Dr Jyotsna Bhattacharjee
There has been a mushroom growth of schools all over the country since the last few years. In this respect, Assam is also not lagging behind. Countless number of schools have emerged in Assam during recent years. In fact, Guwahati can boast of quite an impressive number of elite schools. Nursery schools are increasing like paan shops. Actually you cannot take two steps without falling over a nursery school. Enterprising people have been turning education into a kind of business enterprise. In fact, if you have two rooms to spare, you could very well start a crèche or a nursery school. Glossy pamphlets are scattered all over with the promises of a home away from home with various attractive facilities to lure the parents. But the taste of the pudding is in eating, as they say. Their promises might fall far short of reality.
In earlier times, teachers were poorly paid, but they were respected and honoured by students as well as society. Teachers today are paid a handsome salary which they augment by private tuition or other means. They can lead a very comfortable lifestyle; yet, most of them seem to be least concerned regarding the welfare of students.
Education is indispensable for the progress and prosperity of a nation. As Lord Brougham said, “Education makes people easy to lead, but difficult to drive; easy to govern, but impossible to enslave.” It can easily be seen that education moulds the character of a person and gives shape to his personality.
Education has gone through lots of sweeping changes in the last few years. Barring a few exceptions, most of the schools have to cope with an abnormally heavy syllabus. This is obvious from the size and weight of the school bags which children carry on their backs. As one disgruntled mother commented, “Children today need wheelbarrows, not bags, to carry their books”. She is right in her remarks.
Today, children feel stifled in a web of discipline, rules and regulations. There is a limit to everything, and too much of everything is not good for health, mental or physical. Discipline is necessary; so are the rules for the good of an individual. But what is more important is a personal bond between the teacher and the taught. Without personal bond, no teacher can be successful in his job. Only a considerate and affectionate teacher can be beneficial to students.
Many educationists have expressed their concern about the wider implication of the social context of education. Young minds are also influenced by some psychological issues like motivation, emotion, thought and concept formation. These issues are very confusing to the young children. Value education has become very important, particularly during the present era. The world is going through a crisis, and human beings have lost their values of life. All sorts of heinous crimes, such as murder, rape, abduction, extortion etc are going on unabated all over the world, including our country. Once India was a land of spirituality, where higher values like love, generosity, sympathy, forgiveness etc prevailed. But now there is not a trace of these wonderful qualities.
Of course it is not an easy task to impart value education. For that, the teacher must not only have the knowledge of values, but he should practise them as well. We had such teachers once upon a time. But now it is doubtful if we would ever find a teacher with such high values. A teacher without any sense of values cannot do justice to his profession.
It is very important to formulate the objectives of education, which has a great social impact and lends a focus towards a direction. Education cannot be regarded as a static policy; rather, it should be regarded as a continuous dynamic process. It is an activity aims at social reforms. Society progresses only through a dynamic progressive education policy. But till now we do not seem to have such an innovative education policy.
School education, particularly at the elementary level, is in a dismal condition all over the country. Since Independence, several commissions have recommended diverse kinds of improvement in quality. Yet nothing visible has emerged so far, and there seems to be no qualitative achievement till now. The launching of Sarva Siksha Abhiyan, literacy programmes, universalization of elementary education, and collaboration with UNESCO, UNICEF and Britain’s DFIO have not yielded the desired results. The efforts of NCERT are commendable.
For the successful implementation of an education policy, it must be compatible with its social, economic and pedagogic legitimacy. There has been a kind of gradual polarization between the general performance of ordinary schools and the limited number of good schools. Therefore, it has become imperative to restructure the school system. This is the era of information technology, and, with its rapid expansion and the use of electronic gadgets, the traditional method of chalk, talk and blackboard has lost its relevance. So new strategies in school education have become absolutely necessary to keep pace with time.
Education has been made commercial in recent times. It has been reduced to a marketable commodity. Throughout the country, the cost of educating a child has risen enormously. Now is the time to realize the role of teachers in the society, their background, orientation and their competence to build up citizens of the future. We often get the news of teachers beating up children in such a way that they get afraid to go to school.
Barring a few exceptions, teachers lack the proper temperament and orientation, which are so necessary for achieving success in their profession. There is no suitable mechanism to assess their competence and efficiency. Proximity to a political party ensures their job security.
The overwhelming chaos in the country, including Assam, is obvious. It is very important to give due importance to the formal education system, and necessary funds should be provided exclusively to this segment. Formal education should be given preference over non-formal education systems such as Sarva Siksha Abhiyan, Sishu Bikas Kendra, Anganwadis etc. A reformed education policy may be implemented where Mahatma Gandhi’s buniadi education, Swami Vivekananda’s overall development of humanity and educational epistemology would be blended.
Today, the teacher’s quality is lamentable. Some of the aspiring teachers are even incapable of filling up forms correctly. It amply demonstrates the dismal condition prevailing in the educational system.
Teachers do not favour innovative teaching, and derive bizarre satisfaction by continuing in the same way. It is very necessary to appoint qualified, dedicated and hard-working teachers who can do justice to the students. Only then can they be justifiably called the “builders of the nation”.
(The writer is a former Head, Department of Philosophy, Cotton College, Guwahati)