Tuesday, 31 January 2017

Social Sciences Education and the Value Problem

In my first post, we explored “What kind of Social Sciences is worth teaching.” 
Part 1 of this blog explored the broad 'Aims of History and Social Sciences Education'. In this part, we will explore the ‘value problem’ in these disciplines.

The teaching of the social sciences to school children is complicated by what may be called the ‘value problem’ in these disciplines. The separation of value judgment from judgment of reality - or ‘ought’ questions from ‘is’ questions - does not pose the same kind of challenges in the natural
sciences that it does in the social sciences.

There are, of course, certain basic values embodied in the Constitution of India. The nature and significance of those values should be explained to students and they should be encouraged by their teachers to adopt them. But the Constitution sets down its basic values in very broad and general terms. It is when we come to details and specifics that the real disagreements come to the surface. As they say, the devil is in the detail.

Should we strive to elaborate one single set of values within the framework of the Constitution for the education of all school students throughout the country? I am not sure as to how far we can or should go in that direction without violating the basic principle of liberal democracy which is the tolerance of a diversity of values, including a diversity of conceptions of the good society. If there is one thing that we ought to be proud of and cherish in the Indian tradition is its tolerance of the diversity of ways of life among the people of the country. Our zeal for the promotion of ‘value-based education’ through the social sciences should not undermine that spirit.

Finally, if we believe that diversity is our greatest treasure, we must encourage our students to take a serious interest in this diversity and to value it. Here the most significant contribution of the social sciences to the education for citizenship will be to encourage our students to cultivate an enquiring attitude towards their own ways of life and a tolerant one towards other ways of life.

In 1964, the Kothari commission said that one of the aims of teaching social (studies) science is to help students acquire certain values and attitudes which are critical for participation in the affairs of the world other than the acquisition of knowledge of the environment and understanding the human relationships. And in 2005 in its position paper on social science, the NCF said that it is important to ‘reinstate the significance of the social sciences by not only highlighting its increasing relevance for a job in the rapidly expanding service sector, but by pointing to its indispensability in laying the foundations for an analytical and creative mindset’.

Given that since the time social science has been brought into the mainstream in the context of education in modern India, all the committees have said the ‘right’ things, the discipline is yet to get the status it deserves in the opinion of the larger society. For the larger society, social science is a non-utility subject. Therefore, there is need to drive home the point that the social sciences are essential to provide number of skills required to adjust to the globalised world, and to ‘deal with political and economic realities’. 

The blog piece has been written by Ms. Vasundhara, who works as the School Transformation lead at Mantra4Change. 

Inquiry Based Learning

Triggering inquiry is about learning something new, and triggering curiosity is no small feat. It takes modeling enthusiasm; and learning something new generates our own enthusiasm, even if it’s something new about the content we’ve covered for years. 

Think about it. Let’s say you’re clicking through your Twitter or Facebook feed and you stumble on a link in your content area. You realize it’s a new factoid, a new perspective on an age-old topic. Maybe it’s a new TEDTalk or graph with statistics, something that makes a concept more concrete. Maybe it’s an infographic or a photo, something that startles you to furrow your brow and say, “Whaaa?!”
To Read more about inquiry based learning, click here.
The article has been originally published on and has been authored by Heather Wolpert-Gawron (

Tuesday, 24 January 2017

My tryst with Mantra4Change: A JOURNEY TO REMEMBER

The blog piece has been written by Ms. Soundarya Ganesan, who worked as an intern at Mantra4Change. She is in 2nd year of her graduation at SRCC, Delhi. Her energy and enthusiasm continue to inspire us.
It all started with the movie ‘Homeless to Harvard.’ The movie took a toll on me. Until then, I never really thanked God for His blessings rather I would always badger him to give me good grades, to bless me and my family with good health and we all know there is no saturation point for human needs. This movie made me recount all the bountiful blessings God had showered upon me. He blessed me with good parents, good family, good teachers, good friends and a good life altogether. I realized there are people who weren’t as privileged as me.  I was filled with remorse and I experienced a pang of guilt for always badgering the Almighty with my list of never ending needs. I realized I should do something, something that would make up for all the trouble I caused to the Good Lord. I couldn’t really figure out what I could do. I kept asking myself ‘what can you do’.

One day, it dawned on me that I could teach the kids –the kids who couldn’t afford good education like I do. As a kid I used to love playing ‘teacher-teacher’ with my flat mates. Never ever had I thought I’d be teacher, teaching kids for real in the future. I spoke to my acquaintances in Chennai and Bangalore; and finally one of my good friends in Bangalore told me about Mantra4Change. I approached them and after a few formalities I was in. I was totally happy.  It was amazing to know about Mantra4Change, its journey and its mission. Before formally starting my internship, I tried my hand in crowd source funding to contribute to their existing campaign. I was really excited and reached out to my friends, family etc. for help. The best part was that a lot of anonymous donors from different parts of the world donated to the cause and they encouraged me so much. I was enthralled. Thanks to all the donors once again!J For once, I really felt good about my own self.  

Once I was done with all my academic commitments at Delhi, I flew to Bangalore. I met the entire team at Mantra4Change and also got to spend a day with them. On my first day, I visited two of their partner schools- one Govt.-run, Urdu-medium school and one low-fee private school located in the slum. I encountered something that we all heard and read on the news: All the students in the Government-run school were first generation learners and most of their parents were daily-wage workers. I got an opportunity to talk to the teachers and they were very thankful to Mantra and team for bringing a change in the mindset of the people in the community and making them understand the significance of education.
The visit to the private school helped me witness the functional and infrastructural change brought by Mantra and team. I was taken aback by all the efforts taken by Mantra and its team. The next day, I visited my placement school which Mantra4Change had started working with just 2 months ago. From my interaction with kids, I figured out that they were really poor in English and they were really scared to hold a conversation in English. I started with the basics in English Grammar for all the children regardless of their standard. Initially, being in classroom with 40 kids, I felt like a rudderless ship tossed in every direction and my self-confidence started to ebb away. But the team at Mantra gave me continuous support and motivated me to keep working hard. Gradually, children started opening up to me. They were enthusiastic and receptive. Whenever they had free periods or when the respective subject teachers weren’t there in class, they would ask me to conduct activities for them. They approached me with a lot of doubts / queries. I was really happy with the progress I witnessed. By the end of my 30-day tenure, I made sure the children were confident in their basics and all the lessons I taught them.

I was in tears- happy tears of course- when my children presented me a “Thank you” card on my last day with them. I had developed a saccharine bond with the kids and it was very hard for me to bid farewell to those ever charming and budding faces. It was a great learning experience for me. I never thought I could be a teacher and I think I’ve done justice as a teacher. I’m very thankful to Mantra4Change for giving me this wonderful opportunity and for having been immensely encouraging and supportive. Looking forward to work with you guys again J