The Children — Their Education

The Children – Their Education

If we really try our best with these girls,

how far can we bring them?  

The Frame of Reference:  A family where education is valued.

The Model: Asian education principles of discipline, hard work, study full-time, with few vacations, and holding students to a high standard. 

The Methods:  Use every strategy to get the child to learn: Tutors, special educators, rewards, praise,  punishments (except corporal punishment or denial of food), yelling, never accepting that the child will not study.  The child cannot opt out.  At Shishur Sevay everyone studies; everyone learns – a little or a lot.  We will never stop trying.  The education may be academic or vocational but the same principles apply, as those are the principles for an independent life with some amount of self-determination  and choices.

We planned to educate the girls at home for a year, but they desperately wanted to walk to school each morning like children they had so often seen and envied.  They wanted to dress in the uniform of social acceptance, white blouse, tunic, patent leather shoes, white socks, clips and ribbons in their hair, backpacks slung across their backs…  They were actually terrified at first, but they wanted to go in spite of their fears.  They just wanted to be “regular.”

The girls came in February; school started in May, and by then, just three months after their arrival, the girls had mastered enough to be admitted to Class I at Sahapur Sabitri Balika Vidyalaya,  the local government primary school. They had learned the alphabet, numbers, colors, shapes, and the map of India! 


The first day of school

They were scared but determined.

At home, Shishur Sevay resembled an Academy as much as an orphanage. After school, classes were held in the classroom six days a week from 11 am to 6 pm on school days, and from 8 am to 6 pm on weekends and holidays. In the evening, the girls had classical dance the weekend.  They had drawing and sometimes mime on Sunday mornings.  A homework teacher was with them until 8:30 pm.

Eager to learn from all sources; eager to learn all skills

Serious Study

Sometimes the girls needed a great deal of support.  They constantly said, “I can’t do this,” and then with a gentle nudge, or a yell, they did it.    But the teachers rarely challenged them.  The Asian Method of holding high standards was very difficult to maintain.  More than one teacher simply said, “‘These children cannot learn.”

Most of the girls have done well in school.  We have had some “first in class” in academics, sports winners, handwriting winners, and of course the girls have done well in dance at school and community celebrations.  We’ve had some girls who required school at home because of learning disabilities and behaviors.

getting on the schoolbus in the morning

Riding a school bus -- regular

Four girls are now in Class V attending a private Bengali Medium School, having passed admission exams for more than one school.

One girl is still at Sabitri School and will finish Class IV in January 2012   She spent several years trying her best not to learn, but seems to have turned a corner.  Sometimes it just happens that way.

One girl is at Sabitri Secondary School in Class V.   She really needed to be in a less stressful academic situation, although she is quite intelligent.

One girl is being educated at Shishur Sevay as she transitions from Bengali Medium to English Medium education.  Her education was impeded by her behavioral difficulties but she has been working well for a while.  She will also be enrolled in the Open Basic Education program of the National Indian Open School.

Focus on Competencies

Learning by Teaching; No one is left out.

One girl has severe dyslexia and after changing schools and working with a learning disabilities specialist, she is in training at Shishur Sevay as an assistant to the Special educators.  She is learning by teaching and should be employable in some capacity working with children with disabilities.  She manages some of the computer teaching for the children with disabilities.

Education for the Children with Disabilities (Link to come)

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August 2011
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