Sustainability and Education: Restoring Dignity of Communities in the Classrooms and Beyond

Akhila Kumaran *

Center for the Study of Social Exclusion and Inclusive Policies, Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai, India.

*Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.


The sustainable development goal#4 speaks of “ensuring inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all”. In the course of the pandemic, a 2021 survey report (covering 1400 children in classes 2 -8 across 15 states) stated that that only 8 per cent of the children in rural areas and 24 per cent of children in urban areas seemed to studying online regularly in the country, so it is all the more pertinent that we examine what do we mean by equitable education in a pandemic ravaged world? This paper primarily examines the sustainable aspects of the National Education Policy 2020. In doing so, the paper argues that the provision of vocational education (the concept of “bagless days” in schools) can be located within the broader ambit of SDG4 in particular SDG 4.3 that speaks of vocational education. In formulating this, one can attempt to reconcile community centric learning practices and indigenous knowledge with modern day curriculum. In this regard, particular attention is paid to the fishing communities in the state of Kerala. By taking a case study approach, the paper argues that it is only by educating keeping the indigenous knowledge of the communities at the center of the broader educational system – particularly of those communities who have a peaceful co-existence with nature - that we can envisage a right to education that is premised on right to life with dignity. A mixed methods approach is used in the paper combining qualitative methods such as ethnography in the coastal village of Munambam in Kerala and quantitative metrics such as the basic statistical indicators that the UN has set out as metrics to measure progress with respect to SDG 4. Finally, the framework of “doubly engaged ethnography” by Pacheco-Vega and Parizeau [1] is examined, which this paper argues is relevant for social work practitioners and educators who work with vulnerable populations so that we move beyond deficit narratives.

Keywords: Community with dignity, classroom, community centered learning, doubly engaged ethnography, vocational education, National Education Policy 2020, continuing education

How to Cite

Kumaran, Akhila. 2022. “Sustainability and Education: Restoring Dignity of Communities in the Classrooms and Beyond”. Advances in Research 23 (6):106-15.


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