By Sudipto Das:
Formal education and the methods involved in delivering it has always been a matter of bigger discussion in India and still we have never been able to overcome the hurdle it poses and the vices it possesses.
I have a view which involves three areas and the changes that can be implemented to have a better and more formidable formal education system at place. The first area that I want to focus on is the marking of a child’s performance and then critiquing it, which, in a number of cases, has been proven to be counterproductive. When a primary school student is made to confront an odd situation of public shaming or declaration of his/her result through a report card in front of a whole class and his/her parents are told about the child’s shortcomings, how much pressure it would be for a child to bear is beyond our understanding. I still remember my teacher’s scathing remarks on my report card which made me fearful of mathematics forever. So, that proves my case that instead of making me better at problem solving, it made me avoid mathematics all throughout my life. On the other hand, if I had been encouraged for my relentless efforts at getting better and wasn’t marked low in order, that would have generated a positive effect on me.
What I am trying to say is, we shouldn’t have grading or marking system till we are into secondary school. Giving out assignments, checking the assignments for the correctness of it is important but marking or categorizing students at an age when they are still trying to know themselves is not. Let’s not put our children to a race and stand first, let’s make them run with each other to achieve a common goal.
Second thing I would want to see or have changed is not recognizing the need for duly appreciating the accomplishment of a child in extra-curricular activities. In a race to produce scholars, we have always neglected the need for sporting and extra-curricular activities and never made it a part of the curriculum as the name would suggest. My teachers were of the opinion that too much participation in debate and drama was adversely affecting my studies and yes, it was and that’s why I scored much lower than what I was capable of. But I say, why not give me marks for my involvement in an activity which was helping me build my opinions, and what about my friend who was a sportsman and spent half of the school hours on the cricket field learning the skills of sportsmanship which comprises integrity and keeping a right balance between his body and his mind? Are those skills something which we believe to be secondary and should always be placed at the bottom of a report card in some isolated corner of it?
What I am hinting at here is, we should equally acknowledge the achievements of a student in both conventional academic subjects as well as in subjects like sports, music, debating etc. NDTV has taken the initiative by running a campaign “Marks for Sports” and roped in sportsmen to back the idea and see it ratified in our schooling system.
Third change which needs a greater attention from academicians, educationists and law-makers is to make a more homogeneous curriculum. Let us look at the number of boards we have in our country, CBSE and ICSE, two central boards and then every state has their own board which takes the count to a staggering 38, that makes the scale we have to measure the competence and the quality of a student different in different states. State run boards are whimsical and didactic and the reason for that is every time there is a change in regime, education seems to be the first victim of the political upheaval. The victims of this political competitiveness are the students who are left to bear the consequences of erratic changes in the syllabus. It is believed that UP Board is ungenerous in giving marks to students which makes it difficult for them to clear cut-offs for the most coveted colleges of the country and they are kept out of contention.
If implemented, in my opinion, it would solve the crisis our education system faces, which is now outdated and halted in aversion to any changes.