TODAY -

Flawed Educational Mindset

Rajkumar Panthoiren *

Morning Dew School situated at Kapaar Kachoung Village under Kakching, Manipur
Morning Dew School situated at Kapaar Kachoung Village under Kakching, Manipur



Education is, by its own nature, hard to figure out. The very word itself has different levels of interpretations. A small attempt is made here to deal briefly with the paucity of innovative and interactive approach of our state's school system. Even though the state's literacy rate (79.21 percent as per 2011 population census) is higher than the nation's average (74 percent), one should not be tricked into thinking that all is good with education here. There are some things seriously wrong; so, let's pledge not to be fooled by numbers.

It is common to hear people say that the government schools are hopelessly losing ground (indeed to a great extent) while the so-called schools which are privately run are the best to get one's children educated in. If considered closely, well there is not much of a difference, except that the private schools are good at churning out some great numbers while the government schools have failed to do so. In both the cases, the quality of education given and processed remains questionable with unusually high emphasis given on achieving sky-rocketing marks (though those marks alone won't ever make you capable of becoming a rocket scientist!) So, without doubt, high marks are in high demand by society, parents and students. To supply this demand, an exponential growth of private schools of all hues is witnessed. As per the increased enrolment of kids in private schools (which purportedly provide more quality education), it is natural to expect that more and more kids with enhanced skill set will be churned out year after year. Now, that's some wishful wishing there. Because, no, we don't have more kids now than before who are more capable as the education system has been too happy to remain stagnant.

And the 'what' and 'how' in brief:

Most (or should I say all, if truth's bidding be done) of the classes continue to be boring, mechanical and plain stupidity exemplified. Students are never taught to be curious, self-sufficient and to learn to think broadly, that is beyond what constitutes one's present circumstance (read: the ability and conviction to see endless possibilities). From the second the teacher enters the class, it's a one-way road in progress, where 'one' blabbers while 'many' listen to the blabbering like some dead wood. Teacher says "Copy this and this," and our dear students oblige, "As you say, O learned One!" Then the bell rings, and class ends for the day. The end.

To take an example, if you ask a randomly selected 11 Science student to identify an electric motor placed alongside, say, a cup of tea, he'll most probably fail to do so (forget about the student understanding the principle behind how a motor works!) It's that pathetic because real learning has long been kicked out of the overcrowded and suffocating classes. Our beloved teachers' only excuse is that, their method has been working quite fine till now. But their so-called "method" has only managed to produce few who have reached the pinnacle of excellence, while the majority continues to be averagely capable.

No stimulating discussions, debates or exchange of ideas ever take place. And trust me, that's a bigger tragedy than the sinking of the ship RMS Titanic or the irrelevant death of Leonardo DiCaprio in the movie version. Back to the point, we never see students being taught using models, maps, field trips, actual application methods etc. Also, students are never given a chance to give presentations, prepare interesting projects (group as well as individual), do community service (thabal chongba/lagao khaoba/whatever though I don't have much of a problem about it nor care about at all, as it turns out, is not community service), etc. And here we don't encourage our students to earn while studying, which again leads to a mentality of dependency and imposed helplessness.

What should be done (but never has been):

Firstly, the policy makers have a lot to do because they are the ones who can effect majority of the changes. Sadly, they are the most passive ones till now. We don't see any thought-out new approach and vision from their side, except some cosmetic changes from time to time. So, knock, knock! Please, wake up!

Secondly, it's time every school in the state introduced the system of Parent-Teacher Association (PTA). Let's make it something real, and not just some fancy word. Because, parents have as much a say in their children's education as the teachers and the school administrators.

Thirdly, the culture of vibrant outdoor and extra-curricular activities should be encouraged where every student gets to express their creativity and potential as a unique human being freely. Because mind you, they deserve it, and they have the right to experience every aspect of what a true education entails (not the current one-sided one). Some hints: music classes and competitions, theatre, arts and crafts, cooking, sports, camping, backpacking, vocational training, student clubs (dealing with various themes like environment, social service, intellectual development, foreign language learning)etc. Much more can be added. The catch-word inside as well as outside the classroom always should be "fun".

Fourthly, make education affordable and accessible to every soul. Now, we can't expect the private players to happily welcome this idea, because they are here mostly to suck blood as much as possible. That's where the government schools are supposed to come in (and they have miserably failed, much to the relief of the blood-suckers and such vested parties). It would do us well to remember that it isn't never wise in creating different classes of students, viz. disadvantaged and advantaged.

Fifthly, allow only trained teachers to teach. What can we expect the half-baked teachers to contribute? Some startling facts revealed by the 6th All India Educational Survey conducted by NCERT are given below:
o Out of a total of more than 13,700 primary teachers in Manipur, only 45% are trained. The all India corresponding figure is 85%.
o Out of more than 7000 upper primary teachers, only an abysmally low 35% are trained. The all India corresponding figure is 87%.
o Only 46% of some 5700 secondary teachers in the state are trained while the corresponding figure for the whole country is a high 91%.
o Out of the 600 odd higher secondary teachers in Manipur, only about half (51%) are trained whereas for the country as whole, 83% of the higher secondary teachers are trained. (*data culled from Deepak Chabungbam's article 'PARENTS, TEACHERS and QUALITY EDUCATION' on e-pao.net.)
It doesn't present a healthy picture at all. Where can we hope to go from this?

Short conclusion:

At the end of the day, what counts is whether the parents, the students and especially the teachers are willing to go that extra mile or not. Because we cannot just leave everything to the government hoping for a free meal.

If Bihar's Anand Kumar could have his globally acclaimed Super 30 programme, if a primary school teacher named Sivasubramania Iyer of an obscure village could instil such curiosity and passion as a teacher that one of his students became APJ Abdul Kalam as we know him, then why can't and shouldn't our teachers and wannabe teachers here aim higher? There is so much they can do to make a lasting difference. And they must. Period.

Dear teachers out there, let me end this piece with a quote. "A teacher affects eternity; he can never tell where his influence stops." - Henry Adams


(NOTE: This article is dedicated to my dear friends Philaton Mk and Dimal Kumar Haobam, who always engage and delight me with the conversations I have with them. Thank you very much, both of you!)


* Rajkumar Panthoiren wrote this article for e-pao.net
The writer can be contacted at panthoirk94(aT)gmail(doT)com
This article was posted on July 15, 2015.


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