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The initiative on education has evolved through our engagement with questions of citizenship and normativity at critical moments in Indian politics. We have carried out research that has challenged the assumptions of mainstream disciplines, and some of our publications have found place in curricula in India and other parts of the world. During the Mandal-Masjid years in the early 90s, we wrestled in many forums with the way gender studies conceived of “woman” as an essentialist category, without religion and/or caste. Many of these investments have pushed us to question the myth of neutrality of mainstream frameworks and institutions – those seeking to constitute the ‘ideal citizen’ – and these insights have especially informed our research in education.

Our work on school education has pointed to the contradictions between the values and assumptions that underpin public education and the everyday lives of children from marginalized communities. The social setting of the school, teachers’ attitudes and the curriculum alienate children for whom work is integral to familial survival. Poor – largely Dalit, backward caste and Muslim – children’s efforts to stay in school and to succeed are routinely thwarted by factors that are rarely addressed in educational policy, institutional structure, textbooks or teacher training.

Ongoing Projects

Different Tales: Stories from Marginal Cultures and Regional Languages

This project aims to collate a series of alternative stories for children that will reflect the plurality of experiences that constitute children’s lives in India. The reading and fieldwork for this project are throwing up a number of interesting questions: How can we find stories that reflect different life worlds and that speak to different childhood experiences? Are there local, regional or trans-national narratives that will disrupt the nationalist framework that is all-pervasive in children’s literature? The project is examining contemporary feminist, Dalit and minority literature in order to find material that can be adapted for children. The project culminated in the publication of a series of eight storybooks in Telugu, Malayalam and English.  To see a full report click here.

Currently the project is being extended to translate the stories into Kannada and Urdu.  M.A. Moid and K. Sukanya are working on the project.

Completed Projects

Locating Caste in the ‘Progressive’ Educational Spaces of Kerala

This project looked at the caste experiences of children through an assessment of the role of teachers, school atmosphere and the peer group. It examined the factors that work to inculcate, interpret and negotiate with caste in the secular context of Kerala. The study involved interviews with children and teachers, and observation of classroom interactions of teachers and students. Children and parents from different castes and classes were interviewed outside the classrooms. K. P. Girija worked on this project.

A Review of the Social Studies Textbooks prescribed by the Andhra Pradesh SCERT (2005)

This project, commissioned by Aman Trust, New Delhi was coordinated by Deepa Srinivas with inputs from R. Srivatsan and A. Suneetha. The project involved a review of the Social Studies text books prescribed for classes VI to X by APSCERT. The analysis of the lessons in the text books reveals an unquestioning commitment to the development-oriented prerogatives of the nation-state.  As a result the lessons are written in an abstract, fact-driven manner and fail to connect with the local contexts and knowledges of children.

Curricular Transactions in Selected Government Schools (2000-2002)

This project sought to document the processes underlying curricular transactions among children from marginalized communities, studying in classes VI, VII and VIII in ten different schools in and around Hyderarbad. The research team examined both central and state schemes and policies for school education during the project period. The team analysed textbooks and guides, and collected data from 300 school children, 120 parents and a small group of teachers and school administrators. The findings stressed the need to examine the impact of the curriculum and normative values that it embodies on these childrens’ self-worth and aspirations. The reasons for children’s inability to attend school seem to go beyond the often cited poor teaching on the part of the teachers and forced child labour on the part of the parents.

The project team consisted of V. Sailaja (Field work Coordinator), P. Anuradha, Elisha and K. Santosha (Research Assistants), Aditi Mukherjee, Jacob Tharu, Rekha Pappu, D. Vasanta, Susie Tharu and Vijaya Vanamala (Researchers), and R. Srivatsan and Rama Hansaraj (technical support). A CD of the report is available from Anveshi for Rs.100.

See full report

Critical Evaluation of Children’s Literature in Telugu (1989)

This short-term research project by C. Aruna reviewed children’s magazines such as Chandamama, Chitrajyothi and Balamitra from 1984 to 1990 with special reference to their sex role patterns. In all, 9000 stories were selected from seven children’s magazines and other story-books for analysis. It found that very few stories had women as important characters. Only 7% stories were about women and 70% about men and women.