Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Human frogger...

How to begin…

I don’t even know how to start describing my school visit. So, instead, I will start by talking about our visit to the NCERT which at the moment I cannot remember what the acronym stands for, but it is pretty much like India’s Department of Education. We met with the Director of Curriculum, the Directors of Science and Math Curriculum, and the Director of Publications. First of all, I must mention that we are meeting with heads of departments on the national level to discuss curriculum. I cannot imagine these high level officials in the US meeting with teachers, but maybe they do.

India has a set of schools for students whose parents work for the federal government and get transferred around the country. India has an absolutely giant bureaucratic system and so there are a lot of these schools. They have a national curriculum that allows people to go school to school without missing a beat. So, this curriculum development center does the national curriculum and writes and prints the textbooks and schools not in the government system can use this curriculum or adapt it for themselves.

The curriculum people said that they are working on making instruction and learning based less on rote memorization and more on applications and inquiry like we do. It was really interesting to see how that looks in a classroom, but I will get to that in a bit.

Then, we went to a national cultural center and had a panel discussion on religion with a group of religious leaders. These leaders were from the Sikh, Ba’hai, Christian, Jewish, and Hindu communities and they stressed how in India, people mostly peacefully coexist and that all of these religions have been deeply influenced by Indian culture and have traditions in them here in India that are not seen in other countries. I asked if there were Mormons in India and they told me that there is an LDS church here. But, I haven’t seen any bikers in short-sleeved white shirts but the traffic is so crazy here that they would probably get run over on their first day!

Speaking of traffic. HOLY CRAP!!!! Lanes are basically suggestions and on the road there are cars, buses, big trucks, auto-rickshaws, bikes, motorcycles, COWS, and lots of people! Everyone honks their horns at all times and there are often entire families on the back of a motorcycle. There is NO WAY I would ever be able to drive here! To understand what it is like to cross the street, you have to think of the game Frogger, an 80s video game, where a frog tries to cross the street without getting smushed. Welcome to my world.

Yes, it is true, there are cows in the middle of busy streets just hanging out and munching median grass. They are sacred here, of course, because of Hinduism and they just stand in traffic or on the sidewalk just hanging out. Somebody in the group had a school visit way out in the suburbs today and he said he actually saw two elephants walking down the street! I can’t wait to see that!

We didn’t get back from the cultural center until like 9:30 at night so we just ate in our hotel. They have what basically are paneer (Indian cheese) quesadillas. It made us laugh and we decided that instead of saying cheese for photos, we are going to say paneer! 

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