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Co-Written By   Dr.Swaleha Sindhi and Mr.Aijaz Yatoo

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India has undergone significant social, cultural, demographic and economic change since the year 1991, with the adoption of new economic policy of Liberalisation, Privatisation and Globalisation. Until that stage, the population was heterogeneous, to a limited extent. But after the LPG policy the migration patterns changed in India. There has been a significant increase in migration to urban areas along with transnational movements, both among males and females. Thus new set of Diaspora population profile presents us with both new opportunities and challenges. Education can make an important and meaningful contribution to sustainable and tolerant societies.

Intercultural Education

Interculturality is a dynamic concept and refers to evolving relations between cultural groups. It has been defined as “the existence and equitable interaction of diverse cultures and the possibility of generating shared cultural expressions through dialogue and mutual respect. Interculturality presupposes multiculturalism and results from ‘intercultural’ exchange and dialogue on the local, regional, national or international level. Intercultural education, according to the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA, 2006), sensitises the learner to the idea that humans have naturally developed a range of different ways of life, customs and worldviews, and that this breadth of human life enriches all. Thus, Intercultural Education Strategy aims to ensure that all students experience an education that respects the diversity of values, beliefs, languages and traditions in Indian society and is conducted in a spirit of partnership.  Therefore, schools can play a role in the development of an intercultural society when they are assisted with ensuring that inclusion and integration within an intercultural learning environment become the norm.

Existing Scenario in India

Fundamental values underlying Intercultural education are respect for human rights and rule of law, intercultural values, and openness to world democracy. In India there already exist diversity in cultures and tradition. Indians are subconsciously more aware about other cultures and this awareness subtly contributes to an understanding about other’s viewpoint. Indians have by default an implicit compassion for other cultures. Indian schools deal with students from different cultures. Their backgrounds differ in terms of parent’s education, religion, socio economic status, household and family norm, also they differ in values and attitudes, lifestyles, abilities/disabilities, and ethnicity, in case of urban schools even nationality.  Ethnicity or nationality is therefore only one of the factors that make our classrooms diverse and thus influences our student’s culture. But in the existing Indian scenario the contemporary education is at a crossroads and facing multiple challenges related to equity, equality and quality, there is a need to evolve multi-pronged, context-specific strategies for addressing the needs of children from diverse backgrounds.

Time and again government policies attempt to address issues related to equity, equality and quality concerns in education. The National Policy on Education, 1968 and the National Policy on Education, 1986 addresses these issues. Both these policies laid special emphasis on removal of disparity and equalize educational opportunity by attending to the specific needs of those who had so far been denied equality. These policies lay special stress upon making education a vehicle of social transformation and empowerment. The Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act (RTE), 2009 is another attempt of government to make primary education for all mandatory. To give effect to the recommendations of commissions, policy initiatives and legal provisions have been made by central and state agencies and civil society to provide education to all irrespective of gender, caste, class, faith and location. Several national schemes such as the District Primary Education Programme (DPEP), 1994, Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA), 2001 and the Rashtriya Madhyamik Shiksha Abhiyan (RMSA), 2010 have worked towards fulfilling the unfinished agenda of education for all at different levels. SSA also developed and implemented innovative training model, for primary school teachers in the tribal areas of Orissa. The model focused on attitudinal training of teachers and their sensitization to tribal language, culture and knowledge systems. Various innovative experiments in school reforms have been taken up by civil society organizations as well as in the government sector in different parts of the country. These experiments have attempted curriculum design, development of teaching-learning methods and materials, and teacher development with child-centered inclusive perspectives. These have shown encouraging results in terms of the learning achievement of children from diverse backgrounds.

The Activity Based Learning methodology introduced in response to the poor learning levels amongst children and uninteresting classroom processes is a step towards creating inclusive classrooms. The most notable feature of the reform is its focus on changing classrooms, in terms of methodology, the role of teachers, classroom organization and classroom environment as a whole. Although many efforts are made towards making diverse classroom interesting there is a need for preparation of text books, supplementary materials and bridge courses in the mother tongue of the learners for better comprehension of subject. In addition, multilingualism and bilingual approaches needs to be explored. Therefore, Intercultural education promotes developing an awareness of discrimination such as cultural racism, sexism, classism, and other forms of prejudice and discrimination.

Conclusion

There have been many demographic changes in India in recent years. The educational policies and programs therefore are reviewed in light of contemporary circumstances. The development of an intercultural education strategy acknowledged these demographic changes, which are reflected in the education system. Without teachers’ sensitiveness and understanding of the diverse student community in the classroom students’ progress cannot be achieved. It is clear that professional growth commitment and motivation of teachers is essential. Thus, through the combined effort from institutions and education agencies, teachers can fulfil their responsibilities with a greater confidence. The creation of such an atmosphere would go a long way in strengthening the bonds between teachers, children and the school. Integration of context specific technology in classroom processes and multiple activities conducted in schools would help in skill development of children from diverse origins for self-reliance.

(Dr Swaleha Sindhi is Assistant Professor at the M.S.University of Baroda and Mr. Aijaz Yatoo is a Scholar from University of Kashmir. Dr.Swaleha can be mailed at:swalehasindhi@gmail.com)

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One Comment

  1. K SHESHU BABU says:

    Intercultural education is an important aspect which has been ignored by the governments over the years. India has diverse cultures and many religions not to mention castes and sub-castes. Children must be informed of complexities of societies and only then they will be able to adapt to various situations. Intermingling with children of other castes and religions will make a child develop cordial relations in the society. This is a crucial matter of concern especially when the religious fanatics are dividing society with ‘ uni- cultural’ and innate hatred towards lower castes and under-privileged minorities.