Education activists in India have launched a new website, dedicated to their programme of bringing critical and creative education into public schools. British colonialism has had a baleful influence on education in India, stifling the creative ideas of Indian thinkers and imposing a dry diet of rote learning. This has only been compounded by the interference of the World Bank and DfID with their reductive, data driven programmes.

From its inception in the 1950s thie Avehi Abacus project has sought to develop a completely different kind of education, one where children 'were provided an opportunity to interact with teachers, writers and artists, and to explore their surroundings through art, drama and dance, while all the time asking questions and discovering the answers.'

Most schools, according to the website follow an approach which 'accepts the traditional role played by the school, that of endorsing the established order. Under this approach the curriculum promotes certain values, stereotypes, and worldviews. It demarcates specific subject areas, and in the process defines what constitutes valid knowledge, suggesting that it is in some way separate from everyday life. Also the relationships that the school and the classroom situation perpetuate are those of hierarchy and authority.'

This project on the other hand aims to 'equip the child with an outlook and a method of analysis – a tool – which will help her/him grow up into a thinking, concerned human being.' 

A spokesperson for the project said, 'Our work is to revive and improve the endangered public schools in Mumbai. Thus we work with teachers, learning from them and enriching mutually. The curriculum generated by us is used by the regular teachers NOT by our volunteers. We do not believe in replacing the teachers but in fact to support them to find their professional identity and eroded respect.' The public schools in Mumbai have recently been offered up en masse to the private sector and NGOs. 

This is a million miles away from the kind of 'help' given to education in South Asia by people like Pearson's own Michael Barber who imposes scripted lessons, performance related pay, privatisation and the whole neoliberal playlist on teachers, schools and communities. Avehi Abacus comes from and is grounded in the rich culture of critical and creative pedagogy in India. We warmly recommend our readers to take a look at and get ideas from the work it is doing here.