Educational practices in India have been curiously deficient in providing alternatives to the inherited colonial system of education. Those offered by Gandhi and Tagore, the two best-known exceptions, were ignored after 1947. Un/Common Schooling is a collection of writings by idealistic and enterprising individuals who founded alternative schools in India, located mostly in remote villages with little or no access to basic civic amenities, from the 1970s to the present that highlights the philosophies and rationale behind such schools.
A serious reflection on what constitutes ‘alternative’, these narratives are animated by key questions: How are ‘learning’ and ‘life skills’ defined? Is building capacity for autonomy and creativity as important as imparting ‘encashable’ skills? What are the chances of those who were largely excluded from schooling finding meaning and value in the classroom—conventional or alternative? These are inspiring stories of building institutions to reach first-generation learners in some of the most marginal sections of Indian society, and narrate the manifold challenges that were encountered in starting, running and sustaining these alternatives that counter the inadequate and unequal system of education today.
Un/Common Schooling also reflects on interviews with students who passed through the Alternative Education Network, as well as those who sought educational credentials, what it meant to them and how it impacted their lives. The essays therefore provide an empathetic understanding of even the unexpected outcomes of these experiments in pedagogy, making the book a vital addition to the history and sociology of education in India.
The book will serve as an invaluable resource for researchers and practitioners in the fields of education, development studies, and public policy, while also serving as an important archive of a crucial moment in Indian education.
Janaki Nair is former Professor of Modern Indian History at the Centre for Historical Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi.
List of Abbreviations
List of Photographs
P A R T I REFLECTIONS ON ALTERNATIVE EDUCATION
1. Why an Alternative Education System?
K. T. Margaret
2. Alternative Schooling in Changing Times
Jane H. Sahi
3. Eklavya’s Work In and Around Government Schools: Resistance, Resilience and Impact
P A R T II EXPERIMENTS
4. Sriniketan: Inter-embedded Pedagogy and Transformation of the Rural
Pradip Kumar Datta
5. Vikasana: A Rural Centre for Education
Malathi M. C.
P A R T III LIFE STORIES
The Life Stories Project: Recalling Educational Experiences
7. Locating Education: School, Family and Community, and the Practice of Care
Sunandan K. N.
8. Vocations for Poor Married Women: An Oral History
9. Accessing Education: Reconfiguring Family and Neighbourhood Networks
10. Un/Common Schooling: Alternative Education in the Time of Democracy
Notes on Contributors