As I was sat down, trying to ‘learn’ chemistry one Friday evening, I began thinking on our education system due to which I had to study in such a poor way; it’s a pity, that I have started hating the subject, or all subjects for that matter, the more the examinations approached. To that end, I wrote a poem later – my debut poem, with which I’d like to introduce the topic; her it goes:
“Education” for Progress
You take a pot and fill it with water, the ocean still remains, You make the pot bigger, to douse the house’s flames
And you make it even bigger, till you wash all of hell.
But as men march on in time’s way, so do the forces grow,
That bar the door of wisdom, till it maketh a man (a) crow;
And once, but out the feathers come, than you just lo:
For cells have formed where ere was Eden,
And into the Saharan sands hath Plato been driven;
Till now, had man’s asininity been aeon ridden?
You look across many a book or any common mind,
And surprised you may well be, to find:
The fountain remains flowing as ever, waiting for
Its very first drinker. But heads of men are now sore,
And they allow not the thirsty to have a pour,
But Indian crabs as they are, they pull him back onto shore. They set for education a Hammurabi’s code,
And state it on an Economist’s ode: not the fountain
Whose drink all doth desire, but a mere factory by the road
That gives not many the bliss which they hope, but pain;
Agony from not just failing to educate the self,
But excruciation seeing others that too need help.
The birth of a boy sees many a new colour:
Businessman, engineer, NRI or a doctor.
The scholar of yore is seen no more
As machines of the line’s grown stronger than before.
The student of the day is not the knowledge seeker,
But a piece of iron thrown in the hands of a ‘caster’;
That moulds and melts him not into the Being,
But a mercantile golem that lives to seek a living.
To commend its superiors enjoying the beauteous Nature,
Whilst it toils in turmoil on these pans of fire:
Institutes that teach not to analyze and wonder,
But to gobble, espouse, vomit and then…just wander.
So, do we just give tests and go on becoming another mechanical product of this degree-machine, or relieve ourselves of this blunder? We find that today, education has reached such a stage, that the difference between the educated and the uneducated, is but a degree (or no degree), however the other may know; which reminds me of what a teacher of mine once said: “…You may wonder at the fact, that I have said Euclid and Aristotle together. You see, in the ancient world, the gift we had got, was the scholar, not the B.Tech, M.A., or B.Sc. (Hons). Thus, you get the same Pythagoras, who devised the theorem, AC2 = BC2 + AB2, giving the theory of transmigration of souls – two very different subjects, philosophy and mathematics, but the very same person.”
Indeed, today we do lack such people, for the very fact that, India today is not the divine land where knowledge is respected – the land where the greatest university of the time exists, but a machine designed ages ago, to churn out Indian Civil Service workers, extended beyond into independent India by mistake (rather ignorance and lack of understanding), and united with the pre-ancient Indian processes of rote-learning, to make another machine, completely satisfactory in its ability and purpose of creating doctors and engineers, who work completely like a machine, with no interest in finding new methods or discovering new techniques or findings, but just working as per the age old methods engineered earlier, or today, but certainly by foreigners.
The primary cause I believe, which has led to this is the method of education provided by society on him, from day one onwards – the very same day the student sees school that is. But first, let us have a look at the ‘ideal’ student, as society – the Indian society – views him. Is it not a boy, well in attire, i.e. in a neat and clean uniform, sitting in front of the table, with a book in front of him, learning what is written in the book, by-heart, writing down all that he has learnt, and at the end of the year, coming out with flying colours in his report-card? To those who find no problem with this, my question is “Why the farce?”
Why the farce of such a false scene that has been idolized, to kill even the Einstein’s that our country has created? Is it that we have been so much into this claptrap of the rote-learner being the ideal, that we form this leucoma, to fail seeing through this farcical non-sense? Now, let us have a look at the true side of this story – the story that many of us have to go through, especially the ‘hopeless’ and the ‘fools’. As the young mind enters the nursery, he is forced to accept what he is told – a good method to teach language the fast way, but, the real problem occurs, when this process is extended into subjects which require full understanding, like mathematics.
The student learns that two plus two is four, rarely because two objects and two objects come in to make a number o objects we call four, but rather because it makes four, be all and end all. And practicing thus, he goes on to learn tables, least understanding, what fives times three actually means. Thus, this process of forced learning create a feeling of boredom and the people who become successful, hence, are those who can accept these facts easily, little realizing the beauty that lies behind of the subject that lies beyond it, or the logic of why they are doing such, and at times, even, what they are actually doing, as an interview I carried out on standard three and four students, indicated – they knew very well, that eight into nine is seventy-two, without even the basic knowledge of why it is not seventy-one or seventy-three for that matter; it was seventy-two because they had learnt it to be seventy two PERIOD!
It reminds me of Einstein’s “Concepts that have proven useful in ordering things easily achieve such authority over us, that we forget their earthly origins and accept them as unalterable givens.”(Translated from German) Worse still happens, when we try to extend this method into higher education, especially in the science and arts streams. Speaking of science, wherein I fit, the last blow on the camel’s back comes, when we are forced to accept theory and practical as two different ‘papers’, rarely finding the link lying between them. The only aim the students form now, is to get marks by properly doing what lay in front of us, finding the ‘correct’ answer, and finally, getting the marks. After that, there is nothing more to discover, and in some experiments, they don’t even figure out what physical quantity they are measuring.
Some of us again, like a very good engineer, try understanding the things, from what is written in theory, which we have learnt by reading the book – thus, we tend to believe the book at each stage, even at the cost of manipulating the results of our experiments; little do we thus learn, that the value of ‘g’ which we got as 7.9 – 8.1 is actually the correct one, and not 9.81. Thus, we even fail to realize our foolishness. Computer Science is in fact, the only exception to this rule, as in it, we know why we are doing something, clearly, at least to the level of gates, which is generally considered the base of computing – at least as far as the programmer is concerned; which is perfectly acceptable. But as far as the other subjects are concerned, it is a different story altogether.
Thus, this rote-learning that most of us have to go through in many subjects, in many schools, and in many standards is the sole cause of this problem. What intensifies this, are the many competitive examinations that we, the high school students, try to prepare ourselves for. In the process, we blindly accept some facts and play as much as we can with them, to tackle the problems that would be given in the exams. Thus, we slowly and painfully, kill the scientist, which lies within someone. But what truly wait, is not more criticism, but a solution to all this; of course, it is only my thought, which I believe can work, but it is a thought that comes from first0hand experiences and realizations. So, let us begin to address this from day one.
The child enters the school, knowing nothing; what he especially does not know, is the beauty of knowledge and to him, school is a dreadful place (courtesy the stories that society teaches him). Hence, this can easily break him; thus, we must first break this breaker, by allowing him to play and interact with the other students and the teachers, as time progresses, to get a firm grip on him. As the bond slowly develops, we can introduce him or her to alphabets first those of his mother-tongue, and then that of English – however, both these languages must be taught simultaneously, or at least in the same class – nursery.
Thus, we must teach the child, with a caring attitude, having no concern for teaching him this much or that much, as specified by the syllabus, we can form a proper child, who is ready to learn. And as he progresses to higher subjects like mathematics, science and higher English/Bengali/Hindi, it can be taught slowly and in a manner wherein the child learns by experimentation. For example, tables can be taught, not through the usual boring and strict way of mugging up the tables up to 9, but by making him himself realize, that when two is added five times, it gives ten and making him do the exercise a number of times fully understanding how these follow, as tables. This done, the student formed would be one, who is ready to experiment, loving the subject, fully understanding what he does.
At the end of the day, a student who does this, would really want to learn it faster and would do so. Going on to English, comprehension and grammar exercises and short stories can be taught, in a way that makes him realize what the content of the story is, and make him develop a reading habit; reading classes can be organized, so as to develop his reading skills, and full scale discussion of the topics, with debates, speeches, etc. can be taken in order to develop his skills in public speaking, understanding the language, etc. As for science, “everything around us is science and can be understood if tried to” can be the key to the success in this path.
The children can be taught to thus observe the phenomenon around, to learn form what he sees around him and only at this stage, remember (not blindly accept) that something he sees, like wet clothes drying up when it is kept in the sun, etc.; to this note, I remember a personal experience that I cherished: in class two, when we were being taught birds, we were asked to collect feathers of birds that had fallen, in order to study them, match them to find whom they belonged to, and even discuss on them. The experience of that class, as I still remember, was the most entertaining, enthralling and enriching one ever in my life. But sad it is, that few teachers are so innovative enough to draw our full attention, and let our interest in the subject rise to such an extent, where we learn so nicely that we remember those classes for our entire life.
Coming back, this process can go on thus, and as for value education, classes should be based on yearly assessment of thoughts, not as in maintaining a diary, but as a class-work. Shifting up to the high school level, children from class six onwards can be allowed to go to the practical labs, to freely experiment with the instruments upon the teachers’ instructions, observing, making systematic recordings, and last but not the least, themselves inferring from the data they find, so as to find patterns in Nature. This can be nicely done in physics, if not chemistry – at least with organic chemicals the students can experiment, as for harsh ones, the teacher can perform the experiment, making the students infer from them.
Thus, an ‘experimentative’ approach and curious nature would be instilled into the child’s young mind, as he passes through this elementary level of science, giving rise to the birth of the scientist within him. He should also be given full freedom to talk on the subject in the class, alone with the teacher, in word or in writing, so as to fully clear his/her doubts, and understand the subject deeper than ever. In a line, the student should not learn the laws, but derive them out of his activities. Moving on to class nine, the first six months can be classes of revision of whatever he or she had learnt in the junior classes. Later, new topics can be introduced, and in a very similar manner, he must be taught these.
Hence, the final student that would be formed would not be the marks-seeker, but a true knowledge-seeker – thus at least the scientist. As for arts, students can be introduced to philosophy at an elementary level itself, not in the form of boring lectures, but by making them philosophize on everyday happenings, historical events, problems and solutions, etc.; thus he’d not need to learn philosophy, but develop a taste for finding philosophy in everyday life. Hence, when he/she will read texts of great authors, he’d immediately find the essence of it all.
The same goes for commercial applications and economics, where he can be made to realize the truth behind all the business policies – through stories, and even experiments in the form of mock business sessions (even on very small imaginary ones, like buying a product of Rs. 2), to make the students understand the principles behind the complex business policies. He should also be given the proper mathematical background required behind this, as in pure statistics and some of pure and applied mathematics, and if a student is found interested more in some subject, which is not in his syllabus, he can well be taught the lesson after school.
This method I believe,, will surely create not only a true student, but also a complete human being. As for the so-called ‘boring’ subjects of history and geography, it is the method of teaching alone, that makes all the difference. History can be taught by first drawing the interest of the student. Ancient history is a good place to start this practice, by making history an extension of literature and logic combined. He can be … taught to learn not the whats alone, but taught more importantly the ‘why’s and hence, the deeper ‘how’s!