What is
a PARI Education?

What is a PARI Education?

A student in India today is likely to know about the cocoa crisis in Brazil, but have no idea about the cotton crisis raging within their own country, about a 100 kilometres away.

They learn about crops but not about the unsustainable lives that our farmers live. We lecture them about our glorious fight for independence but make no reference to those who continue to have no freedom from caste-based occupations. Civics classes are all about equality but what about the inequalities of gender and occupation? The teaching of climate change in a Biology textbook leaves out the socio-economic aspect of how lives and livelihoods are being altered forever.

In education, it is not only what is in the curriculum that matters, but what is not in it. If curriculum is a specific set of subjects to be learnt, we need to ask what students across the country are not learning.

As educators, we are in danger of grooming a generation of Indians who are far removed from problems in their immediate surroundings, oblivious to social and ethical questions and detached from the growing inequalities around us. If we are to change this, we need to give them the tools and information to question stereotypes and think critically beyond their textbooks.

Perhaps in our rush to make them global citizens, we have alienated them from their own history and geography. We need to expose our students to the rest-of-India and get them to engage with the wider world around them – the world of rural India where 800 million people live and work. They are the custodians of a diverse set of occupations, inherited livelihoods, a multiplicity of languages and rich but mostly undocumented knowledge. They function in intricately interlinked village economies with negligible institutional support, and each failed monsoon sends more and more rural Indians to urban areas in search of a regular income.

Why don’t we know more about them and why are their stories of resilience and unique skills not mandatory learning? Instead, regular media only reinforces either barbaric or exotic stereotypes and doesn’t look further. A ‘PARI Education’ offers a new lens to see the world, and develops both empathy and understanding.

A student once said to us: ‘People are poor in rural India because they are stupid.’ Another said, ‘I didn’t even know these occupations existed, I thought farming is the only occupation there.’ It is exactly these kinds of misconceptions and stereotypes that PARI Education can address, inform and hopefully change.

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