A talk was organized jointly for the first time by the Association of British Scholars (ABS) Chennai and the East-West Center Alumni Association (EWCA) Chennai Chapter. The subject of the talk was “Putting Children Back in School – Lessons from International and Local Experience.” The talk was given by Dr. S. Venkatraman of the UNESCO Bangkok.
The event was held at the British Council, Chennai. Mr. M.P. Vijayakumar, Advisor, Sarva Siksha Abhiyan, Tamilnadu, provided the local perspective; Ms. Samyuktha Balakrishnan, Manager Projects, British Council (South India) presented the British Council experience and Mr. P. M. Belliappa, President of ABS and EWCA Chennai Chapter presided over the event.
The meeting was well attended by members of the Association of British Scholars (ABS), the members of the EWCA Chennai Chapter and other special invitees.
Dr. Venkatraman told the audience that absence of proper monitoring mechanism and documentation of data posed a major challenge in controlling school drop-out rates across Asia Pacific countries. While national enrollment rates had gone up in most countries, a major percentage of students who fell under the category were not equipped with basic learning and writing skills, he added and further pointed out that the UNESCO had drafted indicators for a comprehensive assessment of literacy rate. The UN agency had been encouraging countries to record individual literacy skill of their citizens using the assessment tool. He went on to add that the educational system should also focus on health and nutrition and sensitize students to proper hygiene and dietary habits. Better coordination among the various governmental departments was crucial in bringing about a positive change in the quality of education. Teachers should be trained to handle children with various degrees of learning difficulties and curriculum be made more contextual, he said.
Referring to his local initiative known as ‘Anakavur Process’, in villages in the Anakavur Block in the district of Tiruvannamalai, he said rural students particularly the ones belonging to backward and poorer groups faced much greater challenges such as long-distance commute and lack of basic facilities in schools.
Speaking next, Mr. M. P.Vijayakumar, Advisor, Sarva Siksha Abhiyan (SSA – Education for All Movement) detailed the projects initiated by SSA. He said that the activity-based learning methodology had evoked encouraging response from both the students and the teachers.
The Manager (Projects) of British Council (South India) Samyuktha Balakrishnan explained the British Council’s project perspectives relating to the improvement of the quality of teaching and learning in schools.
The President of ABS and EWCA, Mr. P. M. Belliappa, earlier introduced the speakers, made his own comments on the education scenario in the country as also moderated the question and answer session that followed the talks.
The event has been reported in “The Hindu” dated 05 January 2009.
To read more about the Anakavur Process, a local initiative on putting children back to school, please see Dr. Venkatraman’s blog: www.anakavur.com.