Tuesday, July 8, 2008

two more busy days....

The morning of July 6 came too soon for me. Fortunately, I have been sleeping through the night, though many of my colleagues seem to be waking up at 4am. Breakfast was again a magnificent American and Indian buffet, full of eggs, French toast, hash browns, as well as tasty Indian treats whose names, as well as flavors, are complex.

After breakfast, we went to USEFI for a full day of meetings. We met a panel of three experts in Math and Science education. These people have been at the forefront of creating the national syllabi and textbooks used by my schools in India. The session was 2 hours long, though not nearly enough time to answer all the many questions that we all have.

Following that panel discussion, we had a meeting with Dr. Pawan Sikka, one of India’s renowned scientists and educators. He spoke about India’s scientific revolution since it was formed in 1947.

The meetings are very informative, though we all seem to not be used to sitting and being lectured to for hours on end….not to mention the severe jetlag that most of us still have.

We had lunch back at our hotel, though this time we ate at the Chinese restaurant. The food was top-notch, and according to many guide books, it’s some of the best Chinese food in Delhi!

After lunch, we headed back to USEFI to meet our partner teachers. Part of the requirements of this program is that we will be paired with a counterpart in India. We are to develop a curriculum unit with their guidance and support. My counterpart is a wonderful woman who teaches math: Chhaya Sharma. She teaches upper secondary math (grades 11 and 12) at Kendriya Vidyalaya Sector-4. The Kendriya Vidyalaya (or KV) schools are national schools that follow the national standards. All KV school in India follow the same daily syllabi. These schools are Government Schools (what the US would call Public schools) and are considered some of the best government schools in India.
Chhaya and I spent hours together, discussing math, teaching, pedagogy, education philosophy and Indian culture. I have been learning so much, yet I still have many questions for her.

After our meeting, we were all whisked away to the Red Fort, one of India’s major landmarks. The Red Fort was built many years ago, before the English showed up. The design elements remind me very much of the Forum in Rome. After touring the Red Fort for an hour or so, we made the trek to dinner…

We walked down the major road out of the Red Fort and bee lined it to McDonalds. Though most of us did not want to eat there, our guides informed us that this restaurant is really the only one around that we would be able to tolerate. The road itself was a major eye-opener. Up to this point, most of our time in India has been spent at our hotel (which is 5-Star), our gated USEFI compound, and in the air-conditioned bus between the two. The road we walked on (though it was only for about 2 blocks) was the real India. There were many beggars, wild dogs, street vendors, homeless people and septic smells from every corner. It was very overwhelming. Though not all of Delhi is like this road, we were all (including the seasoned travelers among us) overcome with the abject poverty and conditions of this part of town.

After dinner, half of us stayed for a show in the Red Fort, where various buildings were lit up as music and the story of it’s creation and uses were told over the loudspeakers. Sleep did not come soon enough.

We had an extra early morning on July 7. We boarded the buses at 7:30 to go to Humayun’s Tomb. Humayun was the second Moghul ruler of India (Sha Jahan, who build the Taj Mahal was the fifth). His tomb was a beautiful example of the Moghul architecture, which is full of arches, symmetry and geometry. The gardens surrounding his tomb were also lovely and different than the gardens we typically see in the US.

We left the tomb for the National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT). This organization is much like our national Department of Education. They make the national standards for all subjects, as well as syllabi, curricula, pedagogical suggestions AND textbooks! Their materials are made available to all 26 of India’s states to either adopt or adept for their needs. We met with a panel of math and science experts. Our panel is in charge of creating all these materials, standards and textbooks for math and science. We had so many questions that we were late getting to our next meeting. I requested that we visit them again when we return to Delhi in August.

After meeting with the panel, we were led to their bookstore, where we purchased their resources. I bought every math textbook from grade 6-12, as well as many reports and resources for a total of 1045 Rupees…which is equivalent to about $25!!! For those who don’t know, a single mathematics textbook in the US costs about $76-100.

After shopping, we went to the Center for Cultural Resources and Training (CCRT). Their goal is to incorporate more of India’s culture into school. There, we met with a panel of experts on religion in Indian society. We had a representative of Hinduism, Sikhism, Baha’i, Christianity and Judaism (the Muslim was unable to attend). Each speaker first talked about the state of their religion in India and then answered many questions from our group.

After the panel, we went to their theatre for a lecture on Odissi dance and to see a performance of their traditional Indian dance. The dance was truly magnificent! Two sisters, one in 11th and one in college, danced 3 pieces for us while their Guru (teacher) explained meanings, movements and costume. There was a 3-piece band accompanying them (drum, violin and a traditional Indian instrument). After the dances, we had a question and answer period with the group! It was a very magical night.

Back to the hotel and not nearly enough sleep….again….

1 comment:

Vicki said...

WOW! What an awesome adventure! I look forward to reading your entries regularly. Thank you for sharing this incredible experience with us.
And congratulations on being selected for this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
~ Vicki ~