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Diwali Celebration 2022- Ways to Celebrate the Festival of Lights

Diwali-the festival of lights is around the corner. Preparations are in full swing! Houses, shops, offices, are being cleaned, de-cluttered and made anew for the festivities. People are busy shopping for clothes and gifts of value. The air is filled with excitement and festive fragrance. After a lull of 2 years caused by the pandemic, Diwali Celebration 2022 deserves to be special.

 

Observed on Amavasya (new moon day) in the lunar month of Kartik, Diwali is one of the most popular Indian festivals which symbolizes the victory of light over darkness, good over evil and knowledge over ignorance. Diwali reminds us that when we collectively light the diyas, we transform a dark night into the brightest and happiest one.

 

This Diwali, let’s celebrate this symbolism. Let’s be the torchbearer to dispel the darkness of illiteracy, poverty, hunger, unemployment, pollution or any such evil that threatens our society and planet.

 

Here are 7 ways to make your Diwali celebration 2022 unique:

 

Donate on Diwali for a Child’s education
Donate for a Mid-Day Meal
Donate Used/New Festive Clothes
Be a Green Warrior
Support Local Vendors and Small Businesses
Spend your Diwali at an Orphanage/Old Age Home
Show Gratitude to Your Helpers

 

1. Donate on Diwali for a Child’s education

 

Diwali is a time when most of you are on a shopping spree to refresh your wardrobe, upgrade your home appliances, redo the interiors of your house and cheer your friends with lovely gifts. However, not everyone is fortunate to have such a dazzling Diwali.

There are hundreds of poor and marginalized kids who are longing for one such special day in their life. This Diwali, be the light in someone’s life. Donate generously for education– fees, stationary items, uniforms and additional study material for the ones who cannot afford it by themselves.

 

2. Donate for a Mid-Day Meal

 

Diwali is a time to cook up a feast. Friends and family bond together over elaborate spreads. But for many poor, hungry and orphaned kids, the Diwali feast is only a distant dream. You can donate for a delicious mid-day meal for such kids and make their Diwali special for there is no greater happiness than watching a kid enjoy his/her food.

 

3. Donate Used/New Festive Clothes

 

Festive time is always about looking fabulous. Festive wears are special but the fact is, post festive season they are not used much and very soon kids outgrow these beautiful outfits. So if you have a bunch of such unused festive wears just sitting in a corner of your wardrobe, this Diwali, please donate them to charity. Believe us, your ‘no-longer used festive wear’ is a luxury wear for someone else.

It’s also possible for you to buy new clothes for the children in low-income groups. Just imagine their eyes sparkling in happiness when they try on their new outfits! There are only a few things in life more precious than a child’s innocent smile.

 

4. Be a Green Warrior

 

It is never too late to make your contributions to protect and preserve mother earth and what better occasion than Diwali which marks good beginnings! So this Diwali 2022, pledge to celebrate in an eco-friendly way. Sensitize your family, friends, people in your apartment area, neighborhood or locality to celebrate more with diyas, rangoli, sweets & food and less with crackers.

It would also be an excellent idea to locate a suitable area, maybe in your apartment complex or neighborhood park and plant a couple of saplings. You can also motivate others to do so. Post your ideas on your social media pages and start a green movement.

 

5. Support Local Vendors and Small Businesses

 

Your Diwali shopping is a source of livelihood for many. Be it handmade earthen diyas, flowers or other décor items, please make it a point to buy from local markets and street-side vendors because they do not sell for profits rather to make ends meet. So please support their business by spending money on their items. This way you’ll not just bring home some beautiful products but also a sense of satisfaction from making a positive difference in someone’s life.

 

6. Spend your Diwali at an Orphanage/Old Age Home

 

Diwali is a time when the entire extended family comes together to celebrate. This Diwali extend your love and affection to those less fortunate kids and aged people who crave for the emotional blanket of a family. Visit an orphanage/children’s home or an old age home and celebrate with them. Engage with them in decorating their place, cook together a delicious lunch, surprise them with some unforgettable gifts, sing, dance and make it a memorable Diwali for them and yourself.

 

7. Show  Gratitude to Your Helpers

 

There are a lot of people who have an immense contribution in the smooth functioning of your daily life. Your domestic help, driver, liftman, building watchman, gardener, all these people toil hard every day to serve you. Diwali is an excellent time to express your gratitude for the services they offer.

 

As the saying goes, ‘Charity begins at home’, these are the people you should first reach out with your love and generosity. Hand them out a Diwali bonus or gift them something useful for their home or invite their family to join in your Diwali celebrations if they are willing.

 

If you are an apartment society resident, you can even float the idea to create a corpus fund for Diwali Festival donations and mobilize funds from like-minded people in your apartment complex to be used for the benefit of the helpers in your society.

 

Diwali is a time for fun, frolic and festivities. You might be amazed that a small contribution or a simple gesture from you can make a world of difference to someone. This Diwali, share your festivities with others because there is no greater joy than the ‘joy of sharing’.

 

Everyday kindness is in no way a small feat but on special occasions, special efforts must be made to make a difference that truly lasts. Make Diwali celebration 2022 special for the disadvantaged children. Make a difference now!

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Diwali 2022– Significance of the Festival of Light and Love

Diwali– A celebration of the power of good over evil and light over darkness. A day to exchange heartening smiles and little special gifts with friends, family, lovers, and even strangers. A day to get together and sit down to share delicious, filling food and share stories of good endings, humour and living it all– the highs and the lows. Diwali provides us joy and happiness each year. We eagerly anticipate spending time with friends and family and partaking in the festival of lights. Light– a representation of wisdom and consciousness. 

 

This Diwali 2022, we can do more good. Let’s improve the world for both ourselves and others this Diwali. Let’s improve the lives of kids from at-risk neighbourhoods. What other occasion is more appropriate to express our care and affection for the most vulnerable children than Diwali? What better moment could be there to sponsor a child, change their life and the communities they are raised in? Let’s change a child’s wellbeing for the better this Diwali 2022.

 

Here are 4 ways that your Diwali festival donations will improve the lives of young people from low-income families:

 

EDUCATION

 

We want our children to go to the best schools and universities, don’t we? We want them to dream big and achieve bigger things in their lives. That is why it is crucial to make sure that children have access to a high-quality education. Easy access to schools designed with children in mind is most desirable. Children must be transformed if society is to undergo the change we desire. 

 

Donating to a child’s education helps them learn not just how to read, write, and count, but also ideals that can contribute to the creation of a more compassionate society. Education helps a kid become a responsible, proactive and creative individual who makes positive and significant contributions. A youngster has the potential to improve the world when they are educated and act in line with their ambitions of helping the society and humanity as a whole.

 

PROTECTION

 

Too many kids might be subjected to violence, injustice, or both. It is impossible to understand the mental anguish endured by children who are at danger and children who have survived. We are aware of situations in which families have rejected children who have survived abuse and violence.

The urgent interventions you will fund have child protection at their top of the list. With your help, community-based monitoring of children at risk for child marriage and trafficking will be established, and the government’s child protection mechanisms, including schools, will be resolutely encouraged to take a proactive approach to protecting children. 

 

You will actively contribute towards the formation of youth collectives that will take part in local decision-making processes and solve problems that affect them all. Both as an individual and as a nation, children are our future. Your contribution will aid in establishing a secure environment for kids.

 

HYGIENE AND HEALTH

 

Among India, malnutrition ranks as one of the leading causes of mortality in children under the age of five. That’s heartbreaking. Although significant progress has been achieved in lowering mortality caused by starvation, much more needs to be done. The situation is still critical in many jurisdictions, particularly for young people from disadvantaged backgrounds. 

Malnutrition and health are serious problems that require community-based interventions in order to improve capacity for outreach. When you sponsor a kid, you lend your support to community-based initiatives that aid in the child’s healthy growth and development. Through your donation, hunger cases will receive priority attention and children in at-risk areas will have access to nutritious mid-day meals in schools.

 

A Fresh Outlook and Fresh Goals!

 

A powerful mental state that fosters happiness toward everything is hope. Donations provide children in at-risk areas with the hope for a better life and the aspirations of a better future. Your contribution not only changes the lives of the kid you sponsor, but also the lives of their families and communities. 

 

With your help, we can become more sensitive to the need to safeguard and nurture children, more supportive of one another, and more equipped to claim their legally protected rights and take advantage of government benefits. As a result, the community’s joint efforts with your help will bring about genuine change on the ground.

 

Celebrate Diwali 2022 differently this year by going above and beyond for underprivileged youngsters. Make a little gift to enable them to smile and make their lives happier. The satisfaction of enhancing young people’s lives will be unmatched. You can donate for child education and youth livelihood with the Smile Foundation and make their Diwali super special. It takes willpower and a little courage to do so much more! 

 

This Diwali,

“Be the change you wish to see in the world.” – Mahatma Gandhi

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Girl Child Education – Key to Freeing Girls from Social Barriers

‘One child, one teacher, one book, and one pen can change the world.’ 

 

These are the words of Malala Yousafzai, a brave young girl who stood up against Taliban  in Pakistan, fighting for her right to education and went on to become the youngest Nobel laureate in the world. Her passion for education and dedication to the cause has made Malala an international symbol in the fight for education of girl child. Her story is an inspiration to many but more importantly, it is a message about the value of education and the fact that even in today’s world access to education is a privilege, not available to everyone. Girl child education in India is important for an equitable nation.

 

Social Status of Girl Child in India

 

Despite constitutional provisions guaranteeing equal rights to men and women, gender disparity is still a sad reality in Indian society. We live in a country where ironically, people pray and seek blessings from female goddesses for the birth of a male child in their family.

 

Gender discrimination in India is the result of a deeply rooted patriarchy that undervalues the girl child. According to a UNICEF report, though globally, girls have higher survival rates at birth and equal likelihood to participate in preschool, India is the only large country where mortality rate and school dropout rate of girls are more than boys. 

 

Discrimination against girl child manifests itself in many ugly forms including limited access to information and services in areas like education and health, early and forced marriage, female foeticide and infanticide and other crimes against women, unequal opportunities in employment and decision-making, etc. Gender equality is crucial for a peaceful and progressive society and thus calls for urgent actions to dissolve these social barriers that limit the rise of girls and women.

 

Education – The Game Changer

 

Education is a highly potent instrument of change. Through quality education, an individual not only acquires knowledge and skills but is also able to broaden his/her perspective and improve his/her overall personality. Education helps in character building and transforms attitudes and behaviors. 

 

Further still, it sets in motion the spiral of effects leading to development of both the individual and the nation. Education is the key to unlocking the greatness of a nation by removing inequalities and presenting everyone with a chance to achieve their fullest potential. Right to education is thus granted as a fundamental right in our constitution and should be equally accessible to both boys and girls. The facts however state otherwise! 

 

Girl Child Education in India

 

An analysis of the historical background indicates that due to the social structure, cultural norms, and traditional practices, girl child education in India has been hugely neglected over time. Post- Independence the scenario has changed for the better with girls’ education being central to policy making. 

 

Data from a research paper published in International Journal of Research in Economics & Social Sciences states that literacy rate of girls has gone up from 8.86 % in 1951 to 54.16% in 2001 and increased to 65.5% as per 2011 census report. 

 

While this is an increase over the literacy rate of girls in the past, when compared to the boys’ literacy rate which stood at 82.1% (Census report 2011) it highlights the huge gap that still exists in girl child education in India. The Global Gender Gap Report (2021) ranked India at 114 out of 156 countries based on educational attainment. 

 

Barriers to Girl Child Education

 

It has been well established that education is an important milestone in women’s empowerment and it needs to be imparted from early stages of life because childhood and adolescence are the formative years of an individual. 

 

However, many problems stand in the way of girl child education in India. Some of the major ones are listed as follows:

 

Financial constraints: Poverty is one of the biggest hurdles in educating girl child. Even though education at least at schooling level has been made free, it might have some expenses involved like buying stationery or bus fare which some families find burdensome. When it comes to spending on education, many parents choose to spend on their sons rather than daughters.

 

Patriarchal mindset: There is a considerable section of our population who still do not see any good in educating the girl child. This comes from a deep-set psyche that women are meant only for the household chores and taking care of family and education would pollute their minds.

 

Gender stereotyping: Traditionally women have been confined to the four walls of a house. Gender roles have been so strongly held for generations that even women who are the victims of such stereotyping find it hard to break away from it. Since marriage and looking after a family are considered to be the ultimate goals of a girl’s life, less attention is paid to educating a girl child.

 

Domestic Responsibilities: Girls enrolled in schools, mainly in rural areas are forced to drop out to engage in household chores or take care of younger siblings. Thus they are not able to complete their education.

 

Lack of infrastructure: Shortage of teachers, commuting hurdles and lack of essential infrastructure often lead to girl students dropping out of school at primary and middle school levels. Data from UDISE shows that by March 2021, 42,000 government schools did not have drinking water facilities and 15,000 schools had no toilets.

 

Safety issues: Girls who have to cover long distances between house and school often have safety concerns. This discourages them and their parents to continue schooling.

 

Solutions for Improvement in Girl Child Education

 

The government of India has implemented several schemes and programmes to improve the situation of girl child education in India. The ‘Beti Bachao Beti Padhao’ campaign launched in 2015 is an attempt to change the attitude towards girl child by creating awareness about declining sex-ratio and importance of girl-child education in the country. 

 

Other steps in this direction could be:

 

  1. Improving existing educational infrastructure and quality of education
  2. Appointment of qualified teachers, preferably more female teachers in government schools
  3. Making schools more accessible by increasing their number or ensuring safer ways of commuting  
  4. Creating awareness about importance of girl child education 
  5. Encouraging Public-private partnership in creating and maintenance of educational infrastructure
  6. Counseling sessions for parents and better teacher-parent association to improve attitude towards girl-child
  7. Discouraging early marriage of girls and teenage pregnancy by creating awareness about the health risks 
  8. Better WASH (water, sanitation and hygiene) facilities in schools to prevent dropout of girl students

 

Donate to Girl Child Education 

 

Girl-child education, women empowerment and the development of the nation are closely related. Besides the Government, many social and non-profit organizations like Smile Foundation are dedicatedly working to improve the scenario of girl-child education in India through various programmes and initiatives.

 

Community support and participation can provide great impetus to these efforts and go a long way in empowering the girls of our country. A small contribution from you can make a big difference in the life of a girl-child. Please sponsor or donate for the education of girl-child because in an educated girl lies the promise of an empowered nation.

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Women Financial Inclusion- An Important Marker of Empowerment

Remember our homemaker mothers and their savings’ system? How when we would ask them for money, they would pivot us towards our fathers, only sharing their money when we need something urgently and our fathers have sternly said ‘no’ to that. That was and still is one of the superpowers of women who know when to open up their wallets and when to keep the zippers on them closed. Women financial inclusion is simply the need of the hour.

 

Women Financial Inclusion- Why the Urgent Need?

 

Women’s financial independence is a key component of the genuine “emancipation” of women. Faster gender parity will result from financial empowerment. However, it is believed that 35% of women worldwide are financially excluded.

 

One of the main barriers preventing women from accessing institutional finance is a lack of knowledge. It is quite challenging for both men and women to comprehend and value the importance of formal money in their lives without proper literacy. This frequently causes individuals to be reluctant to use the savings and loan products offered by financial institutions. Having some basic education is necessary to improve financial literacy. The situation for female literacy, however, is not positive.

 

In comparison to 8% of all boys, around 10% of all girls between the ages of 6 and 11 are denied the right to an education internationally, according to the UNESCO’s eAtlas of Gender Inequality in Education. In comparison to around 8 million males, over 16 million girls between the ages of 6 and 11 may never get the chance to attend a primary school if the current pattern persists.

 

Reasons for Women’s Current Position In The Economical Structure

 

The habit of forcing female youngsters into marriage before they are financially independent, sometimes against their will, is the second barrier. They become totally reliant on the spouse or the husband’s family as a result of this and their early motherhood. Consequently, her life is challenged monetarily if the husband quits his work or experiences a crop failure.

 

Third, many nations do not provide women with the ID documentation they need to access financial institutions.

 

Fourth, many developing and low-income nations forbid women from entering banks, which are often staffed mostly by males. Additionally, women frequently do not have control over their possessions since their male relatives hold that authority.

 

Another roadblock is the inheritance and marriage regulations– the sons receive the better share of the inherited property in a patriarchal culture. However, laws have changed or are being altered in many nations today to empower women.

 

Lastly, as women do not have financial independence, it is challenging for credit reporting agencies to compile financial histories of women, which prevents financial institutions from lending to them. Women financial inclusion would ensure an easy credit flow to women in starting a business or taking loans during personal crisis.

 

Women’s Economic Empowerment in Developing Countries

 

Giving women more economic power involves giving them more access to financial resources and more authority to make important decisions that will benefit themselves, their families, and their communities. These include the freedom to manage their own schedules, finances, and ability to participate equally in the marketplaces already in place. Their economic situation and well-being are improved with more empowerment.

 

The Sub-Saharan African region continues to struggle with gender inequality; it is one of the most unequal regions in the world, and development there is considerably slower than in other areas. The predominance of cultural practises that exacerbate favouritism towards men is a major contributor to gender disparity in emerging nations.

 

Financial Loss of Keeping Women Out of the Workforce

 

Gender inequality has a huge financial cost since it reduces productivity and economic growth internationally. As a result of the disparities in lifetime incomes between men and women, nations are losing $160 trillion in wealth. Additionally, a staff note paper from the IMF revealed that the costs of preventing women from joining the workforce are higher than previously imagined, and that removing the barrier of gender disparity would likely result in benefits that are higher than originally anticipated. Therefore, reducing gender disparity is essential for economic growth.

 

Third-world economies expand more rapidly when more women are given the opportunity to work. This is because the economic empowerment of women promotes economic diversity, productivity, and income equality, all of which have a favourable impact on other aspects of development.

 

According to IMF research, measures that promote women’s access to financial and educational opportunities can lower inequality and boost economic growth in developing nations. Reduction in fertility rates and increase in labour force participation, therefore providing greater quality of human capital to the future economy and generations are made possible by giving women and girls more educational possibilities.

 

‘Women Everywhere’ is Good for the Overall Economy

 

Women do better when they have more visibility. Financial inclusion into various institutions through an increased affordability power ensures that women’s needs are made central and of high value. When a man and a woman have comparable purchasing power for a car then the banks would be bound to treat them as equals when their loan applications go in.

 

Small but steady steps ensure that more and more women are empowered with their needs are discussed in marketing/boardroom meetings more fervently. Once the women have equitable seats at the big table, there’s no stopping them in living dignified lives- both personally and professionally.

 

Donate for Women Empowerment

 

Smile Foundation launched Swabhiman in 2005 to tackle these issues in a straightforward and efficient manner. Through creative communal activities, the programme especially aims to realise both individual and collective self-esteem and inner strength for marginalised and socially excluded women and teenage girls.

 

Under Swabhiman, the initiative for women’s empowerment, a customised approach known as the “4S Model” was devised. The abbreviation “4S Model” stands for four cutting-edge strategies: Supporting Education, Sustaining the Change in Communities, and Seeking Healthcare as a Behaviour.

 

The initiative seeks out young women and girls from the neighbourhood and nurtures them into Change Agents who then actively participate in the community mobilisation process. Till date, Swabhiman has effectively improved the lives of nearly 560,000 women and girl children via its health and women’s empowerment programmes. 

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Why is comparing your child to others is futile?

Every child is special and unique.

 

A wrongly used strategy for evaluating your students’ development is comparison. Assessing whether your child’s academic achievements are “normal”, better, or great by comparing their grades with other students is a futile act.

 

Then, in an effort to inspire our own child, we turn to cite the success of other kids. For instance, “Look, Vinita’s son got 90%” or “Your neighbour Vikram won the signing contest.” “Learn from other children. Stop lingering around the area and enrol in some lessons.”

 

Although you don’t mean to demotivate your child, some verbal comments unintentionally cause more harm than good. It might be difficult to resist the impulse to compare your child to others, even though doing so is pointless and stressful for both you and your child.

 

Effects of Comparing Your Child To Others

 

A child’s progress must be with his/her past performances and not with peers. 

 

Comparisons can have a detrimental impact on a child’s development and progress. Parents are also impacted by this in some manner in addition to the child. It makes parents question if they are being a good parent or providing enough for their children.

 

  1. Lack of confidence results in forceful parenting
  2. The youngster experiences a decline in self-esteem brought on by self-doubt
  3. The bond between parents and children could be ruined
  4. The child grows in an unfavourable environment stunting their development

 

Important Things to Remember about Child Development

 

When major tensions threaten their family and caregiving situations, even newborns and young children are negatively impacted.

 

Unfavourable prenatal and early childhood events can alter the brain’s structure and chemistry in ways that can last a lifetime. Severe neglect poses an even massive harm to growth and health than physical assault

 

Young children who underwent extended periods of neglect display more severe cognitive impairments, concentration issues, language deficits, scholastic challenges, withdrawn conduct, and issues with peer interaction as they become older in comparison to kids who were the victims of overt physical abuse. This implies that receiving less attention in early relationships may be more harmful to the developing brain’s architecture than physical damage.

 

Life consequences are not only decided by genes; development is a highly involved process

 

Before and shortly after birth, a person encounters significant events that chemically alter some genes, determining how much and when they are expressed. As a result, while environmental circumstances have the power to change family inheritance, genetic factors have a strong impact on human development. For instance, infants are born with the ability to acquire impulse control, attentional concentration, and memory retention, but their early experiences create the groundwork for how effectively these and other executive function abilities develop.

 

Different Stages in Child Development

 

There are 5 stages in child development– newborn, infant, toddler, preschool and school age. 

 

School age is when the comparison with others tends to happen. Constructive comparison is good but it should not surpass beyond a certain limit. Comparison should only be made with peers for the child to receive proper feedback instead of negative criticism. 

 

Stop Comparing your Child to Others

 

Remind yourself that there is a better choice than comparison

 

Occasionally, parents adopt the erroneous belief that pressuring their children to continuously measure up to others will somehow boost their motivation and potential. This is blatantly false. Please remember that communicating things related to a child’s performance should be done emphatically and responsibly. Comparing your child to others never helps!

 

Inform yourself that the comparison is inaccurate

 

Firstly, understand that a child’s growth is influenced by a variety of things, including their physical and mental capabilities as well as the environment in which they learn. Speak to your child and attempt to make it simpler if they are having trouble understanding lessons or learning things.

 

Build Trust

 

Sorry to put this in strong terms but you are a lousy parent if your own kids don’t trust you. You are also a lousy parent if you draw comparisons all the time. Combining the two, if you give your child the impression that they are a burden on you, they will lose faith in you, and that is detrimental to their overall growth.

 

It could make you less advantageous

 

Nobody enjoys continually being judged by others, and when your own parents are being so critical, it’s much more painful and embarrassing. It’s critical that you comprehend how constantly comparing your child to others can lead them to believe they are inadequate, damaging their self-esteem and is something you definitely don’t want. They could even begin to dislike you.

 

A Food For Thought

 

As working professionals, mostly masking it up as fully-grown and responsible adults, we perform better when our shortcomings are pointed out without any blithe comparisons with others. Would it be a lie if we say that we don’t like to be compared and pitched incessantly against our peers? 

 

Think about the young ones who are still figuring out their lives. It is more rational to focus on  a child’s individual needs rather than pointing fingers at them when they perform poorly. Nurturing a child involves being thoughtful, kind and understanding of their situations.

 

Hand Holding them in their hours of challenges and letting them go when they find a path of their own defines being a good parent. You would want your child to come back to you for help, right? Hearing them out and treating their every fear as valid would make you their safe space. In no time, you would become their most reliable and favourite human. That would be a win for all– your child and you!

 

Smile Foundation

 

Smile Foundation is actively involved in educating the urban village and rural communities of India about the negative effects of comparing your child to others. Click here to learn how you can be involved in supporting the children in need.

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What are the significant gaps in the Indian Education System?

India is home to one of the oldest civilizations in the world and occupied a revered seat of learning in ancient times.

 

The Indian education system has a glorious past that dates back to the ‘gurukul’ system in the Vedic age. Traditionally, the education system in India was more pragmatic, holistic, inclusive and functional. However, unfortunately, the current education system in India bears very little resemblance to its previous form and is plagued by many operational and strategic problems which call for urgent reforms.

 

Genesis and Changes in the Indian Education system

 

The Indian education system has come a long way from ‘gurukuls’ to digital classrooms. The unique history of Indian education system is divided into following periods in time:

 

Vedic Age: Before the 6th century BC, education was imparted in ‘gurukuls’ where students stayed with gurus or teachers and imbibed all kinds of life skills along with subjects like astronomy, medicine, mathematics, law, art of debate etc. The objective of education was to improve both outer and inner dimensions of the pupil.

 

Buddhist Period: During the period of 600 BC-1200 AD, learning centers developed around Buddhist monasteries/ viharas. Famous universities like Takshashila and Nalanda emerged during this period and attracted students from many parts of the world. Education aimed at physical, mental and moral development of an individual and gave functional knowledge to tackle real-life situations.

 

Medieval Period: This was the time of Mughal era (1200 AD-1800 AD) when there was Islamic influence on education. Maktabas and madrasas came into existence which offered Islamic religious education along with subjects like grammar, philosophy, literature, medicine, etc.

 

British Colonial Era: The essence of the ancient Indian education system was completely altered by the introduction of modern education during the colonial era. The use of the English language expanded. However, the focus of education shifted from functional knowledge to just passing tests and obtaining grades giving birth to an academic rat race causing severe dents to quality of education over time.

 

Post-independence period: The current system of education in India is an extension of the mass education system introduced during the British Raj. Establishment of organizations like UGC, AICTE, IITs, and IIMs in the years following independence has been instrumental in changing the education scenario. Though there has been a remarkable increase in the number of schools, colleges, and universities post-independence, the qualitative aspect of our educational institutes is still lagging.

 

Significant gaps in the Indian Education System

 

The major problems in the progress of our Indian education system can be identified as the following:

 

Low Budgetary allocation: Though there is an absolute increase in the outlay for school education and higher education in the budget of 2022-23,  the total education outlay has stagnated and is the same as that in 2013-14, when compared as a percentage of GDP. The lack of sufficient funds is a major hurdle in improving the quality of educational infrastructure and teaching resources.

 

Cost of Higher education: Higher education is a costly affair in India. Privatization of higher education and the growth of profit-oriented education entrepreneurs have made affordability of professional and technical education a major challenge in the current Indian education system limiting access of mainly rural population and economically weaker sections to qualitative higher education.

 

Outdated Educational system: Syllabus taught in our schools and colleges is mainly general education oriented and does not prepare students for the real world. Moreover, there is very little scope and encouragement for research and development and education imparted is theoretical in nature.

 

Evaluation and assessment system: While education equipped an individual with life skills in ancient India, today its definition and purpose have narrowed down to only securing a job. Rote learning has become the norm and students are expected to cram the syllabus and reproduce it in tests and exams. Students, parents and teachers have become part of an academic rat race that adversely affects innovation and out-of-box thinking.

 

Condition of Primary Education: Lack of basic infrastructure like classrooms, learning resources, urinals, etc. in primary schools often results in children dropping out of school. A UNICEF report states that 29% of boys and girls drop out before completing their elementary education. This leads to wastage of financial and human resources.

 

Importance of English over Indian languages: English being the primary medium of instruction in higher education, students from rural areas or with a schooling background of vernacular medium face huge challenge in following lessons and coping with the syllabus.

 

Indian education system: Problems and Solutions

 

The Indian education system is the single largest system of its kind with 1.5 million schools and 250 million children enrolled in the education system. However, the existing gaps adversely impact our current education system from delivering the desired results. Thus, it calls for immediate action to understand and find effective solutions to these problems.

 

True education is functional and applicable in the real world. Since we live in the age of technology, our education system also needs to be revamped accordingly. Technological awareness should be imparted to students earlier in their careers which helps them to match pace with changing times.

 

Our curriculum needs to shift from theoretical to practically oriented and prepare students for real-world challenges and jobs of the future. Also, moral education or value-based education should be included and prioritized to build character and encourage children to be better citizens.

 

Our evaluation system also needs to change to relieve the stress and drive children to study to learn rather than score marks. Knowledge, skills, and application-based assessment would help to break the chain of rote learning.

 

Teachers are the backbone of our education system. A properly trained, updated and motivated teacher can work wonders on a student. Hence, teachers should be trained and updated as per the current requirements. Hiring qualified teachers and paying them decent salaries is a necessary step to improve our education system.

 

New Education Policy 2020

 

In an attempt to revamp the old education policy and adapt it to the present age, the government of India approved the National Education Policy in 2020. The salient features of this new education policy are:

 

  1. Restructuring school curricula into a 5+3+3+4 format to correspond to different developmental stages of learners
  2. Reforms in assessment system
  3. Emphasis on Indian languages
  4. Center and state shall work together to increase education outlay to 6% of GDP
  5. Ensuring universal access at all levels of schooling
  6. Equal emphasis on all streams of education, academic and vocational education

 

Donate for Education in India

 

Quality education is the right of every child but millions of children remain deprived of this fundamental right due to poverty and lack of funds. The government and many other organizations are sincerely working to make education universal. However, the civic society should also lend a helping hand by donating for education in India, for, in an educated child of today lies a responsible citizen of tomorrow.

 

Please take a look into Smile Foundation’s flagship initiative, Mission Education (ME) to learn more about the efforts made to change the face of education for many underprivileged children in India.

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How Education Bridges Caste Divisions?

Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world. – Nelson Mandela

 

India is one of the most diverse nations in the world. Our country is a potpourri of a culture where the cultural fabric is woven with myriad threads of different languages, religions, castes, races and ethnic groups. While diversity is a huge asset to fuel the nation’s growth, it also brings along many social, political and economic challenges reflected in the form of inequalities and discrimination based on these differences. One such social anomaly prevalent in India since ancient times is the caste system. Caste and education in India are closely inter-related with the future and success of the nation.

 

Caste System in India 

 

Though the exact origin of caste system in India is not clear, it is undoubtedly one of the most complex features of Indian society. The Hindus constituting a majority of the Indian population were traditionally classified into one of the four occupational groups called ‘Varnas’. They were Brahmins (teachers, priests, religious guides), Khastriyas (kings, warriors), Vaishyas (merchants, traders) and Shudras (labourers, peasants). Besides, there was a community outside this 4-tier system who were expected to do all menial work and tasks considered impure in the society. They were outcasts and treated as untouchables. The four varnas had many occupational sub-groups within them called ‘jatis’.

 

The term ‘jati’ which refers to one’s caste is ascribed by birth and decides the position of an individual in the social hierarchy in ancient India. Caste-based discrimination was prominent, thus leading to historical exclusion of certain groups. However, the caste system in India has undergone massive changes with time.

 

Changing face of Caste Landscape in India

 

Caste system stood in the way of an equal and just society. The fight against this social evil started in pre-independent India itself. Many leaders and visionaries like Mahatma Gandhi, Jyotiba Phule, Dr. B.R.Ambedkar worked hard to abolish caste-based discrimination and emancipate the marginalized classes. 

 

The effort of these leaders and factors like industrialisation, urbanisation, westernisation, spread of modern education, etc. led to the improvement in the status of historically neglected classes. The walls that once separated and divided Indian society into different castes have gradually weakened and collapsed leading to more interpenetration among castes. Adding to this, social reforms, constitutional provisions, and shift in attitude and perception of social status are changing the caste equation in India.

 

Correlation between Caste and Education in India

 

Caste and education in India share a reciprocal relationship. A more stringent caste system leads to less equity in education. Socio-economic backwardness resulting from caste discrimination over the years can be considered a major contributor to educational disparity among different castes in India. 

 

According to a paper published in the Social and Political Research Foundation, several factors like-

 

  1. a family’s level of income,
  2. proximity to educational institutes,
  3. perceived importance of education,
  4. cultural norms, and
  5. discrimination

 

within institutes are some of the reasons that affect education enrollment in marginalized groups. Caste discrimination in education interferes with access to resources and equality of opportunities in education thus widening the gap between castes.

 

Role of education in bridging caste division

 

Education is a potent tool for social reformation as it holds the power to empower. Education makes a person more self-reliant, confident, informed and better equipped for handling all kinds of challenges and aspiring for a better life.

 

Introduction of modern education during the later part of British colonialism led to the percolation of rational and logical ideas in Indian society which brought about an attitudinal shift in traditional beliefs and practices. It led to the rise of many modern thinkers and social reformers who questioned the foundation of caste division among other social evils. 

 

Post-independence, the government ensured to include constitutional provisions that worked towards bridging the caste division. The practice of untouchability was abolished by law and other social, economic, educational, cultural and political safeguards were included in the Indian constitution for protection of rights of Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and backward classes. 

 

Chapter XI of the Indian Constitution provides, “The State shall promote with special care the educational and economic interests of the weaker sections of the people, and, in particular, of the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes, and shall protect them from social injustice and all forms of exploitation.”

 

Affirmative Action – Need and Impact

 

The main motive of affirmative action is to include particular groups based on their gender, race, caste, etc. in areas where they are underrepresented such as education or employment. India’s current affirmative action policy, otherwise known as the ‘reservation policy’, is operative in three main spheres– 

 

  1.         appointment and promotion in government services
  2.         admissions to public educational institutions
  3.         and seats in Central, State and local legislatures

 

As part of affirmative action in education, the State reserves places for SC and ST students in educational institutions, including all colleges run by the Central or State governments and all government-aided educational institutions. This is supported by a number of financial schemes, including scholarships, special hostels for SC and ST students, fee concessions, grants for books, and additional coaching. Evidence suggests that as a result of these actions enrollment of SC and ST students in educational institutions have increased significantly. 

 

Education- The Best Leveller

 

The importance of education in building an inclusive society can be summarised as follows:

 

  1. Encourages rational thinking rather than blindly following traditional beliefs
  2. Makes people aware of their constitutional rights, thus making them more assertive 
  3. Imparts necessary training and knowledge for better employment opportunities and occupational diversification
  4. Helps fight social stigma and brings flexibility in institutions like marriage, provides ground for inter-caste marriages
  5. Changes perception of social status from ‘caste based’ to ‘ability and qualification based’
  6. Provides better opportunities of livelihood thus improving quality of life 

 

Education undoubtedly holds the key to a better tomorrow. Today we proudly look at our hon’ble president Smt. Droupadi Murmu, a tribal woman who comes from a remote village in Odisha. Her commitment to education throughout her career is a reminder of the power of education.

 

There are many such positive and inspiring stories such as those of Bhagwan Gawai (CEO and chairman of Saurabh Energy DMCC) and Ashok Khade (MD, DAS Offshore) who being from Dalit backgrounds faced a lot of discrimination in early life, but completed their education and today are successful first generation entrepreneurs. They not only changed their own lives but have positively impacted many other lives by the employment generation.

 

Many national and international organisations working towards creating a better world thus emphasise qualitative and time-relevant education being accessible to all children as they are the future of our nation.

 

Given the role of education in nation-building, not just the government but civil society should also come forward and do their bit in making education more inclusive. Whether it is volunteering to teach marginalised kids or donating for the education of a poor child, each small step goes a long way in changing many lives and bridging the long-existing gaps in society. Smile Foundation through its initiative, Mission Education (ME) is making efforts towards a more aware and educated India.

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Mental Health Wellbeing – A Criteria of Excellence at Workplace

“You, yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection.” — Buddha

On 10th October, 2022– World Mental Health Day, this year, we take a moment to understand and acknowledge mental health. Mental Health is the barometer by which individuals measure their well being and their ability to work, learn and contribute to their community. World Mental Health Day is an international day for global mental health education, awareness and advocacy to eradicate all social stigma associated with mental disorders. It was first celebrated in 1992 at the initiative of the World Federation for Mental Health, a global organisation with members and contacts in more than 150 countries

 

What is Mental Health and Wellbeing?

 

Mental health wellbeing can be both subjective and objective. Not only does it describe the  mental state but is also related to physical health. WHO defines mental health as a state of mental and psychological wellbeing in which every individual realizes his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to his or her community. It is also determined by a range of socioeconomic, biological and environmental factors and an individual’s responses to triggers and uncertainties in life. 

 

Importance of Mental Health

 

Both mental and physical health are equally important parts that contribute to overall good health. Any mental disorder can preempt and give rise to a physical illness.  Example – having  depression increases the risk for many types of physical health problems, particularly long-lasting conditions like diabetesheart disease, and stroke. 

 

Impact of Covid-19

 

Whilst mental illnesses have always plagued us in some form or another, the Covid-19 pandemic saw an upsurge of mental health issues that gave rise to several other health issues that were unique to the pandemic. The state of existence created due to the pandemic, such as– working from home, temporary unemployment, home-schooling of children, and lack of physical contact with other family members, friends and colleagues took a considerable amount of time to get accustomed to.

 

Embracing these changes which came on suddenly due to the pandemic and then rapidly adapting and adjusting  lifestyles and routines to accommodate these changes plus managing the fear of contracting the virus, were a challenging time for all of us. And they can be especially difficult for people preexisting with mental health conditions to handle.

 

The aftermath of the pandemic saw the rise and acknowledgement of complex mental health issues such as attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), anxiety, depression, and substance abuse. This in turn has created an acute need for newer and innovative mental health care tools including wearables and digital interventions. The effects of the pandemic have highlighted and emphasised the need for increased access to mental health care with a greater focus on early intervention and prevention of serious illness.

 

What’s Important for Mental Health Wellbeing

 

Mental health wellbeing describes our mental state – how we are feeling and how well we can cope with day-to-day life. Promoting mental health and wellbeing in the workplace is important for employees, their employers, society and the economy. This is because poor mental health impacts individuals’ overall health, their ability to work productively, affects their relationships with others, and shows substantial downfall to overall personality, mental health and social conduct.

 

Mental Health and the Workplace

 

Work-related stress, as defined by the WHO, is the response people may have when presented with demands and pressures not perfectly matched to their abilities leading to an inability to cope. This creates despair and imbalance in a person’s consciousness. Research shows a strong connection between mental health disorders and decreased work productivity. Treatment for conditions like depression has confirmed the positive and significant benefits to improved productivity. 

 

Providing a range of policies, resources, and management training that foster a healthy and flexible work culture are fundamental strategies for supporting employee mental health. Enhancing employees’ mental well-being is an important and non-negotiable issue that  an organization’s management and leadership should not ignore.  It requires strategic investments of time and money. 

 

The steps taken to better support employees in their work and in their personal lives empower them to thrive healthily and show all round progress in their lives, thus ensuring the long-term health and success of both  employees and the organisation.

 

Activities for Better Mental Health

 

  1. Connect with other people – don’t isolate yourself. Meet people and ensure that you have healthy and productive conversations with family, friends and colleagues. Good relationships are important for your mental wellbeing.
  2. Be physically active – indulge in a form of fitness that resonates with you. Being physically active and having some exercise routine on a regular basis is a great booster for mental health.
  3. Learn new skills.- keep mentally healthy by learning new things. When the mind is exercised and challenged with new skills, its nourishing food for the brain which gives a healthier mental outlook.
  4. Stay in the present moment – enjoy life on a daily basis and do not stress about  a future that cannot been, seen, predicted or known.
  5. Get plenty of sleep –  get close to 8 hours of sleep per night. A good night’s sleep refreshes and rejuvenates minds and bodies, which automatically helps elevate moods and better mental health.

 

Final Thoughts

 

Caring for mental health wellness involves collaboration and unity of all stakeholders to work together to deepen the value and commitment given to mental well being. It requires reshaping mindsets, social environments and strengthening of systems  and policies that play a major role in mental health care. Once the commitment to take care of mental health is in place, then you’re ready for any challenges life throws at you. 

 

This World Mental Health Day, we at Smile Foundation, pledge to put peace first.

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Why India needs to up-skill its urban village and rural youth?

India has completed 75 years of independence. In these years, the country has witnessed many historical transformations from the Green revolution to the Digital revolution and is an active ground for many more to come. The secret behind the development of any country lies in the optimal use of its resources. India is blessed with a bounty of natural resources, but it is the human resources that can make all the difference. With a population of nearly 138 crores, India has no dearth of human resources, but the key to its success is in creating efficient human capital from it. One of the ways to meet this objective is to skill rural youth of the country.

 

Demographic Dividend

 

People of a country are its greatest asset and also a liability as they are both the factors and consumers of economic growth. The demographic features of population and quality of human resources are critical in the economic development of a nation. As per age composition, the population is classified into three groups, namely, young dependents (under 14 years), adults (15-64 years), and elderly dependents (above 65 years).

 

Statistics indicate that India currently has 67.45 % of its population in the age group of 15-64 years which is the working age population. This segment is also referred to as the ‘demographic dividend’ as they provide a favorable condition for accelerating economic growth by contributing to productivity. According to a CII report, productive employment of this demographic dividend can escalate India’s GDP from the current $3 trillion to $9 trillion by 2030 and $40 trillion by 2047.

 

However, tapping into the potential of the demographic dividend will be determined by the quality of our human resources. The three most important factors responsible for improving the quality of human resources are:

 

  1. Education
  2. Healthcare
  3. Training and up-skilling

 

Skill-Development for Youth – Need and Importance

 

According to ‘Youth In India-2017’, a statistical publication by the Central Statistics Office (CSO), India currently has the largest share of youth population in the world and would continue to hold this for the next 20 years. The National Youth Policy 2014 defines youth as persons in the age group of 15-29 years. According to the 2011 census, the share of youth population in India is 34.8% of total population.  

 

‘Youth’, the transition phase from childhood to adulthood is not only a crucial phase in one’s life but also instrumental in nation building. Youth is the primary productive workforce of a nation and also the most economically active section. Educated, motivated and skilled youth can lead a nation on a growth trajectory. On the contrary, illiterate, misguided, and unemployable youth can prove to be a challenge for the economy.

 

Education along with relevant training and skill development improves the employability of a person thus increasing their potential for access to better living conditions. Lack of skilled workforce is projected as one of the major reasons for India’s unemployment issue. With relevant training and up-skilling, the youth can gain expertise in their area of work, thus improving their position in the job market. This emphasizes the need for skill development for rural and urban youth. 

 

Rural-Urban Divide in India

 

Although the rural-urban divide in India was quite distinct in previous years, the rural landscape has undergone a massive change in recent times resulting in the creation of a more integrated economy and giving birth to the concept of urban villages.

 

Urban villages refer to those original villages which adapt to the urbanization around them as a result of the expansion of cities. Though these urban villages eventually merge with the urban ward, the rural-urban conflicts are strongly manifested here. As a result, these urban villages continue to remain as neglected pockets of the city and the youth in these urban villages often face a severe identity crisis.

 

The youth in the urban villages live in proximity to the metropolis and thus a hub of opportunities. But quite ironically, they might not be able to grab any, due to the lack of skills. Hence it is highly important to identify the potential and design training and skill-development programmes which tap into their talent and address their needs. This would not only empower these youth and create a positive workforce for economic development but also prevent the risk of losing this young population to undesirable and anti-social activities.  

 

Skill development in rural areas

 

Heavy dependence of the rural economy on agriculture, lack of livelihood creation in villages, and failure to comply with technological advancements in agriculture-related industry have forced rural youth to migrate to cities. However, the rural youth who comprise 68 % of India’s total population often find themselves in a disadvantageous position in today’s job market, the main reason being lack of industry-relevant skills.

 

Skill development in rural areas has to overcome many challenges like:

 

  1. The penetration of vocational training in rural India has been disappointingly low, so much so that 93.7 % of youth had never received any vocational training till 2017-18
  2. Concentration of training institutes in the cities and towns often limits access of rural youth mostly females due to lack of proper transportation or other mobility restrictions
  3.  Outdated courses, Limited capacity and placement options of the Govt. run Industrial Training Institutes do not provide a very promising option
  4.  Existing Skill development programmes often fail to address the aspirations of the rural youth

 

How to skill rural population

 

The first step in designing an effective skill-development programme for the rural population is to understand the changing dynamics of the rural landscape and identify the available skill sets in the rural population. Taking these into consideration the skill-development programmes can be customized to upgrade their skills to meet emerging industry requirements.

 

With the advent of digital revolution and penetration of smartphones and digital technology into rural India, the exposure of rural youth has increased, thus widening the scope of skilling opportunities as well. However, broadband connectivity in rural areas still needs improvement post which rural India can have a truly conducive environment for e-learning of education and up-skilling programmes by increasing their outreach to the remotest parts.

 

Technological opportunities in agriculture and allied sectors can create a huge job market in the future. Moreover, with greater emphasis on sustainable development, around 3 million jobs are predicted to be created in the renewable energy sector. Hence training and skilling rural populations in areas like energy conservation, pollution monitoring, and agricultural mechanization can provide them with huge career opportunities. Besides, skill development in healthcare services like nursing, pathology, lab technicians and paramedics also hold a promising future.

 

Conclusion

 

India is in an advantageous position due to its demographic transition. But to reap this economic opportunity, our human resource needs to be competent and well-equipped. The best way to make our workforce future-ready is to train them early. This is precisely why the New Education Policy 2020 integrates vocational education at school and college levels in a phased manner over the next decade. Proper implementation of this policy combined with other skill-development measures holds the key to unlocking a great future for our country and its people.

 

Smile Foundation through its initiative, Tayyari Kal Ki is making constructive efforts to prepare the Indian youth for the burgeoning workforce.

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LEARNING LOSS AND EDUCATION RECOVERY: Survey Report 2022, Part 3

“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world”-Nelson Mandela

 

This pragmatic quote inspired us all to put complete faith in education. Education that can help to change all the adversities we faced in our life journey, especially the latest adversity that the world witnessed- the Covid-19 Pandemic. In that period, the world was more concentrated on health and livelihood issues and India was no exception to it. The children were the worst sufferers during this period as the schools were not fully operationalized in the physical mode for the last two years.

 

What India had achieved before the Pandemic?

 

We, as responsible citizens of the country, had walked a decade together to ensure universal education for all children up to the age of 14 years after the RTE act got enacted in 2009. A large country like India had almost ensured enrollment of all the students in school education, irrespective of where they live and which community and socio-economic profile they belong to. But the pandemic has really pushed us to the far back and more rigorous and comprehensive efforts have to be taken in all areas to shape up the education of children for the present and future India.

 

Marking the second year of the anniversary of NEP 2020 this year, we are aiming for substantial transformation of the education ecosystem at all stages with a strong focus on Foundational Literacy and Numeracy (FLN). The considering and recognizing of FLN as a top priority by the Education department of the Union Govt. are genuinely beneficial for the students and the country as a whole.

 

Reason for the Learning Loss and Education Recovery Survey Report 2022

 

In response to this, Smile Foundation has designed survey research titled “Learning Loss and Education Recovery” focused on figuring out the priority areas to bring back children to school and catch up on lost learning amidst the pandemic. The survey research is conducted in 11 Indian languages in 22 states at pan India level. It has largely targeted the underprivileged population of the country as the pandemic hit them badly during the school closure. The survey has been designed to understand the age-appropriate learning levels of the students in the primary and upper primary sections.

 

Research has revealed some alarming facts and figures for the primary grades of students. The survey says:

 

63% of Grade-3 students do not know how to make sentences, 65% of students are not able to read subject texts and solve cognitive tasks in English and in Mathematics, 51% of students cannot do multiplication up to 10 and solve basic divisions. NEP has emphasised that primary school education is to be based on a student’s mother tongue but the survey states that 58% of students cannot make fundamental sentences and 50% of students do not know the basic set of words.

 

Smile Foundation’s Role In Ensuring Quality Education

 

Based on the education recovery survey findings, Smile Foundation is dedicated to ensure quality education for children and work on achieving FLN through Mission Education (ME) centres in 25 states of the country. The Foundation has taken all possible steps to connect with students through various means. Community-based cluster classes, apps-based learning support, activity-based learning, STEM education for experiential learning, remedial education before/after school hours, sports and extra-curricular activities. Areas of involvement also include social and emotional development to promote well-being, nutrition, and health check-ups, awareness of community-based resources and visiting homes regularly at the community level.