Education that is Multicultural: Primary Education, and more on Indian Culture

Blog # 12

January 12, 2017

This blog is authored by Study Abroad in India student Jeniffer Morron who is studying for her master's degree in Early Childhood Education at the City College of New York. She has an associates degree in Liberal Arts, a bachelor's degree in Journalism and is currently a head universal prekindergarten teacher at Noahs Ark Preparatory School ll in Queens, NY.

A Primary School

"This is our last visit guys!" Professor Gupta announced. A bittersweet feeling rose up and was reflected in almost all of our faces. Our last class was a site visitation to Cambridge Primary School located in New Friends Colony. Once arrived, you can see tall dark green trees, colorful plants kissing around each corner of the beautifully structured campus. The Cambridge School is a private, co-educational, English-speaking school. Their youngest students start in the Nursery class and children stay till the fifth grade. A large rectangular room with green tables and blue chairs surrounded by cabinets filled with various books was known as the school's library. Within that large and clean library, there were over 20 different genres all separated neatly in cabinets. Some genres included: give one take one (that means keep it or bring it back and take another one) Fairy tales, Chapter books, Wit and Wisdom as well as books separated by difficulty among children.

A few minutes after our arrival, children neatly dressed in dark blue uniforms walked in a straight line. Seven rows of six children took off their shoes and placed them neatly next to them along with their lanyard which held their picture ID's on one side and the other side held three contacts that they may be released to. Row by row, children sat down in a squared off section of the library, behind one another, legs folded, hands tucked on lap. The English teacher began her storytelling class by first asking the children, "Are u comfortable?" "Yes ma'am", they all replied in sync. Then she started to ask the children questions prior about the context of China. It was incredible to see how the children finished her sentences. She used so many physical gestures and was so animated!

After the story telling the class, we were able to have our first class ticket to go inside various classrooms. The children of a second-grade class were the ones who impacted me the most. Once a few of us walked in, the students stood up and the teacher told them to greet us and to make space for us to sit down. A few students near the back of the social studies classroom said, "Sit here ma'am!" I quickly moved to sit near the group of students, two girls and two boys. One of the student's book bag was in the way and once she saw me move it the young girl said, "I will do it, ma'am". I found this gesture not only respectful but also a sign of hospitality.

After our amazing observation within the classroom, we were able to interact with the teachers as well as the students in the grass field outside. The teachers looked so happy to be there, that was one of the many things that I noticed. They were dedicated, happy and invested within their teaching despite having 40 children in each classroom.

In the reading on Sri Aurobindo, there are three principles he states that are "true education":
1 )Nothing can be taught.
2) The mind has to be consulted in its own growth.
3) If anything has to be brought in from outside, it must be offered, not forced on the mind.

The teachers in this school, as well as the other schools we have visited, were the true examples of these principles. The teachers gave room for suggestions to the children rather than imposing on their work. The teachers in various grades were showing children how to acquire knowledge for themselves. Second, the teachers weren't hammering the children into becoming advanced robots. The children were seen to be comfortable to learn at their pace. Thirdly, the children were thinking about ideas on their own. Nothing was forced, their ideas were naturally developed as were their everyday skills.

Diversity of deities in a Hindu Temple

We moved on later that night to visit a temple called Shiv Mandir. We took off our shoes and walked inside to view the various Gods and Goddesses. Although the temple was dedicated to the Hindu God Shiva, there were many other Hindu gods and goddesses housed in the temple as well. Among these colorful and detailed statues were:
* Brahma, the Creator
* Vishnu, the Preserver
* Shiva, the Destroyer
* Ganapati, the Remover of Obstacles
* Avatars of Vishnu (Ram and Krishna)
* Saraswati, the Goddess of Wisdom and Learning
* Durga Devi, the Goddess of strength

Diversity of foods in an Indian Vegetarian Restaurant

After that memorable and spiritual experience, we went directly to Evergreen restaurant to have our last dinner as a whole class. Various foods were available to try from northern, southern and central Indian states such as Punjab, Haryana, UP, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh. Some of the foods we tried were:

*Idli Sambhar
*Masala dosa
*bhel poori (my favorite)
*sarson ka saag aur makki roti
DELICIOUS! Our tastes buds were in for a surprise!

This was our last class here in New Delhi, and we all realized that we had been inspired by so much that affected us each individually. Mahatma Gandhi says, “be the change you want to see in this world." India inspired all of us to be free, be comfortable and best of all be happy.

9 responses
Being at Cambridge Primary School made me feel at home. Many people say its hard to find a great school with polite students and enthusiastic teachers, but the school I am lucky to work in back home in NYC is just that! Just like here at Cambridge the students are eager to learn on all levels. The teachers were happy in the space provided and were content with what they had access too. Our final meal together was great! Trying foods from different parts of India was great and tasty. Although remember the names may be difficult, the tastes will always be familiar.
Jenny, thank you for such a descriptive blog! I'd like to share something that stuck with me from our visit. During our visit, a class walked into the library, almost silently. These students were no older than 8 but were so well behaved. They filed into the library and made four equal single-filed lines parallel to the rug. They all took off their shoes while staying in place, carefully putting their ID tags which they wear at all times into their shoes, and proceeded to neatly file onto the rug. I was astounded and asked the teacher how the kids were so well behaved. The teacher responded by saying that the kids are taught how to line up from nursery school. This method is consistent throughout all grades in the school and is thus built upon every year. This really stuck with me because from my own experience in elementary school in the US, the beginning of a new school year meant a new method of lining up—sometimes it was single file, sometimes it was two lines, sometimes it was separated by gender. Consistency is important when instilling habits in children and thus a uniform method, like Cambridge’s, should be applied throughout a school.
I really loved how the students were not limited to the amount of time they had to spend at each part of the play time room. I remember as a kid I would have 10 minutes at each spot in the play room, but here if the child wants to play with stuffed animals the entire time then they are allowed to. They have more freedom and flexibility, when in the U.S everything is on a time stamp.
This was one of my favorite visits. I was amazed by how respectful students were towards teachers and guests (us). I also learned a lot from the teachers. When teachers asked students to translate in English what students who spoke only Hindi said was a learning moment for me. It seems like a great strategy to help children learn the language without lowering their self-esteem.
I love how well written you blog is Jennifer! Also, I can relate to everything being said here. I also felt this was one of my top favorites visit. I love the hospitality of the staffs as well as the hospitality of the children. I was warm heart to hear the students said “you can sit here ma'am” and give you a smile. And how happy they felt to see us. Also, I love during lunch time how some children says,“You can eat with us ma' am” “you want me to get you a plate”. Also, how giggling and happy they were to see us interact with them was priceless. They also asked respectfully question and were eager to know who we were and for what purpose we were in their school. It was also nice to meet an only Spanish speaker student there. She was from Argentina. She was so happy to know we were Spanish. She said she loves it there and her parents too. The last meal tasting together was awesome! We were able to hear Professor Gupta explain each plate and then we were glad to taste it and enjoyed it. India definitely stayed with a portion of my heart. This culture humbleness and generosity makes me want to come back here to teach!
At the Cambridge School, I was really impressed with how the students were so respectful and willing to give up their seat for us to sit in their class. As we visited two of the 5th grade social studies class, I felt as if I was a student learning as well. The teacher's presence and voice made me attentive and engaged. It was quite interesting how religion played into the social studies lessons we observed. In America, we are not allowed to discuss religion in the classroom, but in India, religion is the root of education.
Lilai, I was also very impressed by how well behaved the kids were. As I expressed how impressive I was with the way the kids lined up their shoes, one of the teachers informed me that they put their badge on top of the shoes because they all wear the same size, color, style. The badge helps them find their shoes quicker. However, I was even more impressed by the way the kids and the librarian were interacting during the reading of the story. The way the librarian asked them to guess some part of the story; the way she asked them at the end to come up with their own title after hearing the story. These kids were creative and full of imagination. It made it so pleasant to listen and be a kid again for a minute.
I really loved visiting this school. The students were all eager to learn and participate. The teachers were encouraging the students who only spoke Hindi to voice their opinions, and I felt that was very important. Inclusion seemed to play a big role in this school, and even before we entered I noticed a big sign near the front door that said "Feliz Navidad". I did not think much of it until I was introduced to Celiné. Celiné is a student who moved to India from Argentina and because inclusion is taken seriously here, she has become well adapted to life in India.
This was one of my favorite visits! To be able to sit and interact with the students, play with them and have a first-hand experience in their school was unbelievable. I loved it!