Variety is the spice of life in India
Bollywood to the struggle for freedom, Channel 4 has captured some of the flavour of Asia, writes Graham Hart
Justification is never required to tell young people about India, although the nation's 50th anniversary of independence was a suitable inspiration behind Channel 4's Eureka! The India File. The original television series first ran during the spring and summer of independence year, 1997 and has now grown to include a video of the series, books and a range of other resources.
India has such diversity and richness that it would be easy to run the curriculum round it as a sole theme. As befits the 7-11 age range, the daily life of young people is used as a suitable entree. Home, school, parents and food are the starting points, though the view quickly widens.
The first programme on the video, "Life in Bombay", follows a reasonably hectic day (Dad works in "Bollywood", so there's a bit of fun here) which prompts questions about India's religion and culture, economy and history. Importantly, it also shows that India is simply another place where people work, children play and families watch television together at the end of the day. India is not another planet.
The Channel 4 team behind the series has not forgotten one of the best resources for studying India, namely schoolchildren with an Indian ancestry. As the fourth programme, "The Struggle for Freedom", demonstrates, that ancestry may well be through members of the British colonial service as well as through natural Indian families.
The study and intertwining of cultures is a theme that is well supported by the dual-language pupils' books. In addition to the English-only version, books are obtainable in English and Bengali, Gujurati, Punjabi, Tamil, Urdu and Hindi. They are a reminder of our differences, just as the daily family concerns reinforce similarities.
There is no question that children will be intrigued by India. The video offers a wealth of potential, well developed in the teacher's guide and supporting activity book. The "Arts and Crafts" programme, for instance, suggests six learning outcomes, ranging from an appreciation of art from different cultures, to an exploration of methods of mass production.
The suggestions for practical work in this unit include creating a picture storyboard, designing fabrics with tessellated patterns, studying the work of charities such as Oxfam and observing the way children play in order to design a new toy I and there's more. Just like India really. You have to experience it yourself and you can't expect to do it all at once.
* The series Eureka! The India File will be repeated next term on Channel 4, Tuesdays 9.30-9.45am, from April 20 to May 25. Channel 4 Schools, PO Box 100, Warwick CV34 6TZ. Tel: 01926 436444 Stand R18