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Thursday, December 4, 2008

Caring Environment in Schools





“MOVE fast,” “hands at the back.” This is not a scene from an Army camp but a school where students are being taught staircase etiquette. 
   A documentary, ‘Shades of Our Schools,’ commissioned by Bangalorebased The Teacher Foundation (TTF), is a series of short films that explore the nature of personal interactions in schools across India. The documentary has been made as a prelude to a national conference on social and emotional environment of schools. The conference, which aims to advocate a more caring environment in schools, is being organised by TTF in collaboration with NCERT and will be held in November. 
   “The focus of the documentary is on interactions; mainly studentteacher but also principal's attitude and parent-teacher interaction. How conducive are these interactions to learning? For the film, we chose a cross-section of schools — government-private, rural-urban, Englishmedium and regional, to provide candid shots of life in schools,” says filmmaker Gautam Sonti. 
   Maya Menon, director, TTF, while reiterating that the intention behind making the documentary was “not to lampoon any teacher or school,” said, “it takes courage to allow yourself to be filmed and we are grateful to the schools and teachers for their co-operation.” 
   The vignettes of life in school showed that there is little interaction between teachers and students, in the classroom or outside. Most teachers were shown racing through their lessons with rarely any feedback from students. Younger students looked terrified when they were addressed. However, a teacher of a senior section maintained that fear equals to love which equals to respect when it comes to students. 
   Even teachers have to pass a test. According to students from a senior section who were seen disrupting a class, “a new teacher is always tested to see how strict he or she is and how far can we go with our pranks.” 
   The documentary sparked a heated debate among teachers who had come to attend the screening. In their defence, teachers said that they had to tackle large numbers in class as well as face the tough task of finishing the curriculum on time, which left them with little choice or time to interact with the children. 
   Many rued the fact that schools were being run like big corporations, churning out machines. While there were others who felt that parents' expectations were partly responsible for this dilemma as all they focussed on was “academic performance” and not “holistic education.” But all agreed that teachers should be given counselling and training to help them fulfil their role in a more sensitive way. 
   A village school in the south and a well-known school in Kolkata showed that a caring environment is possible as the teaching staff, including the principal, were shown interacting with students who looked far from fearful when they were addressed.




  Sunil Sharma


Dil Se Desi Group


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