By Poonam Yadav:
“Get up otherwise you’ll be late,” “Have you completed your homework? Don’t forget your notebook.”
Every child has grown up listening to these lines during their school days. Parents, dada-dadi, everyone is involved in getting the little one getting ready for school as if he/she is a soldier going for war. If one is from a joint family then it’s a huge mess, other little soldiers also have to get their armours ready to fight their daily battles of going to school.
The news that a home-schooled girl got selected by MIT after being rejected by our prestigious IITs for not having undergone formal schooling somehow motivated me to pen down my thoughts.
First of all, I would like to discuss school. For me, it was always fun. I was in love with my school. I was a complete geek and a bookworm. I loved going to school and taking exams. I always admired the structure and the planning part, as I had to do nothing. Everything was already prepared; I just had to follow the instructions.
But over the years after a lot of introspection, I realised the loopholes in the education I received when I was in school. I realised that despite having an excellent academic record I can’t consider myself to be a knowledgeable person. My education has not taught me to think critically, it has not taught me to question things (at least my school education, as it laid the foundation, so irrespective of how good higher education was, the same pattern continued).
Despite the awards, the accolades, I never felt happy. There was this constant feeling of emptiness that told me that I lacked something. In college, I tried to come out of this shell of mine, tried to question things. I made a few attempts, and it felt good. After some time the same pattern of me sitting idle and consuming whatever was given to me continued. Initially, I used to wonder if it was me who was at fault, as I wasn’t attentive and confident enough to ask questions. But, later on, I realised that somehow the kind of schooling, the system of which I was a product of, was also at fault.
So what is it about my schooling that I am complaining about? There are a few things that I have noticed not just from my schooling experience but also from my volunteering and work experience. The common thing, which I came across in schools is that the focus is more on cramming information & facts than on developing critical thinking.
Schools are being converted into institutions that produce passive learners. This is the situation prevalent in almost all government and public schools, and only a handful of elite private schools can boast of being centres of creative learning. From morning to afternoon, everything is planned and structured, there is very less space for flexibility (there might be a few exceptions, not denying that). More focus is on textbook learning, less on practical knowledge.
Whatever is written in the book is the ultimate truth, something which cannot be challenged (as if it’s the Laxman Rekha that can’t be crossed), and the students imbibe this.
Subconsciously, they start accepting what is being served to them, and very few of them raise questions, as inquisitiveness is not promoted. This is what I am focusing on here. To put it simply; schools need to be more flexible. They should stress more on practical learning, and on the development of critical thinking, rather than completion of course work which most teachers still stress upon.
When one thinks of a school, it’s a place you go to get an education. It’s a social institution which produces educated, responsible and sensible citizens. Our parents send us to schools so that we can get educated.
Wait, wait, hold on, we do need to talk about our parents and their expectations from us, our schools, teachers and so on and so forth. When one asks any parent, what do they mean by ‘Education’, the typical reply that one can expect is, that the child should be able to get a “Good Degree”, so that they can get a “Good Job”, so that he/she can eventually get a “Good Match” (Marriage of course, as if we can escape that).
So in a nutshell the above mentioned are the three goals of education, according to our dear parents (varies from parent to parent, not targeting anyone). There’s also a lot of comparison with others (Sharma Ji’s son is getting a good package, Gupta Ji’s son is in that company etc.).
But what our great philosophers and leaders have said and preached is in contradiction with what our parents have been teaching us all this while. I am not saying that they are wrong, what I am saying is that they are only focusing on one facet of education. It’s not just a tool for personal enhancement (status and money), but it’s something which can be used for social upliftment and to bring about widespread social change.
I have seen people leaving behind their lucrative jobs and starting NGO’s to bring about some positive change in the society. There are others who along with their studies have worked on different platforms and are doing great work in the areas of gender equality, domestic violence, LGBT issues etc.
Many of my classmates have been associated with organisations that provide education and free counselling services to students from remote villages and small towns. I have always wanted to use my education and skills to empower others, to be of help to those who need it the most.
During my college days, through one such organisation, I got the opportunity to provide tele-counselling to students in Jharkhand. Though I volunteered for a short duration, it gave me immense pleasure. Another opportunity which I got was through NCERT. I went for a data collection project to Uttarakhand and met with 200-250 students of around 7-8 government schools. Though I was there for data collection with a planned questionnaire, the informal interaction and the learning space that got created there, benefited both the students and me immensely.
So, what I am saying is I am in support of the various CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) projects being launched by different corporate houses, but I am not sure about their success rates. I have been to a few corporate organisations, and I have seen employees sipping on coffee and paying minimal attention to workshops that introduce different CSR projects, so in a way, I’m also not too sure.
I understand it’s tough to really think about charity and social work after 10-12 hours of work. You are completely drained, and there is a family to look after. But there are a thousand ways of doing something good. Even a gesture is enough. I think if one’s education has brought about change in one’s thinking, then that’s enough.
In the end, I just want to state that, parents need to focus on making their children competent rather than pressurising them to be a part of the rat race. It’s important that they stop comparing their children with others, measuring their worth in terms of the package that they get. Let education be a tool for both personal and social betterment.