We’ve had education on our minds since before we set out on this trip. We mentioned in an earlier post some of the road-schooling curriculum features. There’s also been an emphasis on the school of life. This gives us a nice blend of education and adventure. The girls have learned about geography, politics, poverty, inequality, cooking, animal rights, international currency exchanges, and much more. And they have reasonable well-informed opinions about these topics! Recently, Saga is taking the “benevolent dictator” approach to ruling the world. Not surprisingly, she would like to be the ruler, positioning her to outlaw pollution, poverty and perfidious behaviour.
We’ve also had a chance to learn about primary schools on our travels. In Cambodia, some would argue that the prime minister builds schools to strengthen his network of political patronage. Communities that show strong support get schools as private gifts, outside of the public education system. Once the schools are unveiled, the paint peels and the classrooms molder. Teacher levels of education are weak. Only a quarter of primary school teachers hold an upper secondary degree, while about two-thirds hold a lower secondary school degree. Teacher salaries are so low that students are required to pay “informal fees” which buy them advantages such as test questions prior to exams. All of this has significant downstream effects on student outcomes. In 2015, Cambodia ranked 114th out of 142 countries in terms of its quality of primary education (World Economic Forum Global Competitiveness Report).
India, with its more than 1.2b people, has recently made major investments in educational infrastructure. It has 1.4m schools and 7.m teachers; 98% of households have a primary school (class 1 to 5) within 1km and 92% of households have a senior primary school (class 6 to 8) within 3km walking distance. But keeping children in school is a challenge; 43% of students drop out before completing upper primary school. We see a lot of private schools here in Jaipur and were surprised to learn that the public to private primary school ration is 7:5.
We’re staying at an Airbnb arrangement and the owner of our house runs a private school on the lower floors of the building. Monday to Saturday 200 boys and girls in grades 1 to 8 fill the building. It’s surprisingly quiet; we only hear them at the start and end of the school day. It’s also delightful, fun and cheerful.
They had a science fair on Saturday. Windmills and periscopes and much more. Very impressive.
Being this close to a primary school has its perks. One of the teachers, Seema, has agreed to tutor the girls. Monday to Saturday at 3:30pm we show up at Seema’s house for math class. The girls enjoy themselves (especially getting to play for a bit after class when their brains are tired). And it’s really good to see the girls being taught by a professional.
One of the other students of Seema’s is a little Junior kindergarten girl who gets help to set her up for success on her tests. She’s already scoring 90% but looks stressed out. High expectations here!
Today, we took a field trip to the Wind Palace (Hawa Mahal) in Jaipur. The palace has thousands of small windows that the women of the court could use to watch activities on the street without being seen.
Many more field trips to come in Jaipur. That’s one part of the Grade 3 curriculum we all get to enjoy!