Dr Jyotsna Bhattacharjee
In any discussion whether social, political or cultural, it is seen that education often comes to the focus. Even in a party or any function mothers often seem to huddle together to discuss the education of their little children. Well-placed parents admit their children in the best of the schools for special facilities. We have heard of experiments being made on child education. Yet all said and done, we find that child education is in a mess. It merely invokes a huge wastage of man-power and potential. Discipline is almost non-existent in the educational and with the introduction of grades, quality has become a casualty. Evaluations of answers with marks indicate the merit and quality of individual children, but grades do not. They only make a general assessment and that is no way to judge the calibre of the children. There is no joy in learning, no freedom and no creativity. The method of instruction has lost the novelty and liveliness. It has become dull, passive, lifeless, monotonous and mechanical. It could be described as computer guided education. It is the age of information technology and children are given information, but not knowledge.
National policy of education has not been able to bring about a congenial climate in the field of education. It is also doubtful if the policy can help in the overall development of the children. If we look into the education policy, we come across several difficulties, for instance, there is no coherence between urban and rural education. The quality of education in rural schools is abysmally poor. In urban areas the teachers can avail the opportunity of attending talks or seminars held by different organizations to improve the quality of education. But in rural areas this opportunity is denied to the teachers. There is also much disparity in case of social-economic educations between the urban and rural areas, which can have harmful effect on education. The urban children get some facilities in their schools, but the rural children are a deprived lot. The dilapidated condition of the schools in rural areas, their poor infrastructure, the behaviour and talks of the teachers are not conducive to the cause of education.
The schools are not places of joy and learning-rather they are places of depression and boredom. Politics has vitiated the sacred precincts of education and as a result it is the students, who suffer. The teachers do not know how to make teaching interesting and they do not study to develop their knowledge. They are concerned with only the contents of the text book. Some of them pass the time by dictating outdated notes. Naturally such kind of mechanical lackluster teaching does not raise even a spark of interest in the students. They receive only sub-standard teaching. “All work and no play” seems to have become the motto of the schools. There is no joy in learning, which is so essential for quality and excellence. Teachers seem to be totally unconcerned about the well-being of the students. They go to the class room after the bell rings, either dictate notes or teach whatever they find in the text book; when the bell rings again indicating the end of the period, the teacher goes out relieved, thinking that he has done his duty. This kind of formal education is totally mechanical and is bereft of any values. Hence education has become a kind of terror house for the kids. Merely going to school is not education. The children should learn various things necessary for a successful and happy life. The aim of education should be to impart knowledge and not to make some mechanical robots, without any sense of knowledge or values. Because of these defects in education, many children do not complete the sixth grade and leave the school never to return.
Though the child does not learn much in the school, yet his back becomes bent under the weight of the bag be carries on his shoulders. As a mother said bitterly that, the schools should recommend wheel barrows, to carry their books. Most of the schools start at 8 AM. Hence after having a quick wash and gulping down a glass of milk and a biscuit, the sleepy child is bundled into the school bus or dragged to the school at 7 AM. After coming back in the afternoon he gets tired and after lunch it is time for bed. Today’s children are supposed to be jack of all trades. Parents want them to take up some extra-curricular activity like art, music, games or something else. Then he has to do loads of home-work given by the teacher. Naturally the child has to keep busy throughout the week without any respite. The weekends are must for extra-curricular activities. He does not get any time to pursue his own pleasure. His life is a mechanical routine life. In this formal education he gets, not much benefit is derived by the students. They fail to inculcate any ideology in the child.
There are some elite schools, which cater only for the select section of society and thereby have created a chasm between the rich and the poor, the minority and the majority. In today’s formal education system minority gets the status of majority. We can only say that at best the schools help to divide society into two groups. Some are so productive that their personal income goes beyond the national average and the overwhelming majority, whose income is much below the former. This factor makes the groups farther apart. It is unfortunate that compared to the previous generation; parents today take less interest in the education of their children. There is an increasing tendency to leave children’s education to the private tutors, since both mum and dad keep busy with their work and other social activities. The child gets lost in such families where the mother and the father have no time for them. Naturally the children get confused and restless both at school and home. If the private tutor takes genuine interest in the students, it is well and good. But often it can be seen that their interest in purely commercial - very few of them take any genuine interest in the education or well-being of their pupils. In any case, a private tutor cannot take the place of parents.
It is very important to encourage children to be creative. Once the children did develop creativity, as their life was not mechanical or computer-controlled. But in modern age learning has become so mechanical that their time is divided between schools and routine activities. The little time they may get is swallowed up by laptops and computers. Teaching in modern times is exam oriented and the children are asked to learn the answer to the probable questions. And it is also true that it is not at all difficult to suggest the questions which might be asked. For us the examination pattern and the system of questions are repeated year after year. So it is easy to predict the probable questions, and so passing the examination is not a problem for them who make some effort to learn answers. Knowledge does not enter into this kind of education. No wonder education has become mechanical, dull and boring.
Once television, computers and laptops were non-existent, Children played out door games in huge open spaces in glee. They read books from a wide range of comics, stories from Arabian tales to classics, mythological as well as adventure stories. Their imagination blossomed after going through the fairy tales. But in this era the children have lost their habit of reading. They sit before the television, computers, or laptops, or fiddle with mobile phones. Television does not leave any scope for imagination, which is a great pity, since imagination leads to creativity. The child becomes a mechanical learner; his mind does not go beyond television, computers and laptops.
Teachers should certainly encourage the children to bring out their potential, so that they can pursue their chosen career. They must make an honest evaluation of learner performance and have to make encouraging statements to bolster the spirit of the students. A few words of encouragement and appreciation go a long way in building up the character and personality of a child and in making him successful in life. A teacher worth the name must recognize the accomplishment of the student concerned and he should attribute the accomplishment of the students to internal and not external factors. One of the most important things for a teacher is to help the students believe in themselves, that is, to help them to create self-confidence, without which a person cannot succeed in life. They have to help learners to set realistic goals. Idealism is commendable but to survive in this earth with respect and dignity, the goals must be realistic and practical. It is no use building castles in the air, they have to plan realistically. It is very harmful to group students according to their ability. In this kind of grouping some students might feel themselves to be inferior to some others, and it would give them an inferiority complex, which is damaging to their development. Effort should be valued more than ability, since effort is necessary to achieve success. Ability without effort becomes meaningless. Competitions amongst students do give them impetus to do better than others. But cooperation is more important than competition to build up the personality of the learner. Therefore teachers should promote cooperation rather than competition. The schools should make arrangement for the teachers to provide novel and interesting tasks that challenge the learner’s curiosity and thinking skill at the appropriate level of difficulty. The atmosphere in the educational institutes should be vibrant and delightful, which not only stimulates inner discipline, but also ensures the excellence of education. A gloomy and depressing atmosphere merely makes the students bored and unenthusiastic. Hence the atmosphere is extremely important for the personality development of young learners.
Values are very important factors in education. Our society is going through a crisis because of the lack of values. Corruption, terrorism and communal violence have engulfed the whole country. The universities churn out thousands of degree-holders each year. These run of the mill degree holders knock at various doors for jobs. But they very soon realize that in the job-market degrees or certificates do not matter in the least, it is money which counts and thus the young idealistic degree holders get into the world of corruption. The job goes to the highest bidder and the applications understand the futility of education. They know that to achieve the job they have to arrange for the demand money. In the face of such large-scale corruption, education takes the back seat. Corruption has gnawed the very root of Indian society and morality has become near extinct, which in the long run is very harmful for the country. Hence education must promote values and the child learner may explore the world of aesthetic values. Absence of such values accounts for the deviance and criminal tendencies among children often culminating in shooting or stabbing. Such things are happening not only in the USA or the UK, but in India as well.
Children are like budding flowers. The teacher has to play a vital role in moral and intellectual development of the young learner. And the schools have to create the right conditions to foster the spirit of inner excellence. The child must not be overburdened with the syllabus. It is imperative to change the method of teaching to make the children learn to be true human beings with high moral ideals and the determination to make those ideals actual.
(The writer is a former Head, Department of Philosophy, Cotton College, Guwahati)