Education Transition 1

Why should children be subject to graft in the name of education?

I must admit, I am daunted at the prospect of my angrez baccha joining the Indian education system. Granted – I was a part of the decision to do so, and it is precisely the graft that we were trained in that has made the Indian professional successful globally. Yet, this transition, like all change will require effort.

As an educationist, I find the evolutionary paths of English and Indian education systems very interesting to observe first hand. Both these systems evolved from the English public school model, that was intended for the sons of the aristocracy. Both systems, then, needed to create a professional or babu class who could deal with the vast adiministrative structures created by the colonisers. Later, both these systems had socialistic objectives – education of the masses, professionalise vocations and enhance literacy levels. There was much interaction at the policy level too. Then, the socio economic conditions of the two countries led them along different paths.

Education in India succumbed to the pressure of the population and the need to create a rapid growth trajectory. Sadly, though, this is why education in India is all about hard graft. There is no time for joy in work, there is no motivation other than stress. Life is a series of ‘have to’ and ‘should’ and decisions and behaviours are dictated by that value. Who is to say that this will be a more successful individual than the child who followed curiosity with rigour?

The fear of competition is far worse than the actual competition. It is the adults, especially parents who introduce fear and stress and systematically teach them to operate with it. Maybe, they should formalise the teaching of stress and introduce it as a separate subject.

And no stress-busters please, we are Indian. Physical activity meant a lesson in marching! What post colonial hangover – we are still partaking of it. A school I observed, the children did not march, they ran around a garden twice. In the heat. Why? Did they have fun doing it and how was it any different from a prison yard run? Get them to run, it will quieten them down.

I cannot blame the schools at all. They are merely responding to the needs and demands of their customers and consumers. Children here are much more unruly than those I have seen in colder countries  and therefore I completely understand the use of behaviourism as the primary pedagogical method. The volumes are also larger – managing 40-60 brats who have no intention of getting things done unless they are forced to is no mean task. From the kids’ point of view – why would you?

It is a bit of a vicious circle – as a teacher, I would always want to create a vibrant learning atmosphere in the classroom. I\’d love to do things differently, to enthuse the students to get to grips with this amazing verse or concept. And I am sure that teachers here are often unable to do so, for the syllabus is huge and the numbers in the class large. Add a couple of disruptive or dyslexic kids to the mixture and you have a creative class degenerating into chaos. Can a teacher really take that chance? Even the best of them?

The issue here could well be parenting. Indian parents are supposed to be among the best in the world when it comes to supporting their children\’s education. But, honestly, kids are taught no self control. And it is the job of parents to teach children how to self-regulate. Kids all over the world will be rowdy, noisy, playful, hurtful, loud, inconsiderate and so on. But there will be clear limits to when and how much they can exercise this freedom. While being playful, it is important not to be offensive. You have to know when to stop.

It is the difference between discipline and being disciplined.

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