This post has been self-published on Youth Ki Awaaz by Anas Shoeb Khan. Just like them, anyone can publish on Youth Ki Awaaz.

Should Teachers Push Students To Think More Than Just Giving Them Notes?

More from Anas Shoeb Khan

There was a period in Greek history, where a man named Socrates dared to question and reason with the Oracle of Delphi. The Oracle (much like the modern day Professor in Indian universities) was a revered position and the person attached to it was considered nothing less than an infallible creation. Truth and ‘absolute knowledge’ were believed to be the eminent domain of the Oracle and his subjects, by virtue of his position, were the gullible people who were in a state of oblivion to their individual sensibilities of reasoning.

While the story of Ancient Greece looks to be an old tale of tribalism, it may be equally surprising and more distressing to know that the Indian classrooms are much like the Oracle’s gathering. A sense of collective authoritarianism plagues the environment of our classrooms and imparting education is not just a mundane one-sided process but it also actively creates a generation of students that either lack or are suppressed from developing the ability to reason and question the subject-matter they are taught. While, I understand that mere criticism of an established system does not change it, one must also suggest concrete and feasible alternatives to address the issue at hand.

Derived from the way Socrates used to deliberate and discuss ideas with his students (the likes of whom became Plato and Aristotle), a “Socratic Seminar” is a teaching pedagogy or rather a learning system where the role of a teacher is not to teach per se. The Professor, instead, assumes the active role of someone who asks the right questions to trigger the individual reasoning of their students. Colloquia or Socratic Seminars allow for greater interaction and wider understanding of the issue being deliberated. While the traditional Indian classroom may just discuss Rawls’ theory of Distributive Justice as explained by the Professor and take notes, a Colloquium ensures that Rawls is equally criticised rationally or supported through individual assessment of students.

When I mentioned that the a collective authoritarianism plagues the classroom environment, I was referring to the fact that individual voices in a chalk-and-board class do not find a space to reason and it is lost in the dominant narrative that the Professor lays down through the textbook, which then becomes the ‘Word of God’ for the collective class.

Colloquia are based on the principle of differentiation being a reality. The thought process, parameters of reasoning and intellectual capabilities of different individuals is diverse and, hence, when they become a part of a colloquium, they carry that line of thought into their reasoning which adds nuance to the discussion.

For example, when a colloquium is about understanding and deliberating the idea of ‘Feminist Jurisprudence’ based on the work of Wollstonecraft. Her ideas in the text act as a mirror that will reflect differently to different individuals (including the Professor).

Thus, what the Professor understands and teaches would be entirely the result of them studying that text in isolation. The text studied in isolation without a group deliberation and then taught traditionally in the class is equivalent to negating the reasoning sensibilities of the students, while at the same time making them accustomed to not reason at all, given the certain lack of opportunity. This lack of opportunity in a traditional classroom is pretty much the reason behind the boring and mundane nature of our teaching-learning environment.

An important aspect about such a Socratic practice is the fact that it is not aimed at establishing an absolute truth or principle. The role of a student is not someone who argues for their case, but to be open and flexible (and, rational) to the reason given by others as to the apparent lack of certain ideals in their position. Thus, there are no winners or losers in the class but reason remains the force that drives the discussion. Subjectivity is the essence of human thought and it is the same subjectivity that liberates individuals to discuss and reason with the objective reality.

A colloquium is that space of unfettered individualism that nourishes ideas being deliberated. It must be noted that it is not merely institutions of higher education that must embrace this method. Individual reasoning through interactive discussions should be encouraged in primary classrooms, so that each child develops a certain sense of individual identity at the outset of their academic life.

While the Socratic method is not at the helm of our teaching pedagogy in the contemporary scenario, there are organisations such as Students for Liberty, Centre for Civil Society as well as some well-meaning Professors (including my Jurisprudence Professor) who are trying to change the discourse of our classrooms in a way that allows for freer spaces of discussion as well as dissent to imposed narratives but, of course all of this only through reason.

_

Image source: Raj K Raj/Hindustan Times via Getty Images
You must be to comment.

More from Anas Shoeb Khan

Similar Posts

By Vipashyana Dubey

By Imran Hasib

By Meemansa Narula

Wondering what to write about?

Here are some topics to get you started

Share your details to download the report.









We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

Share your details to download the report.









We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

Share your details to download the report.









We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

Sign up for the Youth Ki Awaaz Prime Ministerial Brief below