TODAY -

Corruption of lairik-laisu
- Part 2 -

Erendro Leichombam & Biju Leishangthem *



Let's honestly ask ourselves this: do the current crop of govt. teachers in Manipur deservesuch respect? Are they all passionate about teaching? Is it not high time that teachers take ownership for the sake of these children? Or are they only concerned for their next salaries? If only the teachers could take ownership and raise their voice for these children, it will truly inspire the whole of Manipur.

And it will change things. One of the most revolutionary steps that Finland took was to set a policy for all children to attend public schools, including children of bureaucrats, politicians, and all government employees. This policy change not only enhanced the room for greater accountability and performance but also ensured equal opportunity for all children to gain access to quality education.

The Finnish national love of childhood coupled with a profound respect for teachers as trusted professionals, and a deep understanding of how children learn best, have made Finland a country with abundant Human Resources, and at the top of every international rankings.

Such revolutionary policy changes in Manipur, it seems, are light years away. The Finnish classroom model is almost opposite to ourswhere children are often hammered down, are discouraged toassert themselves, and challenge norms. Indeed, the classroom model we witness in Manipur is almost akin to a factory that fosters a docile, indoctrinated, and timid population; as if the purpose of education was to manufacture an obedient population aspiring merely to become the proverbial "cogs in the machine" that selfs sustain a corrupted cosystem.

The complete failure, the loot and the plunder in the education sector, is shameful. This is an open conspiracy, designed to shape a population that fears authority.

How can we respect ourselves if we all owcorruption, thievery, and oppression right at the base of the pyramid? We must destroy this oppressive pedagogical model that intimidates and corrupts the students from the outset. Instead, we must allow our youth to cultivate self-assurance, encourage them to intellectually challenge ideasin and out of the classroom, including their own teachers', inspire them to inculcate inquisitive minds, and develop critical thinking. Because here is the truth: Oppression begins in the classroom.

What can we do with our corrupt lairik-laisu culture? Countries, such as South Korea makes Public financial support to help private schools possible–leveraging the private sector to advance public sector goals in education. In Manipur, private schools could be leveraged creatively, such as expanding equal opportunities to all sections of the society through cross-subsidization of fees in private schools to unburden families from underprivileged groups, and increasing teacher compensation in the private sector—which is extremely disappointing a nd disrespectful currently—and raising the bar higher for quality teacher recruitment.

This is not to suggest a total privatization of primary education; the intention here is to stop rampant commercialization of education while bringing accountability and performance enhancement to public schools, which should be, needless to mention, exposed to a more robust monitoring and evaluation oversight.

Additionally, keeping in mind the social capital inherent in the Manipuri society, the Communitisation model of education could work wonders. The model involves decentralization—it allows the community to take part-ownership of schools in their localities—thereby empowering the end-users to manage public institutions in all aspects—academic, administrative and finance. This model, first initiatedas a pilot project in Nagaland in 2002, has resulted today in the enactment of "Nagaland Communitisation of Public Services and Institutions Act."

The goals and approaches of education could be complex. While India, and Manipur in particular, indulges in an unhealthy obsessive aspiration of becoming babus and shahibs ofIAS, MCS, and IPS cadres, other regions in the world are making giant leaps in Science and Technology, Entrepreneurship & Humanities, and other fields.

The conflicting perspectives on mentorship, knowledge, and the mission of education, is captured by the following anecdote from China in 1926. At the opening of The People's School, a learning facility started by Xiamen University students for underprivileged children, two professors were invited to speak.

First, a high-ranking professor mounted the dais and spoke: "This school will be beneficial…for example, if servants can read, they will be able to please their masters by delivering their letters correctly…they will earn their bread."

Then came the second professor's turn. He remarked: "You are all children of laborers and farmers. Because you are poor, you couldn't study but the only poverty you suffer is that of money. You are not poor in intelligence or ability. No one is so powerful that he is free to treat you as his eternal slaves…Nor is it your fate to remain poor all your lives. If only you have the determination, if only you have the will to fight, you will definitely succeed, you will definitely have a bright future."

The auditorium rocked with thunderous applause.The second professor was Lu Xun, today a revered figure. Xiamen University students, moved by Lu Xun's speech, said to him: "When we are near you, we feel refreshed and energized, as if we were next to the ocean."

"No," replied Lu Xun and pointed to the underprivileged children, "there is your ocean."

In conclusion, the questions that we must ask as citizens, teachers, parents, and leaders are these: how do we facilitate a union among those who seek their "oceans" and those who are yearning for wisdom? And ultimately, how do we, instead of disempowering the people or keeping them oppressed through a flawed pedagogy—inform and empower them of their "wholesome discretion" to control their own lives? It starts with the mentors.

** The article is an excerpt from PRJA's weekly discussion meetings—Wakhaloi Meepham

Concluded...


* Erendro Leichombam & Biju Leishangthem wrote this article for The Sangai Express
This article was posted on July 01, 2017.


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