By Dr Jyots Bhattacharjee
From various news items about the educatiol institutions of the country it seems obvious that the standard of education has deteriorated lamentably. Recently, some time back, we heard about the topper scandal in Bihar. Apparently the topper did not know the answer regarding the subject matter of Political Science. With the topper scandal still in the news, a tiol news paper reported that Bihar faced another major embarrassment when the principal of a government primary school failed to write correctly the commonly used Hindi words like “maskar” and “Ashirwad”. In the news item it was reported that the shocking state of affairs came to light when the district magistrate from the western Bihar district of Buxur made the surprise inspection of a school in his district in the weekend to know the standard of education in the institute. Even after several attempts the principal committed mistakes and ended up by misspelling the words.
Taking the matter seriously the District Magistrate overtly announced to initiate action against the principal. The report further said that the DM refused to relent even after the principal begged pardon for her mistakes. The DM bluntly told the principal “This blunder is not pardoble”. I think also that it was truly an unforgivable blunder and the District Magistrate was perfectly right in his decision. If a principal of a school was so ignorant about the correct spelling of some simple words, what could be expected of the teachers working under her and what would the students learn from such benighted or ill-informed teachers?
However, we hear that such scene is very common in Bihar with state education department often accused of not following the basic criterion in the appointment of teachers. Perhaps they do not seriously consider the eligibility of the teachers. Whatever may be the reason, it is essential that the appointed teachers must have competence and adequate knowledge to teach the young students. Sadly enough what happened in Bihar may occur in other states as well including our own state.
It is a fact that education has declined alarmingly in the recent years. We always believed that education is the key to knowledge; but it is no longer true. Education today creates some pseudo intellectual snobs, who cannot write a sentence correctly. Most of the teachers also appear to be weak in composition of a sentence. Recently the principal of an educatiol institution told me about the calibre of some of the teachers of the institute. He had a very poor idea about them. It was sad, yet funny in a way. He told me with a smile that a teacher of his school had submitted to him an application with a plea to grant him leave for 5 days. He requested the principal to allow him “to live for 5 days”. The principal had a sense of humour and said jokingly, “How could I possibly disoblige him? But how he imagined that I had the power to allow him to live or not, I know not”. Apparently that is the quality of some of the teachers in this modern scientific age. If a teacher cannot write even an application for leave correctly, what would they teach the young learners?
Long back Oscar Wild wrote in his vitriolic essay, “The Decay of Learning”, that “Everybody who is incapable of learning has taken to teaching—that is really what our enthusiasm for education has come to”. The author’s comment is sarcastic, as is obvious, but it is also a true statement. In the educatiol institutes it can be observed clearly that very few teachers are interested in learning or in the learners. Teachers are not all-knowing, since education can never be completed in one’s life time, and learning is a never-ending process. Yet the teachers do not seem to be the least interested in learning new things to improve their knowledge. They merely do their allotted duty by teaching some hapless students with their limited resources. Some of them dictate outdated notes, may be, copied from some guide books, which have flooded the market. This kind of coaching is dull and boring. turally the students become weary of such un-exciting kind of teaching. These teachers can’t generate even a spark of interest in the students. I think that too much spoon-feeding is not good for the learners. The students in the present period do not apply their own intelligence to learn something. They just depend on dictated notes, which may be full of mistakes. They try to memorize these idequate notes at the time of examition. Actually a teacher’s job is to explain the lesson thoroughly, and the students should be encouraged to write answers to any question from the lessons in their own language. That way their knowledge will improve and they would be able to write correctly.
It is unfortute that in this age of science and technology, very few teachers or students can write a correct sentence. Their copies are full of misspelt words and the sentences they write are incomprehensible. They are only a jumble of words without any meaning. In my reasobly long life I have gained ample experience regarding the writing capacity of the students of the present era. I have noted that the students of the past could write better that their modern counterparts of the present era.
Once letters were very much in vogue. Those people who had education used to write letters and those who could not read or write used to take help from others who had the capacity to do that. The illiterate individuals requested the literate persons to write letters for them to their children or somebody else and their letters also had to be read aloud by others, who could read and write. Writing or receiving a letter brought great joy to the people and they waited hopefully for the postman’s arrival every day. Receiving a letter was the highlight of the day.
But today letters have become nearly obsolete. Due to the contributions of science and information technology, you can send or receive any information in a jiffy without taking recourse to writing letters, which have gone out of fashion. You may not even find an envelope in anybody’s home, as they are no longer needed. Once letters were a source of great joy. We used to write long letters to our friends and relatives. I remember vividly my days in Dundas Hostel in Calcutta, while I was a student of Scottish Church College. There was a huge board on the wall in the corridor, where the letters to the boarders were stuck. After coming back from the college we all stood there scanning the board, if any letter for some of us could be found. I still remember the feeling of ecstasy, if I saw any letter addressed to myself. I immediately stched away the letter and all my tiredness vanished at the sight of the letter. Those boarders who had letters were also very happy and those who did not have letters were sad and dejected. I felt for them. What a pleasure it was to go through the letters. All the girls sat around with letters to savour the contents. It was not enough to read the letter just once. We all went on reading the letters till the dining room gong resoted to announce the afternoon tea. turally we could not miss the tea. We hurriedly went to the dining room after keeping the letter safe in a bag. Throwing away the letter was unthinkable and we preserved all our letters.
Those were the days! It was more than half a century back, but I still remember those days with nostalgia. Those letters brought us immense joy. We used to write long rambling letters to home and to friends with all the information, major or minor. They did help us in lots of ways. Actually those letters were a kind of history—they stated so many things related to the age. Today I think that the young people have lost the art of letter-writing. In the past they used to write long informative letters. Sending and receiving letters were equally enjoyable. That did help them in various ways. Letter-writing helped the writers to develop their writing capacity. They could compose sentences correctly and the letters improved their literary proficiency. Besides that they improved the speed in writing. Nowadays I often hear that many students of the present era lack speed in writing besides making numerous mistakes. They often leave certain questions unswered, as they cannot finish them in the stipulated time, due to lack of speed in writing. Letters are mini literature and they also represent the age. Hence we know them as history of the time. Perhaps they can be regarded as epoch-making resources. I think that the letters are very necessary for all, especially for the students. They are necessary to satisfy both intellectual and emotiol factors. Once we could not even imagine a life without letters. Now it has happened. How dreary life has become in the absence of letters!
This is the age of science and technology and life has been made much easier by the technological achievements. Today people think that writing letters is unnecessary and waste of time. There are cell phones and you can contact anybody anywhere in an instant. Then why waste time in writing letters? There is e-mail as well. You can send any message instantly. Invitations to diverse functions are also issued over mobile phones and one does not have to traverse pot-holed, uneven dirty roads to issue any invitation. These modern inventions save your time and energy. In this age people want “instant” results and you don’t have to struggle for hours to get your objective. If you can send your message to somebody within seconds, then why do you have to sweat over writing letters? Besides that, it may take days for the addressee to receive that letter. So letter-writing has become antiquated. Today’s children do not even know how to write a letter.
I really miss those loving letters, which once gave me so much joy. Today nobody waits for the postman with his bag of letters. I have not even seen a postman for a long time. In earlier times letters were essential to maintain friendship and social contact. But this art of writing letters has been rejected as irrelevant by the present generation. That is the reason we have lost our contact with the people. Cell phones or e-mail have no emotiol appeal. They are instantly received and instantly forgotten. Hence we see that there is no genuine fellow-feeling in today’s world and life has become excessively mechanical. I also think that due to lack of emotiol bond so much suffering has emerged. Letters were regarded as the bond of unity in the earlier times. Today of course they are not given the least importance. Perhaps the modern youths think that, when we can contact someone instantly over cell phone, why should we waste time and money in writing and sending letters. It is obvious that letters have lost their significance and they might soon become museum pieces.
In earlier times writing was given great importance in education. Students were to write long answers to the questions posed by the teachers. Spelling, composition as well as grammar had to be learnt properly, so that they did not make mistakes. In the present era the students need quick-fix solutions. They buy these “guide books”, “sure successes” flooding the market and try to memorize the given answers, which may be full of mistakes. Very few students read the text book thoroughly. They depend on ready-made notes and on private tuition. I have also noted that questions in the fil examitions are often repeated every alterte year. So it is not difficult for the candidates to guess the probable questions. It has become the habit of the students to learn only those topics which are desigted as important by the concerned teachers. The aim is to pass the examition and not to gain knowledge.
That is why we see such lamentable lack of knowledge in case of so many degree-holders, who are supposed to be educated. Some of them do not know the correct spelling of many words and cannot write a correct sentence. Many of them have become teachers and the irony is that they do not know what to teach or how to teach. If they themselves cannot spell some words correctly, then how can they teach their students? So what happened in Bihar regarding the misspelling of a couple of words by the Head Mistress of a certain school may very well happen in our own state also. It can be seen that here also some teachers cannot spell some words correctly and cannot write a correct sentence. It has become a fashion amongst the students to talk with a smattering of broken English to demonstrate their sophisticated education and also to prove that they are sufficiently educated. In reality they cannot write a simple sentence correctly or cannot spell a word properly. They may have passed their examition with flying colours and have obtained their degrees. Yet they can be termed only as intellectual illiterates. Unless a person can write properly he or she cannot be called educated.
I think that the pattern of questions should be changed. The questions should cover the entire text book and they should be such that the examinees have to write lengthy answers in the proper way and the spelling as well as the composition of sentences should be checked by the examiners. Wrong training may be very harmful not only to the students, but also to the entire tion, because the future of the country depends on them. Education cannot be fruitful unless writing is done properly. I believe that in the past the students could write better because they had the habit of writing long letters. But today due to the advent of science and information technology people use e-mail, mobile phone or facebook to send and receive messages. I think these modern gadgets have made us not only lazy and snobs, but they have also made us incapable of writing the simplest thing in the right way. Hence today even a leave application of a teacher is full of mistakes. I wish the students would be encouraged to write in the right way. That would indeed be beneficial to them. Perhaps the modern generation will disparage me as an old-fashioned person with antiquated ideas. I fear that they may be right in their view.