Saturday, August 22, 2009

Working with young people: is there a magic formula?

In my years before me, I can say I have decent amoung of experience in working with youth. But if one were to ask me what is the secret of their success or what is one thing that should be done in creating maximum outcomes, I would answer with a typical Indian unidentifiable nod!

As someone who is supporting, guiding, mentoring youth groups, should one give more autonomy and flexibility (and then take a chill pill and wait for the spontaneous order to create the magic)? Should one provide frameworks and structures within which young people can play with (and then scringe if one of those frameworks are not often referred to again until one plays the job of a constant reminder)? Should one insist on reporting and documentation after a great program when one knows that will take its own time to come? Should one provide more spaces to meet and interact face to face or create multiple online forums? Should one wait and control the impulse to rush in to "rescue" or "correct" eve though it can add more value? How does one balance task and process? Does it always have to be a good job but an incoherent group or a so-so job but a happy team? Do they work best when they work for themselves?

What is the one thing that makes young people work their magic? What can one do to really help young people clarify their vision, learn from their experiences, connect with others, think through the whats and hows and think about the future??

For me working with youth has been and is a magical experience, but I often wonder, is there a magic formula to really "help" young people in achieving their dreams or do we just leave it at "it just depends"!

Disclaimer: some of those reading this may belong to one or more of the youth groups I have worked with..i am not referring to a particular group but looking at my own and others experiences in this work!

What are the world's smartest education "experts" doing?

After reading James Tooley's The Beautiful Tree! I felt angry, inspired, surprised, and most of all completely bewildered as to how the education experts of the world from 19th century onwards were just ignoring how majority of the poor were choosing the education for their children.

His experiences of working with schools in India, China, Nigeria, Ghana, and Zimbabwe all showed him the same thing! That the poor had made a choice for the betterment of their children. The educational entreprenuers were not looting the poor "ignoramous" parents. The children in private schools, even the village schools, were performing way better than their counterparts in government schools.

It was the first time I had read a counter to Britain's feather in the cap-of bringing education to the uncivilised world! He documents again and again how in Kenya, China, India, and even in England had a history of well-functioning private schools which used a unique peer-learning methodoly!

Given the recent debates around the Right to Education Bill, its seems so clear that we hvae not learnt anything from our own history and that the edu-experts are clinging on to some utopian system of all-public-education which has failed to deliver over and over again!

The book was published by Cato and there is soon going to be an Indian edition, hopefully! Keep your eye on that one!

Way to go, James and thanks for educating me about how my ancestors were educating themselves!