The foreword of all NCERT book carries the objectives of the much hyped National Curriculum Framework, 2005. “(the NCF) recommends that children’s life at school must be linked to their life outside school. The principle marks a departure from the legacy of bookish learning which continues to shape our system and causes a gap between the school, home and community. The syllabi and textbook.. attempt to discourage rote learning and the maintenance of sharp boundaries between subject areas”.
Regardless of whatever the NCF states, our education system forces us to rote learn right from primary classes – learn the tables by heart, learn the poems by heart – and the amount of rote learning required keeps on increasing as we move up. From short poems to descriptive answers, from dates to confusing formulas. Our education system talks of moving away from rote and bookish learning on paper but what has it really achieved? A student enters class 11th-12th and is burdened with the expectations of getting marks. Had our education system achieved what it preaches on paper, we would have changed this ‘marks-centric’ mindset. We are in the 67th year of independence and we must ask ourselves- Are our schools making robots or citizens who’ll shape the future of our nation? Why is that a student’s ‘secured future’ is associated with the marks they score in boards? Isn’t it only a reflection of how much they were able to ‘retain’ on only those 5 examination days?
What is more important – to study about our civil and political rights and exercise them through filing RTIs, writing blogs, or for journals, taking part in public debates/elocution/symposiums etc. or to study about our rights and write 200 word paragraphs to score marks? What is more important – learning all the technical definitions of economical terms to score marks or to actually apply the economic knowledge to analyze something like the effect of passage of food security bill and viability of direct cash transfers?
If we take up History for example, students generally don’t like the subject as they are of the opinion that reading about historical events and individuals is futile and has no bearing on their present or future life. Moreover, they hate writing long answers, remembering dates/time periods and confusing names. Can’t our history be made more interesting and likable only by changing the language and pattern of questions which open up the mind of the students rather than forcing them to remember irrelevant information? For example:
“One of the most distinctive features of Harappan cities was the carefully planned drainage system. Every house was connected to the street drains. The main channels were made of bricks set in mortar and were covered with loose bricks that could be removed for cleaning.”
Examination question nowadays: Explain the drainage system of Harrappan cities.
Proposed alternate question: Compare the drainage system of your city with that of Harrappan cities. Do you think water-logging would have been a problem in those cities like it is for many Indian cities today?
The thrust of the question remains the same but we actually test the application of knowledge and analytic skills of the student than the learnt-by-heart answer. The marks scored henceforth will be a true reflection of student’s intellect than the marks scored by rote-learning book text.
Isn’t this how you link a student’s school life to that outside? We all celebrate movies like ‘3-idiots’ but have we ever pondered upon the message it gives? It’s all about getting marks, getting into a good college, and ‘securing’ our future regardless of whether we are satisfied or not. The way we are taught in schools best exemplifies this. Our teachers teach “from the point of view of exams”. How often do we hear teacher’s say- “Mark this question as important”, “This text is important from the examination point of view”? It’s a daily affair. However, we cannot completely blame the teachers here because it is the ‘system’ which demands teaching in such a way. While our so-called brightest minds from IITs work for Facebook, Google, Microsoft etc., none of such initiatives are taken up by an Indian. Have we ever wondered why? It’s because our education system prepares us to give our services to others. We Indians become ‘Job-seekers’ after acquiring degrees but hardly become ‘Job-creators’. Our education system hardly opens up our minds. Our textbooks become our Gita/Bible/Quran and going beyond them becomes the biggest sin. So for example, if A stands for Ball and B stands for Apple according to our textbook, we must write A for Ball and B for Apple to score ‘marks’ and be called ‘intelligent’. Can you call a product of this education system ‘intelligent’ or ‘well educated’? I’d call the products of this system: well trained photocopy machines, ready to provide their services to others. Our system kills innovation and to an extent our individuality. We become skilled/semi-skilled robots who cater to the demand of skilled/semi-skilled labour-hungry corporates.
We also must acknowledge the fact that both the system and the society’s mindset needs to be blamed for the ‘robots’ we are making out of our students. Parents must realize that it’s not all about marks and getting degrees. Our relatives need to realize that the ‘result day’ isn’t the only day you should be remembering us. We need to move beyond the result-centric system and focus on real human resource development. It’s high time we overhaul our fractured education system to achieve this goal. It is time we give more importance to application of knowledge than retention of knowledge and encourage students’ participation in co-curricular activities which opens their mind. Gone are the days of “kheloge koodoge to banoge kharab, padhoge likhoge to banoge nawab”.
Pick up any field, only those people who’ve had an interest and passion for that field are excelling; rest are just going with the flow.
However, we must keep in mind that making policies and not following it up with proper implementation will lead to nothing but a repeat of the CCE debacle. CCE was an excellent policy aimed to evaluate every aspect of child continuously – both academics and co-curricular- but the system got corrupted just because it wasn’t implemented properly. We’d come back to CCE some other day but I leave you with this lovely quote of Newton- “Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.”