by Aishwarya Bhuta
To a very great degree, school is a place where children learn to be stupid. – John Holt
Schools must ideally be the birthplace of questions and ideas. Instead, the ‘modern’ education system in India reduces schools to being centres of rote learning, time-bound examinations and hasty evaluation. While the quality of schooling in public schools continues to deteriorate, the privatization of education has hardly made things better, quality education has now become a luxury.
Therefore, I propose to revolutionize education in India. In order to do so, the concepts of common schooling and neighbourhood schooling could be instrumental in minimizing intra-regional disparities. If a school is affordable for all and is situated in the vicinity of a diverse neighbourhood, all children residing around that place would go together to the same school. It will not only facilitate friendly interactions with peers belonging to different social classes and castes, but also enable the poor to receive the same quality of education as the rich.
Furthermore, the current school curricula ought to be drastically revamped so that they accommodate different perspectives and challenge norms and stereotypes. India is a diverse country, and children need experiences with diversity from an early age. Those in the states of Maharashtra or Punjab know nothing about people in Kerala or Nagaland, hence they mock at them and consider them ‘Madrasis’, or ‘Chinkis’. Along with the local language, schools could also provide for learning languages of other states. Language is a reflection of culture and could be an effective mode of cultural exchange.
Moreover, history needs to be taught as objectively as possible and not saffronized; it must not propagate any political agenda. There is geography beyond maps. Are geography books ever written from the perspective of a resident of Kashmir or north-east India? Do the voices of tribal people, poor distressed farmers and many other marginalized communities ever reach textbooks? Do twelve year olds in Karnataka know about how their contemporaries in Manipur go to school and survive in constant fear and insecurity? Knowledge of local geography may be enough to pass exams but it is insufficient to understand the ground realities which are often excluded from mainstream newspapers or media as well. It does not suffice merely to revise the curriculum quinquennially. The revision must be in terms of inculcating inclusiveness, enhancement of quality, value education, etc. with equal emphasis on developing skills.
Along with eye-opening curricula, the pedagogy must be made interesting. The difference between shrubs, plants, creepers and trees can only be understood by visiting a garden and not by poring over gigantic textbooks. What is memorized is forgotten; what is done is understood. Education is experimentation in itself. When the pedagogy fails to capture the attention of a child, then the mind begins to wander. If what is taught is conceptually understood, examinations will hardly torment students. Subjecting children as young as three years to oral and written examinations only cripples their ability to think outside the box. Ever since their formative years, they have been forced to cram the alphabet without understanding what each letter signifies. More often than not, poor results are not the failure of the child but of the system, which failed to deliver what it was supposed to.
Every child is talented. It is the school that identifies, grooms, shapes and develops that talent is the school we should aim to build. Unless schools recognize this responsibility and act upon it, they shall continue to fail as educational institutions. The purpose of education is to enable an individual to be able to think critically. It is high time that education in India is scrutinized, reformed, diversified and qualified, to accomplish vision 2020, 2050 or 2100. True education nullifies prejudices, stimulates imagination, and engenders acceptance and togetherness. The sooner schools adopt this as their vision and mission, the better it will be for the future of the country.
About the author
Aishwarya Bhuta is a graduate in the Social Sciences from TISS Tuljapur. She is passionate about the causes of gender equality, education and development.