Covid, virus of popular psychology and pedagogy

The pandemic has exposed India’s ambivalence with scientific knowledge. While masking and distancing is scientific wisdom, we see massive disregard for these in festivals and polls. The pandemic has revealed another ambivalence – about beliefs about the purpose and processes of education. The opinions of education experts contrast sharply with the fears of bureaucrats and politicians. While experts insist on “opening schools first and closing them last,” and prioritizing schooling for the youngest, governments have kept schools closed for too long, then prioritized high schools.

Experts argue that the damage caused by closing schools is maximum for young children, in terms of loss of basic learning, malnutrition, difficulty resuming socialization processes, while the damage caused by opening of schools are negligible because they are the least vulnerable to the virus. Yet governments have focused on making the transition of children from school to higher education through board reviews or even the ridiculous dropping of students.

The gap between educators and political leadership, the latter mainly reflecting the prevailing perspectives, is an inherited crisis. For example, educators are adamant that the language of instruction should be the mother tongue of children, but governments are eagerly opening primary schools in English, responding to parents’ desire for their children to learn English to aspire to white collar jobs. Low-cost, low-quality “Middle English” private schools thrive, although children cannot learn in an unfamiliar language, especially given the lack of support at home for English.

Educators stress that holistic and diverse curriculum experiences are essential for quality education. Yet, as they grow older, students see with dismay their games and art lessons being taken care of by their math or science teachers! Completion of the program is usually the most important achievement for teachers, as testing memorization through examinations is believed to demonstrate “learning”, independent of conceptual understanding.

Jerome Bruner coined the term “popular pedagogies” to refer to popular beliefs about learning, derived from “popular psychologies” which refer to the “common sense” understanding of the world.

Popular psychologies and pedagogies have an impact on educational processes and systems and constitute powerful obstacles to the achievement of educational goals. The “common sense” beliefs of the middle class about the goals of education – primarily to enable the student to acquire a well-paying job, explain the popularity of the engineering and medical professions. However, as a formal human project, education aims to build an equitable and just society. Educational philosophers suggest that education should aim to develop individuals who can together build a world of peace and prosperity, in harmony with all of creation.

Special interests that promote the legacy popular pedagogies that benefit from them include the Indian coaching industry, which pushes students to pile up and pass contests, and private school lobbies that corrupt governments to make it happen. ‘they are lax in their regulations. Corporate-controlled media make public schools appear to be universally dysfunctional. Although, like private schools, the public school system is extremely stratified, ranging from the much sought-after Kendriya Vidyalayas and Navodaya Vidyalayas run by the central government with adequate financial support, to public public schools, which are systematically deprived of infrastructure and support. based. Educators looking to invest more in public education, such as state schools serving disadvantaged children, are being ignored.

Previously, ignoring educational expertise was detrimental to education. During the time of Covid, it turned out to be fatal. As governments open schools, there are no clear guidelines for teachers on what to teach and how to teach. One student, now in grade 9, has mostly not attended grade 8 and has forgotten most of what he learned in grade 7 or before. A teacher familiar with the Class 9 textbook will teach this, but will not be familiar with the lessons in Grade 6 or 7. It will be incomprehensible and the youngest will suffer the most. Development economist Jean Dreze observed during his study of school closures in Jharkhand, that a ten-year-old who has forgotten basic Hindi alphabets will join 4th grade and get an English textbook that completely exceeds all comprehension. Unless the teacher starts with a basic home language program, the learner risks dropping out of school or simply being promoted through classes, gaining little understanding.

The National Coalition on the Education Emergency recommends clear instructions for teachers not to focus on teaching at the grade level and start with socio-emotional learning. Special measures will be needed for children from marginalized groups who had no education opportunities last year. Their schools will need additional teachers, teaching assistants, counselors, etc.

All of this will run counter to popular psychology that children from marginalized groups cannot and do not need to be educated, that they can and should continue the subordinate socio-economic roles of their ancestors, at the same time. service of the upper strata of society. Like others, this popular psychology can only be approached through education, following the processes of critical pedagogy popularized by Paulo Friere, to “make people of both groups aware”.

(The author is director of IT for Change and a member of the National Coalition on Educational Emergency)

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