ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Social Movements and Educational Change

A Case Study of the Adivasi Munnetra Sangam

Political change can be a catalyst for the transformation of an educational system through the positioning of grass-roots social movements as an alternative to bureaucratic state mechanisms and non-governmental organisations in designing and implementing education reform. The case study of the Adivasi Munnetra Sangam, a social movement in Gudalur in Tamil Nadu, is used to illustrate how fundamental shifts in control of power within the system can result in greater inclusion of oppressed groups.

The Viswa Bharati Vidyodaya Trust, Tamil Nadu runs the Vidyodaya School, the alternative school that has been discussed in this article. Earlier drafts of this paper were discussed in seminars at the School of Education, Azim Premji University, and the Zakir Hussain Centre for Educational Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University. The comments and suggestions received at these seminars, as well as the comments of EPW’s anonymous reviewer, are gratefully acknowledged.

The debates on making Indian education more inclusive and egalitarian tend to revolve around two kinds of paradigms: (i) Improving curricula, textbooks, and teaching methods and bringing them in line with educational goals, which may range from creating skills and human capital at one end of the spectrum to self-discovery and good citizenship at the other (Krishnamurthi 1953; NCERT 2005). (ii) Enhancing organisational and systemic processes, which may range from improving teacher training colleges to privatisation of schools to strengthening the roles of leaders (Bruns et al 2011; Bush 2011).

These two paradigms are popular with the state as well as with the non-governmental organisations (NGOs) that are increasingly active in this sector. They are also interconnected, though relatively few organisations work on all of these agendas simultaneously. In contrast with these approaches, a voluble but smaller group of voices has emphasised the role of politics as an independent force for improving education in India and elsewhere (Saxena 1998; Bowles and Gintis 2011; Anyon 2005; Apple 2007). It is argued that the primary factor required for educational change is political will and not technical abilities and resources. Social movements offer a path towards creating that political will. It is through social movements, which aim to shift the balance of power within the political system, that the normative orientations of key actors will change. Only then can strategic institutions generate the will required to pull attention and effort away from competing demands and put them into improving the education system instead.

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Published On : 20th Jan, 2024

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