Gaye ek paltu janwar hai (Cow is a domestic animal). Kya Gaye ek paltu janwar hai? (Is cow a domestic animal?).
The first sentence above has been in the primary level books for decades now. It’s the second inquisitive line and approach to understanding that the state government and NGOs in Kashmir are trying to change through the art integrated learning.
The directorate of school in collaboration with the Sir Dorabji Tata Trust and the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH) is using the medium of art, theatre, creative writing and photography to enhance basic learning skills at primary level, up to class seven, in government schools.
“The aim is to develop new child-centred creative learning methodologies for schools, creative expression and development of life skills and self-confidence in children,” said INTACH’s Kashmir head Saleem Beg, who oversees the pilot project.
Started in June this year, the project will cover 100 schools in the state, 50 schools each in Jammu and Kashmir regions. In Kashmir, 25 schools have been identified in Srinagar and 25 in Kupwara.
The project aims at increasing success rate of government schools, where pass percentage continues to be dismal because of poor teaching mechanism.
“Cramming and rote learning is at its highest. It’s an abuse to the true education of a child. We have large percentage of students suffering from psychosomatic disorders because of the present education system,” admits Kashmir director education Muhammad Shafi Rather.
Rather believes that “existing education system should first be demolished to pave way for reconstruction.” “We are lending all support for the art integrated learning now,” said Rather.
In 2005, the National Curriculum Framework laid down guiding principles to fight the fact that learning was becoming a source of burden and stress on children and their parents.
The framework laid stress on connecting knowledge to life outside the school, ensuring that learning shifts away from routine methods and teaching enhancing children’s natural desire to learn.
“The aim to introduce art, theatre and photography in schools is not to produce professionals in these areas but to improve the skill of observation, enquiry and understanding,” said Beg.
According to Beg, theatre helps improve skill of attention, retention and observation. “Similarly, wall painting and collages infuse the sense of team work and individual thinking among students,” said Beg.
The directorate of education has decided to create resource persons within the department by organizing workshops for teachers. The introduction of several mediums at primary level will continue for the next three years.
“After three years, we will gauge the impact and will work accordingly,” said Beg.