Blog Post

Wikipedia and schools - language, time, local and global

Wikipedia and schools - language, time, local and global

Disclaimer: Although I learn and visit schools due to my association with Wikipedia promotion, these are entirely my personal views and do not reflect our agenda or focus for Wikipedia education activities

Context: I've been doing outreach activities to help increase editors on Wikipedia in India in English and regional languages.

There are a few things I learned during the past few days of interacting with teachers across a spectrum of schools in the city of Rajkot in Gujarat in India. They moved me, partly because I suddenly realized I could no longer say "the same happened when were in school" and I have moved to the group that says "In our times schools were..." These were really intimate moments of realization and got me wondering what kind of students/citizens/humans these changes in the school spectrum will make.

To put it simply, (here it goes) in my times, there were government schools (where you would be sent if you failed) and there was my/our school for which we would have to acquire all trophies and marks possible. Being in my school versus government schools afforded us opportunities to take part in events, competitions and learn things that all ensured we were moving up the ladder in terms of social stature. In retrospect I feel they were how they were not just to make us better human beings but also richer human beings.

On the contrary, in these times, I feel the disparity has increased and reshaped into a new cross section dynamic - international versus local schools (the affordability factor is still relevant because both have occupied the earlier positions too). In my times (when I was in 11-12th), these international schools had already started to appear. These are schools that offer IB or Cambridge board certification as against other state or Indian board schools. Of course, I regarded them with much disdain and mockery because they seemed to house rich, aimless, hippie looking brats with a garnishing of extremely poor students made to feel privileged by the humanist social inclusion agenda of these schools. *insert smirk*

In the past two days, I met kids and teachers from such schools as well as kids from "very middle areas" (as the teacher put it)

Something that concerned me and really got me thinking is the disparity/diversity of types of school inhabiting our times. While there is an outburst of international schools, there are also schools and teachers who are apologetic about their own conditions.

There is something so cocoon like in the humanism of international schools where children are taught universalized values - to learn, to respect, no racism, love and education for all in the larger sense that specific local manifestations of these seem rather irrelevant to them. Also, the picture I have posted is to show that they use LCD screens instead of blackboards but their classrooms have been constructed from bio-friendly material in the style of old Indian mud huts.

The global techno-conscious:

They are encouraged to take up organic farming while students of the local/non-international school children are encouraged to learn English, score marks and still aim for technical lines (basically get richer). It was a step further in case of Gujarati medium students because they were grappling with an already outdated system, constantly modifying and supplementing to overcome the regional language handicap.

Language as time:

I am only writing this because I am curious how these children will be in the same society together once they pass out and live in the adult world. I am sure there is something different about this international/local gap in terms of information, exposure, habits surrounding and resultant of the cultural milieu that only schools can give you access to. While in the international school we were trying to convince the students that Wikipedia is not JUST going to look good on your C.V and it is about 'epistemic' (yes, we actually discussed that) questions of knowledge production, we tried hard to convince the local (+vernacular language) students that contributing to a 'global' and 'live' platform would help them take that precise leap into a global, technological modernity - and eventually make them more relevant maybe?
It is interesting that to two different groups, different layers of the same technological-educational platform can offer promises of (exotic) post modernity and good old (techno-utopic) modernity.


Do add to my thoughts :)


1 comment

What you say here reverberates whenever I see a web or tv commercial for Google or Apple showing many joyful "multicultural" faces all united by their ipods/macs/google searches. This corporate universalism is indeed a cocoon--the "new capitalism"  that James Paul Gee said is coopting the once-productive practices of "social turn" literacy studies and subverting those radical agencies to "progressive" corporate aims.  Your image of the lcd screen in the self-consciously local "mud hut" is a perfect metaphor for a global digital future that steals those possibilities for new epistemologies and subsumes them in a techno-global "relevancy" that only benefits a marketplace interested  in maintaining an ecoonomic status quo. I am anxious to see how digital humanities will step up and interrogate some of these issues of the economic impact of big techno-capitalism.