Academic journal article The Qualitative Report

Education for All: Hearing Minority Parent Voice about Public Education in India

Academic journal article The Qualitative Report

Education for All: Hearing Minority Parent Voice about Public Education in India

Article excerpt

Children have a fundamental human right to an education. This principle has been accepted by nearly every nation. However, despite efforts to increase access to education around the world, there remain large gaps in the opportunity for learning, particularly for children in emerging Third World countries. Global efforts fall short of achieving educational equality because they do not address significant details pertinent to local communities. Each and every community and local organization needs specific research and feedback to make actual improvements to education and increase opportunities for its citizens. Part of the research needed to realize this local orientation includes reaching out to parents and asking for their perspective.

In the country of India, Hands of Freedom is one example of a local organization that works to address community concerns. It focuses on reducing poverty and improving the quality of life for families living in some of the poorest areas of both rural and urban India. Since these community initiatives meet local needs, the programming becomes embedded and self-sustaining (J. Borde, personal communication, June, 2014).

Hands of Freedom was started in early 2008 to address issues of extreme poverty in India. Hands of Freedom began in one district in India and now, in 2015, serves five urban districts across India. The people served by this agency live in extreme poverty, their families having been classified in the lowest levels of the old caste system, referred to as Untouchables in the Indian vernacular. To ensure sustainable community change, Hands of Freedom provides training, micro saving, and loan programs to support individuals and families as they open small businesses that provide goods and services to meet local community needs. Hands of Freedom also constructs clean water wells, and works to expand programming for basic health care services in local communities. Recently, they opened early school programs in two Indian urban districts to offer educational programming and meet local daycare needs. These schools are registered with the national government and use standardized formats and curricula guides to structure programming (J. Borde, personal communication, February, 2012).

A group of educators from Minnesota traveled to India to help Hands of Freedom establish one of the organization's educational projects by providing both teacher and leadership training. The author, a member of the visiting team, helped provide leadership and teacher training, and oversaw the focus group research. As an assistant professor in Educational Leadership, Dr. Wilson was interested in working with minority parents through Hands of Freedom and doing qualitative field research in India.

In a focus group, the team interviewed parents who expressed their hopes and dreams for their children, along with the challenges and fears they deal with when sending their children to early school programs in India. This article will explain the operation and methodology of the focus group, present its findings, discuss the implications, and make recommendations for future initiatives in the areas of preschool and early elementary programs. These recommendations parallel the goals set up to improve educational opportunities for all children in the globally endorsed "Education for All" initiative and the "Dakar Framework," which will be briefly described in the following section.

Literature Review

In 1948, The General Assembly of The United Nations adopted The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which, in Article 26, established that everyone has a right to education. However, despite countless efforts spanning over 40 years by individuals and numerous organizations to give children around the globe a chance to attend school, significant educational gaps persisted throughout the world into the late 1980's. In response, the World Declaration of Education for All (EFA) Conference was held in 1990 in Jomtien, Thailand (World Declaration, 1990). …

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