Looking inward, looking forward: Articulating alternatives to the education system for Adivasis, by Adivasis

Children engrossed in a game of their own creation at Chembakolli Adivasi village

The education question for the four indigenous communities of Gudalur has been shrouded in silence by those in power and on the rare occasions that the shroud has been lifted, the people themselves have seldom had their say. This study intends to explore the ways in which the indigenous students have experienced the education system so far, the issues they have been facing in it, and an alternate conceptualization and understanding of educational practices geared towards greater equality and justice, as understood by the people of the community. In order to achieve this, the lived experiences of people and the interactions they have had at different levels with the education system are at the center of our research. Qualitative data will be collected through FGDs and workshops with various stakeholders in the system. The sample will consist of around 120 people from the community who are also stakeholders in the education system in various ways. At the completion of this project, the tangible outputs will take the form of two books and an article that will share our findings with academic and non-academic audiences while on the intangible side, the vision co-created with the community will inform and shape our practice going forward.

Key Words: Marginalised Communities, Tribal Education, Alternative Education, Quality Education, Social Justice

Key Themes:
Indigenous and Decolonised Knowledge, Educational Practice
Project Site:
Gudalur, Tamil Nadu
Principal Investigator: 
Chinmayi J
Co-Investigator
Gangadharan P
Host Organisation:
Viswa Bharathi Vidyodaya Trust (VBVT), Gudalur

Sumit Bose
Former Finance Secretary, GOI

Sumit Bose was the Union Finance Secretary and Revenue Secretary in the Ministry of Finance, Government of India till his retirement from the Indian Administrative Service in March, 2014. In the Ministry of Finance he was also Secretary in the Departments of Expenditure and Disinvestment.
As Joint Secretary in the Department of Elementary Education, he was responsible for the launch of the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan. He was also Secretary, School Education in Madhya Pradesh.

Currently he serves as an Independent Director on the boards of several companies and on the boards of various non-profits such as Vidhi Centre for Legal Policy, Jal Seva Charitable Foundation (WaterAid India), Parivaar Education Society (Kolkata) and Samaj Pragati Sahayog (Bagli, Dewas).

Nargis Panchapakesan
Former Head and Dean, Central Institute of Education, University of Delhi

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K. Subramaniam
Former Director, HBCSE, TIFR, Mumbai

Professor K. (Ravi) Subramaniam holds a PhD in Philosophy from IIT, Mumbai. He served as Director of the Homi Bhabha Centre for Science Education, TIFR, Mumbai from July 2016 to June 2021.

Professor Subramaniam has worked extensively in the area of mathematics education. He has taught various courses in mathematics education for doctoral students including: Introduction to Mathematics Education Research, Theoretical Perspectives on School Mathematics, Representations and Reasoning, and Philosophy of Education. He was a key contributor to course development of the M.A. Elementary Education programme at the Tata Institute of Social Sciences, and has taught the Pedagogy of Mathematics; Child development and Cognition courses in the programme.   He has mentored and supervised doctoral students across a range of topics including, learning of mathematics, teacher development and mathematics teaching, and science, technology and sustainability.

Professor Subramaniam has a range of publications to his credit in international and national peer reviewed journals. He has authored books for students and teachers, developed manuals and resources for teachers and published various research reports. Professor Subramaniam has made mathematics an enjoyable subject through his books titled - Maths for every child. Some of his key and co-authored publications include: Teachers’ construction of meanings of signed quantities and integer operation, (Journal of Mathematics Teacher Education, 2017) and Mathematics teacher training manual class I and class II. New Delhi: NCERT, (2010).

Professor Geetha B. Nambissan
Former Chairperson ZHCES, SSS, Jawaharlal Nehru University

Professor Geetha B. Nambissan is a sociologist of education. She was formerly with the Zakir Husain Centre for Educational Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. Her research has focused on exclusion, inclusion, and social justice in education with particular reference to the schooling of marginalized sections of Indian society: Dalits, Adivasis, and the poor. She has published widely in these areas. Her current research interests include the privatization of schooling and urban transformations and education. She is the editor of the ‘India' section, in the Second International Handbook on Urban Education (Springer, 2017). Her recent publications include ‘Caste and the Politics of the Early “Public” in Schooling: Dalit Struggle for an Equitable Education’ (Contemporary Education Dialogue, July 2020) and Education and the Changing Urban in Delhi: Privilege and Exclusion in a Megacity (Perspectivia.net, 2021). She has been President of the Comparative Education Society of India.

Anshu Vaish
Former Secretary, Education, MHRD

Ms. Anshu Vaish, an Indian Administrative Service officer of the batch of 1975, Madhya Pradesh Cadre, superannuated as Secretary, School Education and Literacy in the Ministry of Human Resource Development, Government of India. Prior to that, she has worked extensively in the social sector, including culture and school education, serving in the Departments of Women and Child Development, Health, Social Justice and Empowerment. She has also headed the Archaeological Survey of India as its Director General.

Ms. Anshu Vaish has been involved in various assignments over the years. She chaired the Task Force on Restructuring of the National Council for Teacher Education and was a member of NUEPA’s group to draft a Model Education Code for schools. She has served as Chairperson of Rangasri Little Ballet Troupe Trust, Chairperson of PRADAN, Member of the Governing Body of All India Institute of Medical Sciences in Bhopal, and Independent Director on the Board of Steel Authority of India.

Currently, Ms. Vaish serves as Chairperson of Rainbow Foundation of India and Member on the General Body of Centre for Equity Studies. She is also a Member on the governing bodies of KATHA, Swami Sivananda Memorial Institute, and Aga Khan Foundation India.