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Clinton says education a passion with her
Published on 18 Jul. 2009 11:26 PM IST
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Speaking with passion and declaring that education was “very near and dear to my heart”, US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton held a large audience at the St. Xavier’s College here enthralled as she unveiled her vision for raising educational standards. “I do not believe that children do not have talent but have limited opportunities,” she said at the interactive session that saw Bollywood star Aamir Khan and TV anchor Arnab Goswami sharing the dais with her. “I believe every child can learn. Every child is talented. Many do not get opportunities to learn, but their talent is universal. It is up to all of us, the family, the society, the educational institutions and the government, to reduce the gap between talent and opportunities,” Clinton contended. The interactive session featured volunteers of the Teach India initiative of the Times of India, the Teach For India programme of a Mumbai-based NGO and students and academics of St. Xavier’s College. According to Clinton, “each child, whatever be their background, must get a chance to learn. Education is a great equaliser. We must do more to convince all of the importance of education and join forces to ensure equality of opportunity”. At the same time, she admitted that in the US, “we don’t take care of students who lag behind, or those from marginalised groups. We have done a lot, but still need to do more. “Today, the challenge before us is how to keep a child’s attention to education, with so many distractions around. We need to consider how technology can be used to give more opportunities to more children.” In this context, she noted that her husband, former US president Bill Clinton, “wanted to work on what we could do make our education system better. One of the concerns that I had heard from the people across our state (Arkansas) was that there was a such a disparity in the quality of teaching. “There were some of the great teachers who were dedicated who were there because they loved their work and there were teachers who should not have been teaching because they did not know the subject matter, they did not seem to be developed to the art of teaching. “These teachers remembered they had gone to college and they had their certificates but there were so many complaints about their teaching and their understanding of subject matter that we decided to have a test,” Clinton said. Noting that the decision was “so controversial”, she added: “It was extremely difficult but we really stuck to our task. There was great resistance and great concern about it. There was a test designed and about 10 percent of the teachers failed. Often they were concentrated in the areas of the poorest children who needed the best teachers.” On his part, Aamir Khan felt that teaching should be a “high paying job” to attract the best possible talent. “Teaching should be a high paying job so that youngsters should aim at becoming teachers. I would like to see that one day in India, teaching is the most highly paid job,” the actor, dressed casually in light blue jeans, a white T-shirt and a black jacket said, declaiming at length about “Teaching as a profession”. “We should give so much value to teaching as a profession that every kid that comes out of school and college should feel that he or she wants to be a teacher,” Khan maintained, adding: “We as a country should give importance to teaching as a profession. Unfortunately we don’t because there are more lucrative career options like medicine and engineering that parents want theirs kids to opt for.” Clinton couldn’t agree more with Khan, who is the brand ambassador of the Teach India initiative. “Aamir has come up with some excellent points to tell us what all is required to make education important. We have the best of educational institutes in our country but they are not for everyone. Part of our challenge is to provide education to those who don’t get it easily,” Clinton said. “Competition is part of a human’s genes. I believe working in collaborations and corporations would help children to do well in life,” she explained. “The most important thing about education is that it should encourage students to think. It should create people with minds to take humanity further. Today, our educational system emphasises more on memorising,” Khan explained. Clinton also complimented the Teach India and Teach For India initiatives, saying they would be the catalysts for a new movement to bridge the education gap in India, with its volunteers serving as the spark to inspire children to become successful.

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