Previously, we talked about how the Indian government is struggling to provide education to India’s vast population of underprivileged children. Many organizations are working to improve education for the masses, the enormous number of underprivileged children who need extra help. At the same time, by disproportionately focusing on improving learning outcomes for all children, educating the bright underprivileged children is left behind.
When you teach an entire classroom assuming they are at the same level of understanding and/or ability, most of the children are either lost (need extra help) or they are bored (need a challenge). The education world fully understands the value in “differentiated learning,” and “personalized learning” which aim at teaching each child, or a group of children, at the appropriate learning level.
For talented kids from impoverished backgrounds to get ahead in life, they need level-appropriate education that would challenge them. Government schools in India are primarily attended by children from lower socioeconomic groups; the sheer numbers there do not allow government schools to impart the kind of education India’s bright children need.
Without the generosity of teachers and mentors who embraced B.R. Ambedkar’s and Abdul Kalam Azad’s intellect, India would not have seen their brilliance. Alongside the focus on educating every child, nations should have a special focus on identifying and properly educating their bright children; these children can have a disproportionate impact on the advancement of a country.
Who are the bright underprivileged children?
The terms “gifted”, “talented”, or “bright” are commonly used to characterize a wide spectrum of human extraordinary performance. According to the US National Association for Gifted Children: Students with gifts and talents perform—or have the capability to perform—at higher levels compared to others of the same age, experience, and environment in one or more domains. They require modification(s) to their educational experience(s) to learn and realize their potential.
The amount of change these bright minds will bring to a country can be tremendous. However, before we talk about why educating our bright minds is of paramount importance, let’s understand why they’re unable to access quality education.
How are our bright minds left out of quality education?
The truth is that high-ability students do not need more money to attend school; rather, they require the opportunity to learn at a faster pace than other students. They need more “gifted and talented” programs in primary schools, more honors and Advanced Placement courses in secondary schools etc. Furthermore, options to enroll in specialized institutions such as “exam schools,” STEM schools, and no-excuses charter schools are also important. Most significantly, we need to celebrates giftedness, rather than lament using extra resources for the most gifted minds.
A very large proportion of our brightest young children do not reach their full potential. The lower socioeconomic group is where the most talent is squandered. An economically disadvantaged child is neglected in gifted and talented programs due to the stigma of poverty. Students who are economically deprived unfortunately are often stigmatized as “uneducable.”
Why should we care so deeply about their education?
Our current path of not paying extra attention to the education of gifted students is detrimental for the country. Hundreds of thousands of gifted children are currently deprived of the resources and opportunities they deserve. We at the Sitare Foundation are deep believers in the United Negro College Fund’s slogan: a mind is a terrible thing to waste. There is no justification for ignoring our finest students.
Identifying gifted students early in their education will put them on track to greater success, to the benefit of society as a whole.
Education is the only reliable way out of poverty. According to UNESCO, an estimated 171 million individuals could escape extreme poverty if all students in low-income nations had only basic reading skills (nothing else). We could reduce global poverty by more than half if all adults completed secondary education.
Talented students from low-income, minority households can easily go unnoticed in our education system, especially when they attend their communities’ often-struggling schools. These schools are frequently drowned in issues that appear to be more vital, at least in the short term, than serving the gifted. In today’s challenging global market, getting on the appropriate educational track early is essential.
Knowledge, as the old saying goes, is power. Without equal access to this power, a society simply can’t hope to thrive. By providing decent education to our talented underprivileged children, we will not only be benefiting them, but also to the future of our nation.
Who is solving these problems?
Here are some of the organizations working to educate the bright underprivileged children of India:
Jawahar Navodaya Vidyalayas (JNVs) are a system of central government schools in India that cater to gifted children, mostly from rural areas. JNVs are fully residential, co-educational schools from grades 6 to 12, and are associated with the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) in New Delhi. The idea of establishing JNVs was conceived as part of the 1986 National Policy on Education, with the goal of providing excellence while also ensuring social justice.
Navodaya Vidyalaya Samiti is fully financed by the Department of School Education and Literacy, Ministry of Human Resource Development, Government of India. According to the government’s policy, each district would have one Jawahar Navodaya Vidyalaya. As of September 30, 2019, 636 JNVs were functioning, with around 265,574 students, of which 206,728 (78%) were from rural areas. Admission to Jawahar Navodaya Vidyalaya is based on a CBSE-designed and administered selection test.
Dakshana foundation works closely with Navodaya Vidyalayas to intensively coach the Navodaya and other students from impovrished backgrounds for the elite JEE and NEET college entrance exams. Dakshana runs two different programs:
- A two year intensive coaching program run exclusively for JNV students. This program runs in seven different JNV campuses across India. Since the inception of this program, Dakshana has inducted over 5,000 students into the program, and 1,632 of them have been admitted to the elite IITs in India.
- A one year intensive coaching program run at Dakshana’s exclusive campus, Dakshana Valley, near Pune, India. This program is open to impoverished students from government and government-aided schools. This one year program prepares students to take the JEE and the NEET entrance exams.
Another very good initiative is VidyaGyan, by the Shiv Nadar Foundation. It is specifically designed to find and develop bright students from economically disadvantaged rural areas and transform them into future leaders through high-quality education. By investing in the youth and galvanizing them into future leaders, VidyaGyan hopes to drive change in the country. Their program covers all seventy five districts of Uttar Pradesh, India’s most populous state. Students who have already completed primary school are inducted into VidyaGyan in grade-6 once they have been selected. Students attend the VidyaGyan’s residential campuses in Bulandshahr or Sitapur for seven years, from grades 6 to 12.
We at Sitare Foundation, strongly believe that India is leaving its bright underprivileged children behind. We have embarked upon a humble mission to: transform fifty thousand lives through education by 2050. Unlike Navodaya and Vidyagyan, Sitare is a non-residential program. Children are selected through a three stage selection process, and the brightest of the applicants are admitted to some of the best schools in their respective cities. Sitare currently operates in five cities in Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh: Jodhpur, Jaipur, Ajmer, Bhopal, and Indore. The selected children are provided free education from grades 6 to 12.
Like the rest of the world, India is facing a severe shortage of qualified teachers. Sitare has built a novel hybrid education model where students are taught by expert teachers, wherever we can find great teachers; and the in-class experience is also guided by a qualified teacher in the classroom of one of our partner schools. For the academic year 2022-2023, over 65,000 applicants have applied for entrance into the Sitare program, and we expect to select about 200 new students.
Next in our blog series we will delve into Navodayas and Vidyagyan in upcoming blogs. Keep an eye out for the update!