By Lipi Mehta:
I spent the better part of my school years in a boarding school on the outskirts of Coimbatore. Many of our teachers were more like friends, who were not afraid to bend the rules themselves, if that meant their students could enjoy learning a bit more. I still remember being taught economics on the basketball court on wintry nights, where ‘taking a break’ meant lying down and looking at the stars. Of course not every class was like this. But it helped us – it helped us take some pressure off, to know that marks and percentages weren’t the only thing that defined how much we knew or learned.
I would also hear stories of friends back at home, some of whom were buckling under the tension of ‘scoring well’ and getting into the best colleges. Well, this is the story of millions of students in India, and I mean millions, because India has over 300 million students – the most in the world!
And sometimes this pressure gets to such a level that a student feels forced to take a step from which there is no return. Just this week there was news of a bright 17-year-old girl who committed suicide after she had cleared the IIT-JEE exam, because in her heart of hearts, she just did not want to be an engineer. If only, we as a society, and it really is all of us who are responsible for this, not just her family, had allowed her to feel that it is OK to want to be something else, perhaps we could have had a great writer or scientist amidst us today instead of the engineer we were forcing her to become.
A lot about how we understand this world comes from what we witness in it. Films in this regard play an important role. A soon to be released film by actor Ananth Mahadevan- ‘Rough Book’– addresses students, especially those preparing for the IIT-JEE (over a lakh students take the exams each year).
In a country obsessed with engineering, this film aims to redefine the meaning of education and explore the system from the perspective of students, teachers and parents. It shows that while teachers are worried about class performance, parents are blind followers to whatever the school suggests to them. And the students’ desires are sidelined by this entire “education market”.
The protagonist is a Physics teacher, Tannishtha Chatterjee, who tries to teach students through creative methods, much to the school’s dismay. What finally happens is a lesson for everyone who believes that education only resides in textbooks. According to the filmmaker, this is a story that was waiting to be told, that he had been preparing for his whole life.
What really does ‘education’ stand for in today’s times is a question that requires honest answering. But burdened by a decades’ old ‘system’, are we ready to face the question?
Get involved in Rough Book’s journey and help this film reach hundreds of students across the country. Show your support here.