India/ 8.3 Arts and cultural education  

8.3.3 Intercultural education

There is no separate emphasis on intercultural education and cultural citizenship, as they are seen as integral parts of the education system. The organisations that make curricula try to represent the cultural diversity of India to the greatest extent possible.

For example, the guidelines on planning school curriculum on language asserts the following point:

‘Multilingual classrooms, which are the most common scenario in India, should be seen as a resource rather than as an obstacle in education. Teachers should regard the classroom not only as a space for teaching but also as a site for learning. Multilingual and multicultural classrooms should be creatively used to foster awareness about linguistic and cultural diversity.’

And, the guidelines on planning school curriculum for teaching states:

‘… further envisions that arts in India are also living examples of its secular fabric and cultural diversity. An understanding of the arts of the country will give our youth the ability to appreciate the richness and variety of artistic traditions as well as make them liberal, creative thinkers and good citizens of the nation. Arts will enrich the lives of our young citizens through their lifetime, not merely during their school years.’

The Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009 was enacted to fulfill the constitutional obligations under Article 21A (The Right to Education) of the Indian Constitution, which states that ‘the State shall provide free and compulsory education to all children of the age of 6 to 14 years in such manner as the State may, by law, determine.’ This act has some landmark provisions making it mandatory for all ‘unaided’ schools (namely, private schools that receive no support whatsoever from the state) to provide free education to at least 25% children from the neighbourhood – as a measure of ensuring common schooling. This is a premise to increase the diversity of students in a class as inter-cultural education in itself. Emphasis is also laid on enrolling children of the migrant populations.

Case in Point: An ongoing debate about the North East of India, which consists of a group of 7 states with their own distinct cultures that are often perceived as ‘alien’ in most parts of mainland India. Insensitivity to the cultural mores of North East India manifests itself in various ways including harassment and abuse. Most schools in Bangalore, which have a large section of their students from the North-East, have shown remarkable knowledge and acceptance of the culture, which in turn enables people from the region to better assimilate themselves in the city.  

Chapter published: 22-04-2014