This year threw the greatest public health challenge in a hundred years at the human race. We, at the Learning Curve, could not let this pass without recording what was happening on the ground. The issue informs that this churning of the old ‘normal’ may have placed us at the cusp of a hitherto unimagined reality; an opportunity to recalibrate how we must proceed with education – with one eye on the emergent challenges and strategies to deal with these and another to ensure that we fasten down the persistent challenges of equity and equality, now, possibly, for good. A wide range of opinions have been compiled and an exclusive section, VOICES, features the experiences of teachers, students, volunteers and members of NGOs.
There was such a resounding response to the statement Every Child Can Learn that we got many more articles than we had expected, to confirm, if confirmation were needed, that yes, indeed, children can learn and do learn, provided they get the encouragement, support, respect and dignity that is due to them during the process and after. This led to the creation of this, the second part, devoted to the topic. The varied ways in which learning is imparted cover a lot of ground, from the general to the particular. The one thing that comes through in this issue, as in Part 1, is that it is all about children learning and enjoying themselves in the process, rather than acquiring a formal education. Learning self-belief, being valued, getting the required support and reassurance that one does not have to change in order to acquire another’s ideas are all learning- enhancing experiences. Retaining one’s individuality, including in styles of learning, is perfectly acceptable. These and other aspects are discussed in this issue.
Children are, first and foremost, individuals and so it follows that their developmental patterns are influenced by environmental conditions. With even twins differing in their abilities and milestones, it is near impossible to predict at what rate a child will learn. Thus children enter school with a wide range of abilities - and therefore possibilities. However, the assumption that all children can learn the basic curriculum at the same pace, in the same way and to the same extent and level- is unsupported either by research or by personal experience. If we agree that children have varied strengths (multiple intelligences) the it surely follows that teaching methods have also got to vary correspondingly and that there have got to be multiple teaching styles. This issue addresses many of these concerns and to do that we have a wide range of articles from writers across the country which establish resoundingly that every child can indeed learn - only it requires empathy and compassion from the teacher to make it happen.
In this issue, we have a wide range of articles from writers who have looked at children with disabilities in a variety of ways- but through the same lens: inclusion. There are articles tracing the history of different organizations which have worked for several years to create opportunities for the education of children with disabilities, language acquisition, travel, opportunities for independence and respectful acceptance, among others.
It is certainly a platitude to say that learning can happen everywhere and at all times, at the most unexpected places and moments in our lives. However, that said, we also recognise that the school is a very valuable place of learning: formally and systematically in a graded way,level upon level so that we can tackle end-of-stage examinations which help us to choose our futures. But while all this is happening, a lot of undocumented and stimulating learning is going on simultaneously, In this issue, articles on experiential learning about the environment, reading as a means of expanding horizons as well as acquiring language skills, the morning assembly as a treasure house of the learning experience- are all here. Other articles have given detailed accounts of science as a dispeller of superstition and an enhancer of a spirit of enquiry and curiosity. Sports do more than just teach the rules of the game, suggests an article: they can internalise values, inculcate inclusion and gender equality. There is an array of perspectives on the learning within learning which, paradoxically, falls outside of it. All in all, this issue confirms what has long been felt and known - the learning that occurs outside the classroom is as vital as the formal pedagogy which takes place inside.
Teaching Learning Materials (TLMs) and Aids, which form the focus of this issue of Learning Curve, an indispensable part of a teacher’s bag of tricks, is a generic term that describes any material that supports and buttresses teachers’ efforts in getting a class of diverse capabilities to understand the basics of any learning. They have to fulfil some basic requirements: simplify concepts, provide the chance of practice, increase interest and motivation, help to explain complexities, concretise abstractions, enrich the course - though, of course, a single TLM may not meet all the above criteria.
This issue contains thoughtful articles on what textbooks are at present, what they should be, ways of using them optimally, new ideas that they can generate in the teaching of science and environmental science for example are presented. Several of the writers have had personal experience in being part of this process and their articles are very valuable because their articles contain the seeds of how teachers can use them in the best possible way.
Education initiatives are part of governments all across the globe, guided by a much-deliberated system of principles influencing decisions that are aimed at achieving pre-determined outcomes, which, in turn, are perceived to be beneficial to a particular country’s goals. Much thought goes on behind creating initiatives: they are statements of intent and, equally, the task of implementation is a very complex one. Not just that, innovative education initiatives have the huge additional responsibility of creating and shaping future generations, who, in turn, are any country’s future. The initiatives have to keep in mind the cultural and social norms of the country, while creating the atmosphere for salutary change. Another aspect that has to be taken into account while designing innovative government initiatives in education is the changes in society and its demands, both locally and globally, and rethink their strategies in order to benefit a new and contemporary scenario which will equip children to face and handle challenges of current times.
The classroom experience is unique - it is different for each one of us which is why when people reminisce about their school, opinions can differ about the same subject or teacher. The teacher, for her part, also has unique relationships with the class she goes to. It is a dynamic, organic process. The same concern, involvement and thoughtfulness that was evident in the experiences recounted in the first part are present in the narratives of this Issue too.
This issue we have a number of articles which explore the boundaries of the classroom and its importance as an investment for the future. Practising teachers have written about the ‘experiments’ they have had success with, others which were not quite so successful because they were ahead of their times. Other articles recount and convey the sense of responsibility a teacher feels when she realises that she has to play a gamut of roles, the sense of achievement and satisfaction when an unexpected learning lakes place. Documented, too, is the tremendous hard work and thinking that most teachers put into their work, thereby enhancing the sense of optimism in these exciting new times.


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