An art teacher I met Christmas Eve noted that the real value of a good art education is not that it will lead to better engineers, lawyers or scientists, though it will, but that children need time and space to be creatively free and have fun. All the schools I have visited so far embody this philosophy. There's also an appreciation for what one principal described as a "healthy naughtiness."
There is a dark side to Indian education, no schools for many kids, corrupt schools or strict schools where children or brutalized physically or emotionally to the point of suicide. Now, the simmering debate on the future of Indian education seems to be breaking wide-open. Bollywood is of course doing its part, with recent films like Taare Zameen Par and 3 Idiots, which just opened. Stay tuned.
At one school, I was asked to speak to 90 class 9 girls, not realizing I'd be introduced a an expert on arts education. I am a student of it, not an expert. In situations like this, it's best to keep the speech brief and go quickly to the Q and A. I was as curious about them as they were about me, if not more curious. Their questions said a great deal about their concerns: poverty, political corruption, and the roles of the media and society in resolving these things. Their consensus was that the biggest problem India faces is political corruption and that resolving this would alleviate other problems.
All in all, a great afternoon that wholeheartedly supported my obvious biases.
Off to Kerala soon, where meaningful literacy is almost total (and there are also some nice beaches and wildlife preserves, providentially). :)
The quote on the blackboard says:
"The principal goal of education is to create men and women who are capable of doing new things not simply repeating what other generations have done."
(Seen at the Fabindia School in Bali, Rajasthan)