Education: What Is The Hullabaloo All About?

Posted on January 27, 2010 in Education

Anahita Thukral:

In the wake of movies like Taare Zameen Par and 3 idiots, we can’t help but question the current educational system, its merits and the fallacies that have crept in it with time. So, what’s wrong with it? Why the sudden hullabaloo and the criticism, the mockery and the sarcasm?

Of late we have all been jolted by the number of students ending their lives over academic or rather parental and societal pressure to perform well in examinations. The education imparted to students today is based on a curriculum that hasn’t been revised in at least the last 20 years. Students who get admitted in schools as of today will graduate in approximately 16 years. Schools are hence supposed to prepare students for problems they may face around 16 years later. With all the technology and knowledge we currently possess, we can’t predict accurately the happenings of even the next day, and yet we expect our children to graduate with complete and absolute knowledge of the past, the present and a complete solution guide to the future, all of this done in compliance with set standards of excellence and achievement which keep evolving to encompass a tinier fraction of the world.

We are aware that kids take chances and are more open to learning from their mistakes but in schools we are gradually encouraging more inhibitions in them. Now, they are afraid to take risks and to be wrong. If you are not prepared to be wrong, you will never come up with something original.

In the recent case where in a girl took her own life because her parents removed her from a dance academy and were hesitant of letting her follow her dream of taking up dance as a career choice at the cost of basic education at the age of 12, many may argue that the parents tried to force their desires onto the child and that they should have encouraged her talent, while others would support the opposite view. As I see it, there is some merit in both theories. There is no absolute right and wrong decision in this case. In this meritocratic world, creativity is like a risky investment. Many parents may regret for not having that courage to take risk of enrolling their children in a dance/music class. They are afraid that not everybody could be as successful as Shiamak Davar or Terence Lewis and their fear is not unjustified. Dreams of scores of people end in despair each day because even in such talent based sectors, competition is cut-throat; whereas with academic degrees it is perceived that a child’s future is more secure. On the other hand, it is important that it is emphasized that academic excellence is not the aim rather just one of the means to get ahead in life.

For thousands of school children across the country, the announcement of making the Class X board examination optional by HRD minister Kapil Sibal brought a wave of joy and relief.
Quite understandably, since board examinations have become a ubiquitous fear factor and by far the most dreaded school routine. For years now, marks and percentages have turned out to be a branding exercise and a status symbol rather than a simple performance rating. Blame it on increasing competition, unrealistic parental ambition or market demands; there is no denying that stress among students is palpable. Sadly, many unable to bear have only added to the growing suicide statistics. Is this the cost we are ready to pay for quality living?

Picasso believed every child is born an artist, but the true test is to remain an artist. The situation as it seems today is that from as early as 8th std, many children enrol themselves into numerous tuitions and as soon as they reach 10th std all extra-curricular activities take a back-seat and very often are no longer pursued, even after the examinations. The creativity and talent in children is squandered and they are educated out of it.

In schools, we are taught progressively from our waist up, and then the curriculum focuses on our heads and slightly to one side. Many engineers and doctors tend to live in their heads and slightly to one side. Their body becomes a form of transport for their heads and a way to get their head to meetings. Some selected professions are viewed as the high watermark of all achievement. Due to the discouraging atmosphere around them, many highly brilliant, talented people think they are not.

In my parent’s time, getting degrees was a valuable achievement, but today the job that once required a degree requires a Ph. D, the one that required basic skills is now demanding a specialized knowledge from the very best universities and an extremely impressive resume. We are in a world facing academic inflation.

Our system is at fault, but we cannot change it overnight maybe not even in this decade. We must think of alternative and practical ways to tackle the situation at hand. Scraping Board exams are not a final solution as board exams cannot be held responsible for all the stress in a child’s life per se. In reality, it is the unsavoury factors surrounding exams that need to be addressed. It cannot be emphasised enough that reforms in examination is a crying need. Onetime assessment needs to be replaced by periodical evaluation, practical marks in all subjects and credits for other curricular and extracurricular activities, while keeping in mind that we do not compromise on the knowledge and literacy levels in the country.

Kudos to the central government in their effort to alleviate this situation but also the academic stress of our education system in schools must reduce. We need healthier learning environment, trained and sensitive teachers, feasible student-teacher ratio, better infrastructure, regular monitoring, and better administration.