understanding (verstehen) of a social phenomenon, i.e. inclusive pedagogic work of an old colonial school within a particular historical, geopolitical and cultural context in postcolonial India.