A child’s wholesome development stems from a harmonious blend of academic rigour, physical fitness, mental health, emotional resilience and a deep sense of purpose and self-belief.
This ideal growth is best achieved by active collaboration between educators and communities.
Education in the 21st century envisages learning beyond the academic domain. The idea of the whole child development perceives an individual in possession of knowledge, skills, values, behavioural ethics, responsibility and commitment not just towards oneself or one’s family, but towards society, the nation, the world and the planet as a whole.
A multi-disciplinary approach is becoming central to modern education as it gives a more holistic understanding of various disciplines and diverse perspectives. New pedagogy incorporating the practices of Design Thinking, Computational Thinking, Social-Emotional Learning and Hand-on Learning is redefining the teaching and learning ecosystem. Alongside these practices, a health education curriculum is also being introduced to nurture the good physical, mental and emotional health and well-being of students. Add to this the digital immersion through Personalized Digital Learning Programmes involving IT, ICT and AI and you get a broad overview of what constitutes quality education in institutions today.
The best way to make sure that every student in school succeeds is to build a strong partnership between families, the school and the community.
Collaborating With Community: School And Community Engagement Plan
For schools, an active community engagement begins with the involvement of parents in School Management Committees (SMCs). As active members of school committee, parents are empowered as partners in the learning and development of their children. SMCs also nurture a feeling of ownership in parents and community members. Quite rightly, the Right to Education (RTE) Act 2009 has mandated the formation of SMCs in all schools.
Beyond SMCs, schools often collaborate with communities on an ad hoc basis for special learning programmes, events, campaigns, conclaves and annual functions. These collaborations may happen to achieve the development of the whole child in multi-faceted manners:
- Whole child development requires the continuous and constant attention of educators. But given the low teacher-student ratio in many schools across India, particularly in the rural parts of the country, educators must involve community members and alumni in volunteer efforts for enhancing learning through one-on-one tutoring, teaching support and guidance, career guidance and mentoring to students.
- To stimulate academic excellence in learners, schools can collaborate with academic experts, literate volunteers from the community, retired educators or academics or scientists or persons of eminence, government/semi-government employees, and alumni for their involvement in the school ecosystem or make them part of the visiting faculty.
- National Education Policy 2020 recommends a new learning culture that places emphasis on the development of skills in students. To this end, schools may collaborate with artisans, craftsmen and skilled professionals from local communities. These artisans can be hired/commissioned as master tutors to train students and stimulate their interest in developing skills and artistic capabilities.
- Very often, the whole child development suffers as a result of too much theoretical learning not being complemented by enough exposure to the practical realities of life. A formal interface between academia and community can be created for students to get regular exposure to society and its industry.
- To fulfil the ideal of universal education enshrined in NEP 2020, student dropout should be checked so that pupils don’t slip out of the network of formal learning. According to the Unified District Information System for Education Plus (UDISE+) 2019-20 report, the dropout rate is more than 17% at the secondary school level in India. To buck this trend, community involvement can play a positive role in convincing families to re-send their wards to schools. And as the dropout rate is greater in the case of girl students, schools and communities must join hands for campaigns that create awareness for the education of the girl child.
- Children with special needs or learning disabilities deserve as much of the whole child development as others. Schools must conduct training programmes for parents of these special-needs children to bring them into the learning fold.
- Local communities should be actively involved in conducting household surveys to create a database on the number of students attending/missing school.
- Schools must collaborate with members of the community, medical fraternity and even parents to create a health education curriculum for all students aged 3 to 18. They should enlist the support of qualified practitioners for psychological and emotional counselling of students.
Education For Sustainable Development
Learning cannot be confined to the four walls of a school. Any idea of the whole child development must eventually include the parents and the community. UN’s Sustainable Development Goals provide a broader perspective for active community engagement in schools. Education for sustainable development calls for the nurturing of a progressive economic, social and environmental outlook in children which can be achieved with active collaboration between educators and communities. The aim, after all, is not just to create achievers and toppers, but individuals with the right moral compass to become responsible global citizens.