Education : Learning Beyond Walls
Prof Anju Gupta
A remarkable political philosopher John Adams once said, “There are two types of educations, one should teach us how to make a living and other, how to live.”
Our society must strive for an education system of this kind. At present our students learn all sorts of complicated formulae, equations and jargon in Philosophy, Science, and Art. Yet sometimes, they are like birds waiting to be fed. Their wings possess neither strength nor any sort of flamboyance.
Better positioning of non-formal education within national education systems, governance and management structure is crucial, in particular in the following respects: 1) bridging non-formal education and formal education within the education system; 2) promoting inter-sectorial cooperation; 3) strengthening collaboration among different levels of the education systems – central government, decentralised authorities, schools and communities and 4) ensuring adequate provision in fragile states.
Frequently, however, learning outcomes of non-formal and informal education are not recognised in a way which allows learners to transit into formal school or technical and vocational institutions. Such lack of recognition can also limit learners’ career prospects in the world of work. In certain locations therefore, efforts have been made towards more integrated education systems by ensuring equivalence of learning outcomes and developing frameworks for transferable credit.
The Education Act of 1982, Section 24 considers Non-formal Education as one of the specialised educational services to meet special needs of certain clientele.
Any state that seeks to pursue the dream of being self reliant and substantial has to start by making its citizens independent and strong minded. On one hand whereas this can be easy for a first world nation with a stable economy, for a country like India, it poses a gigantic challenge. A country which is heavily burdened with the history of female oppression and violence, education is the sole path through which women can be provided with freedom and opportunities.
The task of providing this very education becomes doubly difficult to achieve in a country where the female literacy ratio is almost 20 per cent less than that of the male literacy ratio, and where only a little more than fifty per cent get education till class fifth.
In such a scenario it is important to think out of the box and come up with solutions that are non-traditional and creative so that the women who pass out of school can enter college and hope for higher education. Family and financial pressures have to be kept in mind and at the same time they have to be encouraged to pursue graduation and post graduation and be independent enough to earn their own living. Keeping in mind that the majority of population in India is of working age and no nation can hope to develop till its youth is unsatisfied and disappointed. Skill development is a process which once started needs to be encouraged as it has the potential of mass employment.
Many academic institutions initiated various programs for women so as to bring them at the forefront and make them the holders of employment opportunities. One such institution which answers the question of women education is Non Collegiate Women Education Board (NCWEB), University of Delhi. NCWEB, less of usual rigid institution and more of a women empowerment and knowledge imparting institution is always keen to come forward with various innovative skill development programs with the prior focus on the girl child and her development. NCWEB conducts skill development courses for the students covering wide range from ‘Skill Tree’ to ‘Retail Sector’, where students are trained to work in formal and informal sectors and are given job opportunities accordingly. In this fast moving globalised country, NCWEB is playing a unique role in empowering girl child, as the organisation gives a huge platform to girls of the dispossessed sections who are hunting for jobs on one hand while on the other hand continuing their classes in NCWEB on Sundays. This step taken by the institution is changing lives of hundreds of students.
NCWEB functions under University of Delhi. It is very unique in its functioning. Only women students of Delhi can enroll themselves as students of the board. It has a system with lectures on weekends leaving students with five working days to follow their dream. In this new age of hundred per cent cut-offs, class room crunch, gender discrimination NCWEB is a welcome arrangement and most satisfactory way for the women students to attain a degree from University of Delhi.
Some notable features of these students with non-formal education are that they aren’t soft fluffy couch potatoes. They are industrious, strong and have outstanding courage to organise, they are multi-talented and in every way and equal to students from formal education background. These students have clear cut idea of where to take their lives, how to carry themselves. Most of the students attending week end classes in NCWEB are working on other five days. They diligently attend weekend classes, clear their doubts and are in the process of developing themselves. The board has magically transformed the ‘being women’ norm to an ultra talented epitome of celebrating the ‘female-self’. These students know at least something about everything along with a clear knowledge of their respective subjects.
The faculties teaching them are mostly from regular colleges dedicating their weekends for a noble cause of women’s education. In a way NCWEB has become a way of life, professing liberation and education of women.
This is how collective effort leads to success of non formal education system. As this system of education is not rigid but structured mode of education, students feel it comfortable to be a part of it. The method of instruction, age group of learners, duration of teaching, syllabus of teaching are all student friendly in non formal education system, thus, increasing the confidence of students as well as their parents. In an environment like this, students are relaxed and happy. Hence, the best out of them can be extracted by choosing from different skill development programs available for them.
Learning is an ongoing process. It should not be restricted within the four walls of classroom.
(The writer is Director, NCWEB, University of Delhi)