Talentsupport in India

Csilla Fuszek about her visiting in India:

I spent 8 days in India in January 2020 upon the invitation of Maharaja Sayajirao University in India and Tribal Mensa Associated European Talent Centre in Pune.

Internationally renowned Maharaja Sayajirao University is the oldest education centre in North India; in January, its Department of Education Science-CASE organised an international conference under the title Inclusion in Education. The topics related to the structure, historical tradition and inequalities of Indian society. Substantial emphasis was given to equal access to education of boys and girls, and the adequate inclusion of the LMBT, i.e. sexual and gender, minorities, and in particular their transgendered members. The topics also included the situation of the Farsi and Muslim peoples, children with special needs and talented students.  I held a lecture about the last, i.e. the relevant networking efforts in Hungary and Europe, and about the talent identification policies of various countries, in the talent support section. 

Ceremonious lighting of the candle of enlightenment at the beginning of the conference

Talent support in India does not look back on such a long past as in Hungary; the first dedicated talent-support institution dealing with students below the age of 16, Jana Prabodhini school, was founded as late as 1963. Talent support in India has been hallmarked to this day mainly by this school and its associated institutions. Admission is strictly based on psychological testing. The content of education, in English and in Marathi language, relies on the Hindi religious traditions, and its essence / goal is to raise the awareness of talented persons of their responsibility to the homeland. Although traditions and religious thinking are central, the school is modern and has a definitely open approach. A single class – of 45-55 persons, i.e. relatively small in Indian comparison – is launched by edition, and students living far away are provided dormitories; graduates return to alumni meetings at their alma maters until the end of their lives. It was also an alumnus who guided me around the institution that includes also an institute of psychology specialised mainly in talent support and cooperating with universities, and having many PhD students.

Jana Jana Prabodhini school, line-up for common prayer

Jana Jana Prabodhini school yard

This was also the place of origin 20 years ago of the Tribal Mensa talent support programme led by Dr. Narayan Desai, acknowledged throughout India and Europe and winning the title of Associated European Talent Centre a few years ago. The essence of the programme is that the Centre identifies students with extraordinary talents in the “tribal schools” of villages lying rather far away from all infrastructure. Talent identification is of course done, according to the Indian traditions, by intelligence testing. Students selected to the programme are provided weekly enrichment programmes and occasionally, depending on the financial means ever, also summer camps. Although these “tribal schools” teaching in local languages gather students living far away from the urban areas under what seem extremely poor conditions to the European eye, as a matter of fact, they represent their only ascension option. Students typically spend only the holidays at home; at school, they study sitting on the floor, at the student hostel they sleep on the floor, the only piece of furniture in the hostel room is a small open shelf for each student where they keep their school supplies and their sleeping mat, often stitched from rags. The 450 poor students of Khadkale primary school I visited are taught and taken care of during weekends in the hostels for boys and girls, respectively, by 15 highly committed local teachers. Many schools also have a small agricultural plot cultivated by the children as part of the local curriculum.

Girls dormitory room

In the classroom

A typical type of urban schools is the primary and secondary school called “English medium”, receiving students mainly with a middle class background, speaking also English in addition to the local language, and based on the British historical traditions. In Pune, I visited Dr. Kalmadi Shamarao Primary and Secondary School, known for hosting also one of India’s first school talent centres, Kaveri Educational Talent Centre. The Centre founded 6 years ago has a diversified activity profile; during the years, it has become a model example for the schools of the neighbourhood, and more and more are planning to adopt its structure and methodology. Besides organising talent identification and enrichment programmes. e.g. science camps, within and without the school, the Centre staff provide also individual guidance to students and to parents, satisfy the needs arising outside the school and respond to many external queries. The person who envisioned the Centre and acts as its permanent advisor is Dr. Devasena Desai; several of his innovations have been introduced, including the so-called “Gifted Katta” / “Talent Corner”, where students skipping a school lesson at random take part in common projects or individual programmes under the direction of a teacher.

A hardly 24-month-old talent support initiative at a girls’ school for 6 000, enormous from a Hungarian perspective, has introduced so-called G(ifted) classes in each edition, as a pilot at the moment, for students coming mainly from the poor layers, often slums, of the town Pune. One G class includes around 70 students, targeting the uppermost 10 percent after talent identification at school. The girls are provided enrichment programmes of 2 hours a week. The programme is a modular system covering several years, compiled in line with the local possibilities, and targets the children’s self-efficiency, sense of responsibility, to develop the social skills, missing in this social stratum, that are indispensable for long-term success. Before visiting the school and spending a few hours with the students, I would not have thought it possible that you could teach a class of 70 so as to give them a real experience. Students behave in a fundamentally different way, they are used to having to think together, silently work by paying attention to each other and the teacher despite this headcount.

Building of the girls’ school for 6 000

Waiting for project presentation at talent support class

Talent is a special kind of natural resource that is available in every country.