“If I Were the Education Minister of India…”

Teach For India is a nationwide movement that aims to eliminate inequity in education in India.

14th November. The date brings back fond memories of school picnics, sumptuous treats & feeling special in general. Children’s Day has always been a time to celebrate childhood but today, has gathered a much larger significance in the face of India’s education crisis.

Children are the leaders of our nation. When we engage in dialogue about systemic change through education policy, equity and innovation – we must include our children in the conversation as they are the most important stakeholders driving this change. They have the potential to bring important perspective to the debate on education reform and can help us understand the ground reality of the current educational landscape while at the same time giving us hope with their sense of possibility.

What better way to celebrate Children’s Day this year than by letting the children themselves take the stage? With this thought, we spoke to a few 11- & 12-year-old Teach For India students and gathered their perspective on education. What we got will simply astound you!


WHAT IS THE IMPORTANCE OF EDUCATION ?

Education is necessary for us children because it teaches us good values and gives us knowledge. Look at all the pollution caused by more number of vehicles and building construction that’s spoiling nature – we don’t know what diseases we might get soon! Tomorrow even if I lose my physical ability to earn a living, I will still have the mental ability to look after myself because of being educated. Today I face the problem of not being tall enough for my age but I look at Stephen Hawking – a paralysed man who still uses his knowledge to teach others – and I feel like if I’m educated enough I can do anything! I pay a lot of attention to Science and hope to become an electronics engineer one day. – Shahid


Education is important because if we study we’ll have the potential to become anything or anyone we want. We could even become a scientist like Albert Einstein. If we’re educated, we’ll be able to make sure our children are educated as well. The son of a vegetable seller should not become a vegetable seller as well – if he has the potential to become a doctor, he should get that opportunity, but only education can give that opportunity. – Yash

Education is of course important! Even running a shop needs knowledge about mathematics and to communicate with people in a job you need to be able to speak English. – Sakshi


Education will help me become a good person in life. In some villages, the people believe in superstitions like tantriks. Education will help remove these beliefs – it’ll help the villagers show grit and stand up to such people. Education helps us to become whoever we want. For example, I want to become a footballer. When the ‘Didi’ from TFI came to teach us, they actually taught us and did not beat us – they gave us everything we needed. That’s how we started to learn new things and that’s how I got the opportunity to learn football. I’ve now made a team in my community called ‘All-Star’ that has 11 group members – we’re collecting money to make uniforms and go play against other teams. – Hanan


WHAT ARE THE PROBLEMS INDIA IS FACING WITH RESPECT TO EDUCATION ?
I’m thankful that the government is building municipal schools for children like us. But I have a very big problem – enough girls from communities like mine don’t go to school. Look at my class – we have 22 boys but only 12 girls. There are people like my grandmother who think that girls shouldn’t be educated – I keep telling her this is wrong and that God created everyone as equal. It is so important for girls to have an education – tomorrow when they get married what happens if their husbands leave their jobs? If they’re educated they’d be able to support their families. – Shahid

In our country, parents think it’s useless to give education to their daughter as she’ll get married and go to someone else’s house. Also, all children are not at the same level. Some kids take time to learn which affects their scores but this leads the parents and the community to think that the child is dumb. Thinking this way only makes the child more distracted and unable to learn. – Asira


Teachers in municipal schools don’t teach well maybe because they’re not paid well. A boy in my community once told me he got 100 out of 100 marks in English by writing Honey Singh songs in a very good handwriting. His teachers did not check the paper at all! – Hanan


In India, poor people send their children to municipal schools only so that they can have one free meal in school – but these schools don’t give good education. There are also teachers who beat children – I read in an article that this affects children. This is also why so many mothers don’t send their kids to school, because they are scared of what will happen to them when they’re alone in school. As a girl I feel bad that not enough girls get educated. Education is a fundamental right that we all deserve and it shouldn’t be based on whether we’re boys or girls. – Preeti


WHAT IF YOU WERE THE EDUCATION MINISTER OF INDIA ?

If I was the Education Minister, I would go to the villages and talk to all the parents about the importance of educating girls. I’d also tell these girls the benefits of being educated. I’ll happily spend all my money to make schools in these places as often the existing schools are too far and parents don’t want their children to travel so much every day. – Shahid


If I was the Education Minister, I’d go to all the villages to start schools for elder people. After all, being educated should have no age limit. – Yash


If I was the Education Minister, I’d build more municipal schools which are only for girls. I think taking money for education is wrong – it’s a common thing that everyone in India should have and should not be denied just because someone may not be able to pay for it – so as Education Minister, I’d make all schools free. – Sakshi


If I was the Education Minister, I’d insist on less kids in every class and school but a better quality of education. Fun teaching techniques like for example games Hangman to teach spellings is what I’ll advise every school to use. I’d tell the teachers that they don’t need to be strict to get results – love works better. Hangman is a great way to learn spellings. – Asira


If I was Education Minister, I’ll try to pay teachers in municipal schools better salaries so that they want to be better teachers. I’ll also start free tuition classes for all students to help them even after school. – Hanan


If I was Education Minister, I’d give good facilities and good teachers to every school so that all children can learn well. I’ll also make sure that all girls are educated – after all boys can’t do everything! Look at Indira Gandhi and Kalpana Chawla! Most of our teachers are girls too! I’ll tell all the teachers that beating punishment will not solve anything – it’ll just make them a bad person. – Preeti


This Children’s Day – let’s celebrate student voice & applaud student leadership irrespective of financial or social backgrounds. Let us make way for children themselves to take the lead on voicing their opinions & collaborating together to build the momentum on addressing inequity in education.

“Even though we are small, we have a power and voice within us and just need that opportunity to share our vision.” – Kusum, Grade 6 Teach For India student.

Written By Alankrita Khera – Manager, Communications – Teach For India.

Applications to the 2016-18 Teach For India Fellowship program are now open. Apply now at http://apply.teachforindia.org/user/register. Application Deadline – 8th December 2015.

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