Tracing the Legacies of the Past: The Development of Student Subjectivity in Contemporary Indian Secondary School Education
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The reasons and motives behind my research are a blend of my own personal conflicts that I experienced as a student of India and also some of the professional and media debates that are on-going within this field. In the Indian school education context, some of the practices that are often debated in the media are physical punishments; Rote learning; examination centered learning and the promotion of English Language fluency as the only hallmark of good education. The PISA (2012) report states that one of the major future challenges for the Indian education system is to provide the kind of high skilled, creative and adaptable workers who require the complex 21st century skills. Media and research reports also signal that a significant problem facing the Indian school education context, is the growing inequality in access to education. The secondary education enrollment rate and progression to higher education is considerably less among marginalized socio-economic communities. The lingering impact of my personal school education experiences and the extent to which emotional abuse was normalized in Indian schools motivated me to explore the problems of the present and analyzing why are things the way they are in the Indian school education context. In order to study this larger systemic problem, Tamil Nadu, a major southern state of India is used as a case study. Foucault’s discourse analysis is used as the major theoretical framework for this study as even the other theories used in this research such as Colonial Discourse Analysis and Post-Colonial theories derive their understanding of discourse from Foucault and draw from Foucault’s concepts of power and knowledge. Foucault felt that to analyse a discourse in the present, it had to be looked at in its historical context. I found Foucault’s idea of using history as a means of critical engagement with the present expressed in his conceptions of ‘‘genealogy’’ and ‘‘history of the present’’ as the most suitable framework for my research which aims to identify to both historical reasons, and contemporary reasons, for using the pedagogic strategies of punishments, rote learning, examinations and English education. A range of materials such as school education policy documents, survey reports; current media debates; newspaper articles and historical documents have been used in this genealogical analysis. Through my genealogical analysis, I have attempted to explain how in the three historical periods (Pre- Colonial Era, British rule and Post Independent India) the powerful institutions of each era have regulated and ratified the production and dissemination of knowledge that have governed the formation of student subjectivity and have tried to explain the imbalances in the relationship between the discourses of the dominant/ marginalized or the colonizer/colonized. The spirit of Foucault’s approach and the post-colonial theories is strongly informed by the desire to critique, question or dismantle whatever is established as mainstream or hegemonic or dominant. This research attempts to question/ critique the dominant discourses of the Indian secondary school education practices. The hegemonic elements of the three periods that I have analysed in this research persist in the present day conduct of Indian secondary schools and classrooms and continue to affect student subjectivity in ways which may not be appropriate for India’s current needs of its educated population. This is a problem because these practices perpetuate or increase inequality. In addition to disadvantaging marginalized learners, it contradicts with India’s aspiration for high skilled, creative and knowledge workers with critical thinking, problem solving and other 21st century skills. The study has attempted to provide an insightful basis for potential action by recording the dominance of powerful discourses for future action research to be undertaken.