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In the past several weeks, we’ve visited many schools and made presentations before the students.

Beyond the architecture and the lack of air conditioning, they are surprisingly advanced in curriculum, I believe, compared to the United States.

The students have the option of attending public or private school (though many parents who have the ability to send their students to private school do so).

But there are several notable differences in the school system in India that I’m certain would improve conditions in the United States.

First, the students are heavily encouraged to enter professional occupations when they get older, so there is much emphasis placed on science and engineering courses.

The teachers are also given the authority to choose their curriculum in elementary classes and some middle-grade classes, rather than being forced to follow the syllabus and education script of the state.

Another area that I feel Kerala is much advanced is in their vigilant attempts to incorporate traditional and contemporary arts, dance, drama and music into their curriculum.

The students are given many attempts during the year to perform their talents before their peers, and at least three productions that I’m aware of here that were put on by students, attract thousands of local Keralites to the show.

One private school institution, the Choice School (which requires an English-only speaking environment) recently put on a production of “The Lion King” with costumes that would rival those of Broadway or London’s West End.

Whatever school we enter, students are multilingual. They’re studies always include multiple language classes, and often the students are learning three at one time. I’ve always wondered why the United States does not embrace more language emphasis in its curriculum, especially when students are young and the language is much easier to learn.

But perhaps the most impressive aspect of schooling here is the incorporation of religious studies and the demand for religious harmony.

In Kerala, Hinduism is the dominant faith, followed by Christianity and Islam.

But religious pluralism and the acceptance of one’s faith is not only required in the school system, the students and faculty wouldn’t have it any other way.

In the United States, many people seem to have a knee-jerk reaction, especially Christians, that faith and religious discussions should either be removed from school entirely, or the dominant faith (Christianity) should be the only religion emphasized in the classroom.

But here, all faiths are welcome, and the students are invited to be as knowledgeable as they can about as many faiths as they can.

That is something I hope to bring home with me to the States.

Until tomorrow, Victoria.

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