Rural Development Through Educational System – A Report
The Non Formal RT Certificate Course
The Syllabus for Non Formal Rural Technology
The Non Formal RT Certificate Course
The Vigyan Ashram project was started as a non-formal science education project with Dept. of Science and Technology funding. Here a range of skills were to be given as separate modules. In the beginning for organisational convenience, these were grouped together. Feedback from the community and the real life needs of the organisation functioning in the rural area, brought about the themes now constituting the rural technology course, viz. Water resource development, construction, workshop technology, energy and environment,agriculture, animal husbandry, home and health. Engineering drawing was included for facilitating teaching new skills as information is conveyed better through pictures than words. It is also a universal language.
The formal course was started as a work experience program, because it was easier to get a fixed number of students at definite times and a comparison of formal students and non-formal students would help to decide the future direction of the program.
After working with formal and non-formal education for some time, the strengths and weaknesses of both systems became clear. The non-formal students were more mature, because of the higher age group and since they were generally drop outs from school, accustomed to wandering around, their absenteeism was for greater. Their ability to grasp new concepts was less, perhaps because they had lost both interest and confidence in the ability to use thinking processes, However, while working with their hands showed that they had the ability to learn through concrete operations, as against abstract. The language ability was poor, even though some of them had good handwriting. Their vocabulary is small and often the words are corrupted. Arithmetic was another hurdle and many had an innate dislike for numbers and their manipulations.
Consequent to the above, record keeping and calculations of any sort were usually avoided by them. Their main advantage was that they were available full time and were willing and often eager to learn by doing.
Another weakness of far reaching significance was the tendency to be satisfied by the first success and lack of perseverance thereafter. The motivation was often from success in earlier endeavours. So new skills and projects were given rapid progress, but reflected a loss of quality and often shoddy work. The functional use of the article or service was therefore a most important aspect for controlling quality.
The community, as the client making the payment for the goods or services, was a necessity. This also gave direction to the development of new project ideas, which came from real life situations, as then faced by us and the rest of society.
The formal classes were more regular, the children eager to learn, more manageable. However, they would come only one day in a week. Thus the time given was too short and the progress too slow. Any experimentation had therefore to be done only with the non-formal students.
On the basis of the experience it became clear to me that it would be wrong to plan for only the non-formal or only the formal. The best way would be to combine the two. Thus from among the boys in the non-formal group, those who showed promise were brought to the formal classes as trainers. They had sufficient skills to be able to teach the younger formal students. This was also a morale booster for the ex-school dropouts, now teachers. It served to please their ego to be called “Sir” by the students. This brought in another weakness of our course. The instructors like to dictate notes to the students rather than spend more time doing things.
On the other side this was a good situation, the non-formal and formal becoming complementary. This tradition continued, the non-formal gave more services, gave us future teachers and also developers of new technology,
needed for the real life situations in the area. This was very desirable.
The non-formal students were slow to aquire reading skills, but were quite good in development through empirical methods. While this was not an ideal situation, the problems of getting academically well qualified candidates(e.g. diploma) to the rural area, was severe. Even when we got some, we soon found that they lacked practical skills compared to our non-formal “graduates. Even after giving them sufficient time to get practical skills, they were not necessarily more creative in ideas, nor more hardworking or ideologically oriented.
Thus gradually the Ashram came to depend more and more on the selected non-formal “graduates.” They became critically important for the running of the rural technology courses. As they were generally poor in writing even in Marathi, that load was always mine. But for this limitation, these former dropouts were able to do a lot of sophisticated work, including using computers, keeping accounts, doing costing and of course keeping the new projects in progress.
The onus on my part was one of organising this human resource to a well trained cadre. The teachers group always was like a hurriedly made up group with poor training. This defect was slowly overcome by on-the-job training.
The rural technology system was therefore designed to use the drop outs as the catchment for future trainers. The weaknesses of this group, viz. poor expression, absenteeism and craving for more money once they got the taste of success, are therefore inherent. On the other hand they have shown great potential for producing and developing new technology, with only a minimum guidance from me. It also kept costs low.
There was a constant demand for technical courses in the rural area. This demand was of a changing character; it was therefore an advantage to have a symbiosis of the formal and the non-formal.
In summary the formal system is the main target for reform. It is only through formalisation that we can cover a large country like India. The formal system is more regular and the students are yet capable of being moulded. They are enthusiastic and the number is large. There is also a fair proportion of girls among them. Also if they benefit, we have changed the future generation. The formal students are generally a younger age group, are not physically fully developed and are not fully mature.
The non-formal students are usually less in number, are very irregular in attendance, are slow to absorb new concepts and are not good for any serious book study. On the other hand, they are more mature, physically better developed and often have hidden talents, and most important are available full time. Even when they are practicing, they are available for assisting in the practical instruction. They perform better in real life situations.
It is important to note that the non-formal education can be carried out in the same school as the formal students, with the same equipment, staff and other facilities. They assist in giving services to the community.
Our recommendation is therefore to use both systems. The target group is the formal system, but the non-formal students provide the backbone for services to the community. They are more likely to start their own enterprises.
Having got the recognition for the formal course, we adopted the same for the non-formal students. However we soon found out that the students have a higher potential to do things. We therefore gradually modified the syllabus to be more practically oriented.
One of the first features to be introduced was the semi-commercial operation. This was tried first in the poultry course. Here the students operated a batch in a commercial fashion and had a share in the profits of the batch. The first concept was that some of the ex-students operated the poultry for six months to a year and the non-formal students were attached to this commercial operation as they would have been attached to an industry. Later the system was modified to have each batch students to manage the batch under our guidance. They take their share of profits at the end of the batch, which is also the end of the course.
This concept was extended to agriculture, where students were given plots of land and cultivated them under our supervision. After harvest, we deducted the cost and gave them shares in the profits. The farm needed a hostel on the rented farm land. Articles in the press on Vigyan Ashram, brought many parents with problem children to Pabal. The hostel was welcome to them but not very popular with the locals, who wanted to stay at their own homes. Farming, by itself was not liked by the local boys.
This non-formal RT course is good enough to give a technological literacy but they need further practice before they can start own enterprises. The system of “trainee staff” evolved out of this. However we hope that if we can make our farming operations economically rewarding, they will become popular like the poultry courses and we should see more ex-students on their farm enterprises.