Saturday, January 17, 2009

The teacher's tutor

It was through an invitation passed onto me by my editor that I found myself in an auditorium full of teachers. This hardly seems like a pleasant experience for someone who has, with much relief, finally graduated his twelfth grade. The event was a documentary being screened at the Regional Institute of Education by the Teacher foundation. The Teacher foundation as I was told by its director works with a broad range of schools from all over the country aiming to breathe fresh air into stale classrooms and even staler teaching methods. The director Mrs Maya Menon was a very enthusiastic person and through the discussions that followed after the documentary I began to wish there had been more teachers like her during my school days. The documentary itself was made by an educational filmmaker, Mr Gautam Sonti. The aim as the audience was told was to bring awareness to some of glaring issues that are haunting Indias Private and Governmental schools. Maybe because it was so direct it did happen to insinuate a heated discussion and drew much criticisim from the teaching community present. Apparently the Teacher foundation does have its work cut out for them. But it did make me think back to my schooling days and to the words of a very famous song made by a band perhaps as upset with schools in far away Britain.

“ We don’t need no education
We don’t need no thought control”

Pink Floyd’s The wall

When the days in school got too long, monotonous, mechanical or boring it’s comforting to let those words ring through. It was reassuring to feel I wasn’t the only one in the world who felt the space time continuum being distorted the moment I walked into class, right to the point when seconds felt like hours and maths class felt like a lifetime. To be fair I will take some of the credit for not excelling at school till the very end of my academic days (even then it wasn’t academics i excelled at). But my less than enthusiastic teachers played a pivotal role in this. However every school i attended (all 5 of them) I did find at least one teacher who kept me afloat. Who believed I could be a little more than what I was. To that unnamed teacher, I thank you. I am what I am because of you. But the rest of the teaching community at large I feel just spout out the same old rhetoric. Like a march past calling out commands like left-right-left or attention! Something stinks in the system of schooling India. Osho once asked very rightly what the difference between schools and jails were? The almost mechanical routine that school provide pupils allows for no questioning, No outside thought that deviates from the rules. This environment is so plastic, so far out of touch with the real world. At school you’re just another face in the crowd. Separated into classes, divisions and of course IQ levels. There are the few who do well in this system. But these few would do well in any system. They are the exception more than the rule. It is impossible to ask that all students be of the same maturity and intellectual level that they too would benefit optimally from the system we have now. There lies, left behind, a vast medley of academic outcasts who’s talents lay hidden and shunned by the very teachers entrusted to bring the best out of them.

And parents too. No one is supposed to know your child better than you. Stop expecting so much from schools. And start taking a larger interest into the lives of your children. It’s no wonder that so many teenagers are clueless with where their lives are to lead after they finish school. At school and at home they are persistently programmed to do what they are told unquestioningly and that’s that. Where is the individuality so characteristic of every human being? Where are all these unique talents being nurtured? India, a country with the world’s second largest populations and one of the largest exporters of qualified professionals to the west (not to mention our software programmers) still battles with one of the world’s lowest literacy rates! Doesn’t anyone realise there is something fundamentally wrong with the way our education system is functioning? Why do we have such high dropout rates? Why are children is rural areas just not motivated to get the education that is the key to taking not just themselves but India out of poverty? And it isn’t just the small poorer rural schools that can be accused of pupil negligence. Even the proudest urban public schools aren’t fairing much better. Maybe their dropout rate isn’t as high since their students aren’t faced with the option of going to work in a paddy field but are their students really being allowed to do anything beyond the boundaries of their text books and compound walls? Where is the real education happening? Some brave schools aside most schools in India are not willing to question the age old system of memorise or be damned. As for that extra bit of encouragement that often makes a world of difference (at least it did for me) most students are lucky to escape without getting a few bruises through school (I didn’t). Against this backdrop it’s indeed heartening to know that the teacher foundation is there to accept there are flaws to be remedied and classes to fill. I just wish there were more people listening.
If the central and state governments along with Boards of education brought their noses back down to earth and realised this problem exists we would start to see real change in India.

1 comment:

  1. I really think it stems down to interest in terms of student and teacher capability.
    And of course the reformation of the entire education system - as you say, memorising and regurgitating is just about as useful and beneficial as a Pussycat Dolls album.
    Keep it up my boy, your doing them some serious good!
    Shine on you crazy diamond :P