Dismantling the Power Structure, Enabling Free Speech in Classrooms: Part 1

Jamsheena’s Fellowship is made possible by the Rural India Supporting Trust.

I am writing this piece of thought after meeting range of educators and activists in a national conference ‘Peace in Education’ at Vidya Vanam, a school for tribals and underprivileged communities in Anaikatti. Prema Rangachary, director of Vidya Vanam took a decision to conduct this biennial conference as a result of an incident in Betul when a student was beaten to death by his teacher in 2014 [1]. I feel the topic of discussion is relevant in the current world scenario, especially after the mass shooting by a student in Texas that happened this summer. Violence in all aspects of life.

We have been talking about the theory of non-violence from the age of Buddha and Gandhi-ji and intentionally glorify them through our curriculum as an ideal way of living in the world. Children never get the practical or simple idea of what is non-violence and how to implement in the course of time. Most of the violent incidents that are reported in schools are, in my opinion, because of the strained teacher-student, student-student and teacher-teacher relationships. Their suppressed emotions, feelings and current curriculum numb the children to be passive and teach the methodology of not asking questions. Teachers hold this ego in classrooms and children are scared to criticise and ask questions, thereby creating a generation running for marks and unnecessarily bowing down their heads without learning. What about democracy in classrooms? What about democracy in staff rooms? Classrooms according to mainstream pedagogy, can mold dangerously competitive – rather than collaborative – minds. We lack mindfulness.

Blooming without fear: inclusive classrooms at Kattaikkuttu Gurukulam.

We should not hesitate to talk about the politics in classrooms and in the education system. In India, we can’t think about a classroom without discussing caste, religion, cultural diversity and gender dynamics. Power politics exist in all system, and schools being one of the most important institutions. Do we have a ‘fear-free environment’? Where children can nurture through compassion and curiosity to acquire knowledge and learning in schools? Being educators and academicians, are we able to consistently challenge ourselves, finding boundaries of conflicts and accept it? Are we ready to battle against the downfall of the educational system? It is high time to rethink the need to deconstruct the power relations in the education system, most importantly classrooms. We tend to imbibe the understanding of success as getting good marks and a highly paying job after school. Do we have the courage to give our children time and space to travel and find out what they wish to aspire in their lives? When are we going to realize the fact that comparing our children with their peers’ timeline is insulting a child as an individual?

Learning the way you love: rethinking the traditional classroom setting.

We perpetuate past life as a perfect one, present life as an imperfect one, and future as a tensed one. As Professor Samdhong Rinpoche rightly pointed out, the purpose of education is actually to enlighten the individual [2]. What happens presently is the purpose of education as to earn a better livelihood. The ground reality is that modern education is more concerned about the society, the system and institutions, and not about the individual. When it comes to the individual, rights and responsibilities are imbalanced, too. The purpose of education is to bloom and grow. Or to put in other words: The ‘unconditioning’ of human consciousness to stimulate the ability of learning and acquiring knowledge.


  1. Krithika, R. “Develop a Culture of Peace at Schools and Colleges.” The Hindu, 15 May 2018. Web. Accessed at: https://www.thehindu.com/education/vidya-vanams-conference-on-education-is-themed-on-peace-in-education/article23892785.ece.
  2. “National Conference on Education: Peace in Education.” Vidya Vanam School. Anaikatti, 25 May 2018. Accessed at: https://www.meraevents.com/event/national-conference-on-education-peace-in-education-vidya-vanam.

Jamsheena was born and brought up in India at the outskirts of Kerala. She completed her Masters in English Language and Literature from the University of Kerala. Her academic experience has refined her skills in culture and gender studies and English language teaching. Jamsheena’s areas of interest are education, women empowerment and gender issues.

Jamsheena's Fellowship is made possible by the Rural India Supporting Trust.

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