The Curriculum, and the Hidden Curriculum, in Indian Education, 1985 to the Present: Perspectives from Sri Lanka to Nepal

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In this essay, I focus on various curricular practices of Indian schools. I discuss curriculum not as the declared, intended, or tested curriculum, but as the experienced, taught, and learnt curriculum, or what may be observed by an ethnographer sitting for the whole school day in various classrooms as the sum total of the processes that are going on under the school roof. Then the “hidden curriculum,” as the name implies, includes the non-explicit, implicit, unstated things that are also being taught to children in school along with the explicitly stated curricular subjects. This hidden curriculum is always present and relies on the structures and processes of schools, including spatial layouts, language use, interrelationships, rituals, and symbols. I highlight the importance of the curriculum, including the hidden curriculum, and mark the change in it over thirty years.

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This Introduction sets up a binary framing between the ‘marginal child’ and the ‘subaltern student’ to help contextualize this Special Issue’s efforts to frame educational exclusions in India within a longer history of modernity, childhood and the democratization of schooling. Broadly speaking, the ‘marginal child’ refers to discourses that focus on the ‘victimhood’ of particular populations of children while leveraging their hypothetical schooled futures as the ideal solution to their current situation. In contrast, the ‘subaltern student’ embeds a more historicized framing that draws our attention to first-generation students’ cautious hopefulness around formal education as that which coexists with, and is shaped by, their parallel recognition, navigation and experiences of school spaces as sites that devalue their identities as learners. Each figure, one discursive and the other real, aids in disclosing how recent efforts to realize all ‘children’s right to education’ contain distinct techniques of knowledge production, particular understandings of schooling’s spatial and temporal norm, and contrasting ideas around children’s value and futurity, i.e. practices that have significant ethical and political ramifications in shaping contemporary conversations around educational inequities in India.
At the end of a very interesting article, “Hiding the Hidden Curriculum” (1973/74), Elizabeth Valiance raises the question of what to do with the hidden curriculum now that we have found it. We can embrace it wholeheartedly, she says, or we can attempt to expunge it altogether, or we can do something between these two extremes. Valiance leaves the question open and I have no intention of closing it here; indeed, I am not sure is one that can or &hould be closed. I would, however, like to explore some of the things that can be +done with a hidden curriculum once it is found and some of the pitfalls of doing those things. But first we need to get clearer than we now are on the nature of the beast.
It's no surprise that schools in wealthy communities are better than those in poor communities, or that they better prepare their students for desirable jobs. It may be shocking, however, to learn how vast the differences in schools are -not so much in resources as in teaching methods and philosophies of education. Jean Anyon observed five elementary schools over the course of a full school year and concluded that fifth-graders of different economic backgrounds are already being prepared to occupy particular rungs on the social ladder. In a sense, some whole schools are on the vocational education track, while others are geared to produce future doctors, lawyers, and business leaders. Anyon's main audience is professional educators, so you may find her style and vocabulary challenging, but, once you've read her descriptions of specific classroom activities, the more analytic parts of the essay should prove easier to understand. Anyon is chairperson of the Department of Education at Rutgers University, Newark; This essay first appeared in Journal of Education, volume 162, no. 1, in the Fall 1980 edition. Scholars in political economy and the sociology of knowledge have recently argued that public schools in complex industrial societies like our own make available different types of educational experience and curriculum knowledge to students in different social classes. Bowles and Gintis 1 for example, have argued that students in different social-class backgrounds are rewarded for classroom behaviors that correspond to personality traits allegedly rewarded in the different occupational strata--the working classes for docility and obedience, the managerial classes for initiative and personal assertiveness. Basil Bernstein, Pierre Bourdieu, and Michael W. Apple focusing on school knowledge, have argued that knowledge and skills leading to social power and regard (medical, legal, managerial) are made available to the advantaged social groups but are withheld from the working classes to whom a more "practical" curriculum is offered (manual skills, clerical knowledge). While there has been considerable argumentation of these points regarding education in England, France, and North America, there has been little or no attempt to investigate these ideas empirically in elementary or secondary schools and classrooms in this country. 3 This article offers tentative empirical support (and qualification) of the above arguments by providing illustrative examples of differences in student work in classrooms in contrasting social class communities. The examples were gathered as part of an ethnographical 4 study of curricular, pedagogical, and pupil evaluation practices in five elementary schools. The article attempts a theoretical contribution as well and assesses student work in the light of a theoretical approach to social-class analysis.. . It will be suggested that there is a "hidden curriculum" in schoolwork that has profound implications for the theory -and consequence -of everyday activity in education....
Although two recently fashionable items in educational discourse (the hidden curriculum and qualitative inquiry) have been strangely isolated from each other in the literature, qualitative inquiry methods may well be the most appropriate tools available for studying the hidden curriculum. Both concepts demand an approach to educational research which is unlike that adopted in studying regularly observable educational events using traditional (“quantitative”) research methods. The state of mind required by inquiry into the hidden curriculum is by definition open to unknowns and attuned to the subtle and irregular qualities of schooling. Much the same can be said of qualitative inquiry methods. Though the study of the hidden curriculum can benefit from some traditional research methodologies, the concept demands that we also be willing to venture into uncharted territory. Qualitative inquiry provides a means of inquiry which is loosened from traditional constraints, just as the hidden curriculum is a subject of investigation which escapes the traditional definitions of schooling. The two concepts challenge each other in potentially productive ways. Together they may encourage more flexibility both in defining what is educationally important and in understanding how those important qualities of schooling operate.
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