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(A curriculum for children of rural communities in India)

Researched and prepared by Nyla Coelho

This document describes in outline an innovative educational programme for children of rural
communities in India, why it has been developed and how.

The past thirty years have seen great improvements in school education in terms of enrolment,
curriculum and pedagogy, albeit adopting a top down approach. Serious short-comings, however,
remain. The three most important of these are:

  1. national and state-level curricula have an urban bias;
  2. these curricula fail to address effectively the critical problems of today and specifically
    those of the rural communities;
  3. in practice, the teacher-student interaction remains largely chalk and talk.

The present curriculum addresses all three problems in fundamental ways, utilising entirely new
concepts and practices.

This curriculum has come about as the result of the merging of three contemporary streams of
thinking and practice.

  1. Alternative education
  2. Alternative agriculture
  3. Recovery and interpretation of traditional thinking and practice of agriculture

Specifically, the members of the Organic Farming Association of India articulated the need for
creating a land based curriculum for school aged children. The first phase of this process has
been the creation of a curriculum framework. This has now been completed and is presented
in this document.

Two basic concepts have been utilised in building this curriculum.

  1. The living systems concept in terms of which everything is seen as living and organised
    into self-limiting, self-organising and self-perpetuating systems.
  2. The concept of learning by reflecting on experience to create understanding of why
    things are the way they are and behave as they do.
    This curriculum is a planned educational programme for children six to sixteen years
    old. However the age factor may be viewed in flexible terms. It is designed to give
    children a sound general education that will enable them to participate as responsible
    citizens at all levels and at the same time acquire the knowledge, concepts and skills
    required to pursue livelihoods on the land or in farm-related services.

    The content of the curriculum falls under two broad categories:

    1. Core academic subjects
    2. Farm related modules
  3. The system as a whole (that is, curriculum) is holistic, activity centred, going from the known
    to the unknown, concrete to abstract, simple to complex. The topics offer more than ample opportunity
    for extra-curricular activities. Students have a choice of elective modules under the category of farm
    related modules.

    The curriculum is so designed that learning with pen and paper is minimal and most of the
    learning would be through active engagement with living systems on the farm or in the neighbourhood.
    The local community would play a central role in many ways in this learning programme. One
    may safely do away with the prevalent examination type of evaluation as progressing through the
    curriculum makes demands in terms of prerequisites of competence.

    Having completed the work of constructing the curriculum framework, it remains to fill in all
    the details such as activity guides, preparing the teaching resources manuals, enlisting the collaborations
    in testing the programme and conducting orientation workshops for those interested. A booklet for
    children describing the learning programme could also be produced.

    This document is only a beginning towards a holistic programme of education for children of
    rural communities in India. While the syllabus is presented as a collection of discrete topics and
    subjects, it may be used for building a holistic educational programme. This is highlighted through
    some of the case studies from the field that one will find spread throughout the document.
    The curriculum document has drawn from the many prevalent educational programmes in the
    country that have tried to address this issue in various ways.

    Our Land Our Life