I teach a child twice a week. Together, we discuss responsibility, time management and goal setting — all the essential virtues one would need to lead a responsible life.
It was while I was teaching them ‘personal responsibility at home’ that I realised how tempted I was to use “Your mother does the cooking and cleaning — that is her responsibility” and “Your father goes for work, earns money, that is his responsibility.”
I believe therein lies the problem.
As functioning members of society, we have been conditioned to think a certain way. There are dictated roles for binaries in our society. These roles, if left unfulfilled, can bring us a great deal of shame — or so we convince ourselves. The role of an educator is crucial because they have the power to single-handedly make or break this system. We all know this, yet, we don’t look into an educator’s personal ideologies before we initiate them into the teaching profession.
Students come from homes where, most of the time, the feminism we try to uphold does not exist. From where will they learn that both mummy and daddy can go to work and earn? Both mummy and daddy can help in the kitchen? And that neither territories are exclusive to either?
Children learn from observation, but they don’t see these feats happening anywhere around them. They then grow up and reinforce the patriarchy we are all trying so hard to fight against, and it becomes too late to unlearn. Thus, we need to check the spot where they spend a good chunk of their lives five to six days a week, for almost five hours a day.
This is where an educator comes in, carrying the massive potential to initiate a connection between a student and progressiveness. The solution is very simple. Stop permitting teachers with no awareness of complex structures that make up our Indian society to teach. If they aren’t aware or ready to unlearn those biases, they will never be able to understand or accommodate students who come from diverse homes.
They will instead propagate further differentiation due to the internalisation of various norms. They will have nothing of value to teach to a student who is being raised at home with the constant reminder that her only purpose is to marry and reproduce — an instance of failed education because no mind was liberated.
Our Indian education system needs to be tailored to address factors that affect our Indian society, while also including a broader world view. textbooks filled with examples have now become irrelevant or are not ‘relatable’ and need to be updated constantly — since it looks like the rote learning business is here to stay, at least let us by heart something useful!
Yes, it is hard. It requires a lot of work. But what were we thinking when we accepted everything our ancestors passed on to their progeny without complaining? Oh wait, were we even thinking?