SOUTH INDIAN SCHOOL STUDENTS { 26 images } Created 6 Oct 2010

India's landmark passing of the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education (RTE) Act 2009 ensures free and compulsory education for all children between the ages of 6 and 14. In the southern state of Tamil Nadu, where these photographs were taken, the government has been at the forefront of curriculum reform, promoting Activity Based Learning (ABL) which engages children in small-group learning rather than rote-tuition.

While these advances are to be welcomed, there are significant problems to be addressed particularly in encouraging the retention of girls in school. At this government girls-school in the city of Cuddalore, I found some students forced to sit on the floor for want of a desk and chair. And, while many of the teachers were undoubtedly committed educators, persistent absenteeism among some of their colleagues inevitably discouraged attendance among students.

These issues need to be addressed but I would expect little change until the Indian middle class and upper class begin educating their children at such institutions. Only when policy-makers and their influential constituents have a direct interest in the proper-running of government schools - rather than private institutions to which they send their own children - will there be a systematic improvement in the education of all Indian school children.

These photographs of Indian school girls at home and in school are part of larger story I have photographed documenting the lives of children from south India who lost parents to the 2004 Asian Tsunami.
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