Education that is Multicultural: Vocational Education and Skills Development

Blog #9

January 9, 2017

This blog is authored by Study Abroad in India student Claudia Lara who is studying for a Masters degree in Early Childhood Education at The City College of New York. She has an associates degree in Deaf Studies, a bachelor's degree in Linguistics and is currently teaching 3 year olds in a preschool in Queens, NY.

Throughout our first week in India, we visited institutions that have taught us how different communities in India are being encouraged to continue their education. We are starting this week by visiting Skill India which is a skills development corporation for marginalized communities. As we learned in previous visits, the key to helping students succeed is to keep them engaged throughout process from education to employment. Skill India intends to help those who have dropped out of school by providing vocational training through hands-on activities.

Hearing "hands-on" made me think of activities related to the topic being taught however, seeing the classrooms made me realize it is more than providing activities. All the classrooms were different;  those training for hospitality had a replica of a hotel room for practicing, those training for a position associated with retail were standing in their classroom. Every setting aimed to provide real life experience to prepare them for the job position they would like to get.

As the article “Origins of Alternative Education in India: A Continuing Journey” by Deepti Mehrotra mentions, several schools have introduced alternative teaching methods that are different from the mainstream method (Mehrotra, p. 25). Besides introducing different hands-on experiences, Skill India has also introduced new equipment in the classrooms. The Institute has created and patented a touch screen projector which facilitates teaching. The projector has different features like graphing, browsing, and writing tools. It also has the option to live stream and record which can be played in centers that do not have teachers. Every setting and materials in Skill India was customized to fit students' career interest. Walking around the vocational centers made me wonder why classrooms in New York are not adapting to more realistic situations.

Education that is Multicultural: Tea and Family

Blog # 8

January 8, 2017

This blog is authored by Study Abroad in India student Wendy Barrales who is a PhD candidate at the CUNY Graduate Center, and a founding teacher at Brooklyn Emerging Leaders Academy.

Icebergs are often underestimated in size. What is visible to the eye is only a small part of an immense structure. Culture is similarly misunderstood. We assume that our knowledge of tangible outputs--- food, clothes and music--- tell us enough about a particular culture. But just like icebergs, when we dig further and look beyond the surface, we begin to see the complexity and depth of its values and foundation. Prior to arriving in New Delhi, we discussed this idea of culture as a reminder to push our understanding beyond what meets the eye. At yesterday's afternoon tea with Professor Gupta's family, we got to see below the iceberg and soaked in the values embedded within family.

Unlike British afternoon tea, featuring scones with clotted cream and small cucumber sandwiches, Indian tea time is vibrant and flavorful. The color and smells wafting from the table were intoxicating as we impatiently waited to try some pohe (a flattened rice with turmeric green peas and fresh cilantro). We had an incredible selection of samosas and bread pakoras accompanied with spiral orange sweet jalebis and white squares of milk based burfi to settle our sweet tooth cravings. Not only were we expanding our understanding of Indian cuisine, but we were also part of a beautiful moment of family togetherness.

As we sipped tea, Professor Gupta's auntie shared a wealth of knowledge from her experience within the field of education. She has a sharp sense of humor and infectious energy causing all of us to gravitate towards her. Two of our classmates wore traditional Indian saris and she gave us a small description on the traditional clothing for various parts of India. Lastly, we shared a few laughs about the complicated relationships we have with our mothers, a topic of conversation that is relatable and universal to us all.

The warmth we felt yesterday provided us all with a comforting sense of familiarity despite being miles from home. Our understanding of the culture iceberg was broadened that day. Not only did we see how values play out within a family setting, we were also able to see how similar and alike our cultures can be. There are some things in the world that transcend countries and cultures, and the warmth we felt in that home was a universal feeling of love.

Education that is Multicultural - Visiting the Taj Mahal in Agra

Blog # 7

January 7, 2017

This blog is authored by Study Abroad in India student Puiyee Cheung who is a graduate student at the City College of New York pursuing her Masters degree in the Bilingual Education and TESOL Program.

We went to the Taj Mahal today! It was interesting to see it in cloudy weather- the haze added an air of mystery and timelessness. The Taj, was built by the Mughal Emperor, Shah Jahan for his late wife Mumtaz Mahal between 1632 – 1648 AD. Along with the incredible design and symmetry, I was most fascinated by the materials they used; Makrana marble – which is translucent and nonporous – so that it looks differently depending upon the light, especially in the moonlight! There is incredible inlay work, which includes 4.3 million pieces of semi-precious stones such as: Turquoise, Lapis lazuli, and Malachite. It took over 22 years and 20,000 workers to complete; legend has it that the Shah cut the hands off the workers so that they wouldn’t be able to build another Taj.

In its presence, I found myself thinking about romantic gestures, and how different they can be: gifts, quality time, affirming words, acts of service, and physical touch. And depending upon the person some gestures are more appreciated and deeply felt, a notion that was popularized by Gary Chapman in his book The 5 languages of love.

In the spirit of this course – and how important relationships are in the classrooms we’ve visited, can we as educators be more effective in building relationships with our students? And consider that perhaps children like adults need and experience love differently as well? In The 5 Love Languages of Children, G. Chapman and R. Campbell, explains how different children can be, and that our language may be totally different from theirs. Thus by discovering their primary language, we can more effectively convey feelings of respect, affection, and commitment that will hopefully resonate with their emotions, behavior, and ability to learn in the classroom.


Photo by: Jasmine Khoury

Education that is Multicultural - Gender, Sexuality and Education

Blog # 6

January 6, 2017

This blog is authored by Study Abroad in India student Meghan Cuadro who is an undergraduate student at the City College of New York pursuing her bachelors degree in international studies. In the future she would like to work abroad in maybe helping or teaching children in developing countries. 

Waking up on our 7th day in New Delhi, I was faced with the task of writing the blog today.  As I got ready, I reflected on what we did yesterday, and how today's activities could be a continuation on the different ways the RTE legislation is being implemented to gradually get all children in India to go to school. Today's topic was the girl child, and how India is trying to make a big impact on the lives of young girls.

The overall goal is to help girls and women get an education and to become more independent. Socially aware citizens want to get rid of the social stigma that has seemed to plague the life of young girls and women here, but this was not always the case. In ancient history, women were very much appreciated and involved in politics. They were warriors and scholars. With the development of patriarchal societies, women have fell back, and through feminist thinking women are now again fighting to regain equal positions to their male counterparts. This message resonates with me because in my own personal background. I have studied in  institutions that were only open to girls. Therefore, I know the significance of empowering girls and women first hand. As breakfast came to a close,  I thought I would bring my own personal experiences to our class discussion. We sat for a little over two hours, and had a wonderful conversational lecture. The lecture seemed to flow organically and each of us were very enthusiastic to ask questions and to give insight on the various topics of our discussion and chapter four assigned which was the assigned reading of the day. 

Once the lecture was over we were off to an NGO that specializes in working with girls. This NGO is called Nirantar which means "ongoing" in Hindi. Their work is continuous so the name has a proper fit. The men and women who work at this NGO are doing amazing work not only with young girls, but with older women as well. We all know the importance of educating a child, but we very often leave out adults. That struck me because throughout the seven days I've been learning about education in this course, I had never thought about education for adults. The speakers expressed their efforts to bring literacy to women who were not able to learn as children because of various circumstances. They wanted women to feel empowered in themselves even if they could not be helped out of certain situations such as arranged marriages and domestic abuse. Literacy is an important aspect of education. Nirantar has also expressed the right  to entertainment and abstract information. I loved that because many people and other organizations provide marginalized women with knowledge and skills to become a better woman, wife, and mother. This speaks volumes because women are human; not property or objects just to serve men.

Nirantar has reached out to 10-15,000 women and young girls when it comes to teaching literacy, but they do not pride themselves in quantitative statistics. They do not believe that they need to prove anything numerically because they know  their  work is good, and impacts made by them are little victories that accumulate. They started the only newspaper that is written and produced by women, which is printed in seven different languages.  It is called Khabar Lahariya. Nirantar is an NGO at the grassroots level, but they are creating sparks of change not only for girls and women, but also spreading awareness that is self-sustained to men of the areas they reach. Patriarchal ideals and stubborn mindsets are being changed and that is just a small percentage of the work Nirantar is involved in. Overall today was about empowerment and changing mindsets about gender and sexuality, and I am glad that work is being carried out by the young socially aware population of India. 

Education that is Multicultural: The Role of NGOs in Education in India

Blog #5

January 5, 2017

This blog is authored by Study Abroad in India student Lauren Fleming who is a graduate student in Early Childhood Education at the City College of New York. She currently works as a paraprofessional at P.S. 95 in Queens, N.Y. and wants to become a certified NYC teacher.

Today we visited two non-profit organizations also known as NGOs - Pratham and Indusaction. We rose early and embarked on our journey. Traffic was moderate this morning so we were able to get to our destination in a timely manner. When we arrived we had no idea what we were about to experience, but with open minds we entered a community different from anything that we had already seen. 

Our first stop was Pratham.  The name Pratham in Sanskrit means first. We were told by the director of the NGO that the definition of the name Pratham gives light to its function and existence. It was the first NGO to begin bridging the gap between education, the family and the community in India specifically targeting the very economically disadvantaged communities. NGOs like Pratham, along with the government, provide schooling for as many poor children as they can between the ages 2-14. Pratham coordinates community-based childcare centers that are facilitated by community volunteers who conduct classes in small 6'x6' rooms in their own homes. In the preschool classroom, there was one teacher and 19 students. Classroom time runs for 3 hours each day. These classes are within the communities so parents feel comfortable in letting their children go to school because of its close proximity to their homes.

Pratham founders believed that children learn best when they are interested in the content that they are learning. Play-based child-centered learning was the main and new focus. They began to implement programs such as link library which was comprised with activities that would capture the students interests as they learned. Over time, officials noticed that as they were beginning to accomplish their goal of getting children into the schools, a new stumbling block surfaced - although children were in school they weren't learning. An assessment tool called ASER was launched by Pratham in 2005 to survey how much children had learned in each year of school. The tool could help teachers determine whether or not the student can read or do basic math by the end of the year.

We had the opportunity to enter a preschool and an after school program and witness what the Pratham organization had put into place. As we entered the preschool, our hearts began to melt as we watched the students feeling comfortable in their learning environment. We entered into the room to hear the chorus of children say, "Hello Ma'am". We took off our shoes and joined them in circle time as they were engaged in their sorting and counting lesson. They sang and danced as they learned the content in the context of their culture. It was interesting to see the resources they had. Teacher-made materials with vivid colors filled the classroom walls. It was a print-rich environment with many words in Hindi and some in English. There was student work on the walls as well. What warmed our hearts most was the smiles on the faces of the children as they were so happy to learn and welcome the American visitors.  

We exited the preschool and went to the after-school program. This program helped students attain literacy levels according to their academic level and not their age level. There is a morning session as well as an afternoon session. Each session is gender specific.  We were able to come in during the end of the boys' session into mixed-age classrooms. For example, the first and second graders were working in the same room focusing on a particular subject; the third and fourth grade were together and so on. Once again we were greeted with a hearty "Hello Ma'am" as we entered. The students were happily completing their science and mathematics class work. These students were between the ages 6-14. They were as happy to see us as were to see them. They asked us our names some even used the English language. What a wonderful experience!

Our afternoon stop was at the Indusaction headquarters. We met with the NGO's founder Tarun. After working in a large corporation he made a career change after being motivated to find something that was more socially meaningful where he could make a difference. Indusaction is a non profit organization that ensures the implementation of The Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act (RTE).  "This act ensures that every child has the right to full time quality education that satisfied basic norms and standards." Indusaction aims to implement RTE by helping  economically disadvantaged families in Delhi to place their children in quality private schools and get children off the streets. The flyers emphasize the targeted populations including orphans, transgender, boys, girls, physically challenged and the disabled.  Indusaction runs a busy backend tech center where several volunteers make calls to deepen awareness of the RTE policy.

Both organizations, Indusaction and Pratham, are very instrumental in promoting and enforcing the governments education policies to improve quality and access to education  throughout India. Both groups promote efforts to get children off of the streets and into centers where education is fostered. They want to ensure sure that all children exercise their right to education.

Education that is Multicultural: Judiciary history and Educational policy

Blog #4

January 4, 2017

This blog is authored by Study Abroad in India student Michael Daiowraj who is currently an undergraduate student at the City College of New York. He is studying for a Bachelor’s in Electrical Engineering.

The fourth day of our Study Abroad class in New Delhi, India was spent exploring the history of the Indian Judiciary, and receiving an insight into the construction and enactment of education legislation. Our day started off at 9:50 AM and we made our way through the dense New Delhi traffic, our destination being the pinnacle of the Indian Judiciary system, the Supreme Court. After several minutes of searching for the correct gate, we finally arrived at our destination. One could immediately notice the rifle carrying guards sitting directly behind the gate. We were ushered into a security checkpoint, with separate lines for men and women. Surprisingly, this is the second time we have encountered separation of genders in India. Unfortunately, we were not able to go into the main complex of the Supreme Court because the new Chief Justice of India was being sworn in that same morning. We were led into the Museum - a small circular room which presented the history of the Indian Judicial system in a consecutive order.

The Judiciary system in India can be traced back to more than 3,500 years. The administration of justice was first communicated by word of mouth and passed from one generation to the other, called Sruti. Recorded texts on policy, law and governance can be traced back to the Arthashastra, written by Kautilya in about 300 BC. After gaining Independence in 1947, the constitution of free India was drafted by Dr. Bhimrao Ramoji Ambedkar and later enacted in 1950. With the formation of the three branches of government, the Supreme Court became the cornerstone of the Judiciary branch. At the head of the Supreme Court lies the Chief Justice. We later found out that each justice in the Supreme Court hears over eighty cases a day and cases can be dismissed with just one word. Upon leaving the Supreme Court, I was interested in hearing the motto of the court, “Yato Dharma Tato Jaya,” which says that “where there is justice, there is victory.” These words truly describe the Supreme Court’s purpose in maintaining order through the enactment and enforcement of laws.

After leaving the Supreme Court, we found ourselves at the National University of Educational Planning and Administration (NUEPA). While there, we were treated to a magnificent lunch, followed by a lecture presented by several members of the administration. The lecturers emphasized that the beliefs and way of thinking of policy makers directly influences legislation construction. Such beliefs justify the low allocations to education, the provision of non - formal education to children, and the enactment of education policies that don’t interfere with child labor. Also discussed were the inequalities that plague the Indian Education system. While the differences in gender enrollment in schools are on a decline, social and regional inequalities continue to persist. This really made me think about how this affects autonomous schools. In the rush to preserve their reputation and social status, people make the rush to find the best private education for their child. As such, government schools would be considered as last resort, reducing the number of enrolled children in said schools. Among the topics discussed, I was surprised to learn that even though the Indian constitution and the RTE guarantees that the state shall provide free education, there are several children that appear to lack said education. The lecturers further explained the RTE act and the fact that it does not currently extend to children younger than 6 years, potentially causing those children to resort to begging on the streets. Leaving NUEPA, I can’t help but think about the current legislation in place for education, and what the future holds in order to improve said legislation.

Education that is Multicultural: Spirituality and Education in India

Blog #3

January 3, 2017 

This blog is authored by Study Abroad India student Erica Sabino who is a graduate student at the City College of New York College. She is pursuing a master’s degree in Early Childhood Education. Currently she is working as a head teacher at a preschool named “Footsteps”. Her future goal is to get certified and work as a first grade or Kindergarten teacher.

Our third class session was about a brief background of the educational philosophies of Tagore and Krishnamurti who saw education beyond just textbooks and traditional class teacher directed approach.

The main focus of this discussion was Tagore, who believed in a more practical manner of teaching, and a more profound connection with the student, teacher and environment. Tagore believed that there needed to be a deeper connection between the student and the teacher in order to enhance students' potentials. He also believed that students, rather than focusing on competing with others, should be competing with themselves and that is what educating the mind and the heart is about. Tagore says, “But when u remove that, then you compete with yourself, you strive for excellence at the level of your own potential, not someone else’s (Mukherjee, 2016, p. 9). And that is how you connect yourself with spirituality. Spirituality is about the self. Not the religion like many people think of. Religion is just the head, spirituality is the heart (finding your true self).

Therefore , in the classroom spirituality is about that connection between the teacher and the student, creating a deeper bond, beyond textbooks can offer. It should be focusing on the student's ability and then preparing the child to be ready to learn new materials and be able to be successful. It is about nurturing creativity and critical thinking (Mukherjee, p. 8). As philosopher Krishnamurti which was also part of the discussion for today, “Education is not just to pass examinations, take a degree and a job, get married and settle down, but also to be able to listen to the birds, to see the sky, to see the extraordinary beauty of a tree….and to feel them, to be really directly in touch with them” (Mukherjee, p. 14). This is the self-spirituality connection within the classroom context.

Later that day we visited the Ba’hai Lotus Temple. As I walked through the valley of the temple I noticed how spirituality plays out in New Delhi. It is all about respecting the self and others and connecting all together in unity no matter from what belief and religion they come from. As we were about to go inside the temple as a signal of respect they told us to remove our shoes and to turn off our devices. Once we were inside the temple everyone remained silent. It was interesting to see the level of of reverence once people were inside the temple. Everyone sitting down praying even the children were silent. All religions were accepted inside that temple. In the Ba'hai faith people were seen as members of the human and as beautiful flowers growing in the garden of humanity.

Spirituality is about the deeper connection with the self and it is surrounding (people, Gods, natural environment). It is about creating a connection first with yourself - your inner world - and then with the outer world. It is a connection with the soul and how you as a teacher, student, children, adults create those relationships that creates the sense of spirituality within us. Humanity - this is what today’s lesson focus about. Rather than just focusing on materials physical things; textbooks and religion, focus on the deeper meaning of everything. Spirituality is within, education is within.  And that was today lesson.

Education that is Multicultural - Social Fluidity in Delhi: A City of Seven Cities

Blog #2

This blog is authored by Study Abroad India student Lilai Teckie who is a graduate student at Lehman College in the Bronx. She is receiving a master’s in Liberal Studies in international development. She received a BA in political science from Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia.

January 2, 2016

The second day of our Winter Study Abroad course in New Delhi, India was spent exploring historical monuments. After a tasty breakfast and a quick briefing by Professor Gupta about the day’s itinerary, we hustled onto our 16 seat minivan and headed out into the bustling streets of New Delhi. It was only about 10 am when we left our hotel, which is located in the quaint Green Park colony, but the traffic was already thick. Cars, buses, rikshahs, bicycles, motorcycles, humans and animals were all fighting for a place on the road and the constant melody of car horns were unavoidable no matter where we turned.

Twenty-five minutes later when we arrived at Qutab Minar, we were surprised to see ticket prices plastered that varied based on whether you were a local or a foreigner. The difference in ticket prices was anything but subtle-- 30 rupees for Indian locals and 500 rupees for foreigners.  After we purchased our tickets, we followed signs into the Qutab Complex which had separate lines for females and males. This was just one of many reminders of the importance placed on gender and the separation of gender in many spaces within Indian society. Once we passed the gated entrance of the monument, we were immediately blown away by the manicured landscape of the complex and the towering beauty of the Qutab Minar. The Qutab Minar, at 73 metres, is the tallest brick minaret in the world and second highest minar in India, after Fateh Burj in Punjab, India.

The Qutab Complex is located in what was once known as Lalkot, the first city among the seven legendary cities of Delhi. It was constructed in the 11th century and was the center of power during the 11th to 13th century A.D. Many rulers had come and gone, constructing other cities that had been abandoned or destroyed, such as Siri, Jahanpanah and Firozabad, but Qutb Complex never lost its importance throughout the 664 years of Muslim Rule in India. It was in Qutab Complex that Qutbu’D-din-aibak, Iltutmish and Balban, who were mere slaves were able to rise to the highest position of the sultans of the country and were Razia Sultana, the daughter of Iltutmish reigned.

I was surprised to learn that the slave trade had occurred between East Africa and India around the same time as the Pan-American slave trade (Indian Express, pg 5) but even more surprised to learn about the difference in their purpose and treatment. The slaves in India were originally from Ethiopia, but were known as Habshis or Siddis (a term derived from the North African term used to show respect). They were used as “elite military slaves, who served purely political tasks for their owners” (pg 5). The Siddi or Habshis even rose to hold prominent positions of power in Indian society and politics and even developed their own kingdom in Janjira with their own cavalry, coat of arms and currency (pgs 7-8). I had never imagined slaves holding prominent positions of power in any society and I realize the fluidity in society, even among African slaves. This knowledge made me reevaluate my personal definition of a slave which I had always subconsciously associated to African slaves in the United States.

I was even more amazed to learn that a woman once ruled Delhi, as early as 1236 A.D. Razia Sultana, the daughter of Iltutmish, was the only female to ever rule Lalkot, defying the political, social and religious customs of the time. At a time when women were veiled and secluded to harems, Razia defied the status quo and existing gender norms once again, by putting down her iier veil (purdah) and appearing in public audience in male dress. To me, Razia’s home city of Lalkot, represents the defiance of social norms and the emancipation of women and their empowerment. As we left the Qutab Minar, I could not help but leave feeling a sense of pride and inspiration, knowing that hundreds of years previously a woman, who was the daughter of a former slave, once ruled the earth I was walking on at this moment...

Education that is Multicultural - Exploring the neighborhood

This blog is authored by Study Abroad India student Aminata Diop who is a Ph.D candidate at the CUNY Graduate Center in New York City. She is also the Executive Assistant to the Dean of Education at City College. This is her first time visiting India.


January 1st 2017 was the first day of our winter class in New Delhi, India. The morning started with breakfast at the Southgate Hotel followed by a quick meeting in the lobby where Professor Gupta gave us a general overview of the history of India and the history of education in India. Discussing the power of spirituality in India, we could confirm its significance by just looking around the lobby of the hotel. On the far left corner right next to the newspaper stand was a framed picture of the goddess Jagad Dhatri (also called Sherawali) riding a tiger. She is a powerful figure in Hindu religion and spirituality and symbolizes the feminine creative power of the universe. Next to that were brass idols of Krishna and Ganesha, two popular Hindu gods. As we wrapped up the conversation about the history of India, we set off on a walking tour to explore the "colony" as neighborhoods are referred to.

As we walked we saw a man in his 60s ironing clothes by the roadside, on a makeshift table, and placing them in a pile on a red mailbox next to him. This iron was filled with hot coals, far different from the electric irons we are used to in the U.S., but seemed to iron just perfectly. In the absence of sidewalks we walked on the roadside in a single line, one behind the other, to maneuver incoming traffic. We passed different types of stores (e.g., Fortis Health world, Chitrumai Jewels, Café Coffee Day, beauty salons next to each other, couple of spas, electronic stores, many fruit and vegetable vendors, etc.). As we walked the local people frequently stared at us, while a couple of beggars aggressively asked us for money. A number of street dogs lay around sleeping in the sun. Further on, we saw an old man seated on the ground surrounded by his baskets of orange, red, white, and yellow fragrant flowers - jasmine, marigolds, and roses. In a very calm and smiley way, he threaded different flowers into short chains called gajaras intended to be worn by women in their hair. Not too far away from the flower man were a couple of familiar western fast food chain stores: a Pizza Hut and a Dunkin Donut. We saw a large number of autorikshaws (also called scooters in Delhi) - green and yellow three-wheeled vehicles for local transportation. The rickshaw drivers stop wherever they see people on the streets and honk to get their attention looking for passengers. As we circled through a very quiet residential street, we saw a broom-seller wheeling a bicycle loaded various kinds of colorful brooms,as well as a vegetable seller wheeling his cart full of fresh vegetables. I learned later that small merchants such as these contributed to a very high percentage of the national economy.

In light of the current state of demonetization in India, as the deactivation of certain currency bills have sent the cash flow in India into quite a downward spiral, I wonder the impact on small business vendors such as the garland seller, the ironing man, the broom seller….no doubt their income will be deeply affected. In this current cash crunch situation no doubt these vendors are more likely to see their sales plummet resulting in less revenue, which can affect them financially as they work so hard to survive and take care of their families.

This thought stuck with me later as we ate one of the best Indian cuisines I had in my life, but then again what else should one expect when in India?