Two things are very deeply ingrained in the Indian psyche: obtaining a college degree and landing up a good job. Most of the students are not bothered what they are graduating in but they just go through the college for three reasons; one it gives them an opportunity to spend good three years of life in the company of peers , friends; two it keeps the parents off their trail, keeps the parents happy and three some think that obtaining a degree will open up avenues for better jobs.
COVID – 19 has been spreading like wildfire since it was declared a pandemic by WHO on 30 Jan 20. The virus has equally affected the rich or the poor, developed & underdeveloped countries. The education sector too has been badly affected with all educational institutes / schools remaining closed since last two months, exams have been cancelled and uncertainty prevails about the start of new session.
Though the pandemic has directly affected the conduct of classrooms teaching but it has thrown open doors of opportunity in a change resistant sector, which education has generally been. The situation is forcing an introspection in the sector and adoption of technology as a major aid. Though the schools are adopting various available platforms to impart online education to students, various issues exist, especially in rural/ remote areas, which require deliberations and workable solutions to make digital learning/ teaching more effective.
COVID – 19 has affected the world like nothing else ever had in our lifetime. It is setting ‘New Normal’ in our daily life. Caution has become integral to every action we do. It is like word Corona has been added to the ‘Drop down menu’ of the mind and whenever we set out to do anything the menu drops down and a question is asked “Is what I intend to do going to expose me to ‘Corona virus’ in anyway”? There is a detailed in-house deliberation in the mind and if and only if the answer is ‘No’ then only we go ahead to execute what we intend doing. Such a fear had never affected the human minds before. Mask & sanitiser have become the permanent content of every briefcase and the handbag. Now more than’ Khana Khaaya?’ (‘Had food’) the mothers are heard asking the kids ‘Haath dhoya?’ (Have you washed hands?).
My profession gives me the privilege of moving out and interact with people, exercising due precautions, so I admit that I may not be able to fully empathise with people who are experiencing the ‘locked down’ in real sense. My article is based less on my personal experiences and more on experiences of my close family members and friends.
My small family of four is normally split between four places due to our professional and educational commitments/ requirements. Kind courtesy the lockdown, my wife and son are staying alone at Delhi and Chennai respectively. I was a bit lucky as the daughter had come visiting just before the lockdown was announced and is with me as the college remains closed.
Being Single (With no help available)
My son is now managing his life and work from his one room apartment. He has learnt to divide his time between work, wash, cook, eat and rest. The single room functions as the workstation, bedroom and kitchen. Just goes out once a week, face covered, maintaining physical distance to get his supplies from local grocery. He has not felt the need of the ‘Swiggy’ or the ‘Zomato’ to come to his aid. I understand that like him many other single men and women must be similarly managing their lives but in his case the transformation has been so fast, and he has adopted to the new normal so quickly and easily. The young generation has adopted to the changing situation in no time, they are ready to face any adversity.
My wife also, like many other working women, is managing her office work and home single all by herself without any help at hand. Frankly, it is after ages that she has been caught in such a situation and she is managing it well.
Homes are the Safest & the Best
The homes have become the safest place to be in. The offices have shifted to home. The elders, kids, the pets, and the office have learnt to happily co-exist in a two-bedroom flat. The kids are not persisting with demands to go out and play in the park or go to a restaurant. Everyone seems to have understood the need of the hour – precaution (Except some men who were badly missing ‘The bottle’ and could not control the urge as soon the restriction was lifted).
My salutations to the ladies specially the ‘working mothers’ who are juggling the role of mother, wife, home maker and a professional within the four walls of the home without relief and still managing to smile.
Homes have become the best holiday destination too. It is not just the school/ college going kids in India but also those who had preferred foreign shores for studies/ work have either flown back or are desperate to fly back home.
Re-discovering the Lost Talent
In the absence of the maid, the mothers (in some cases fathers too) are exhibiting the cooking skills and the kids are loving it (hopefully). Many would have realised how much money they unnecessarily wasted in those restaurants when better food could be prepared at home. People are learning to ‘Live with less’. Brilliant recipes are being dished out with ‘Whatever available’. Fear of weight gain has put caution to eating habits too.
Besides cooking many more hidden talents are being re-discovered in each home. ‘Har ghar kuch kehta hai’ or Har insaan mein talent bhara hai’ is being realised. (every home (family) has a story to tell and every man has a hidden talent)
The Malls,Markets,Schools & The Internet
The Malls are closed, Gyms/ parlours shut and the movie halls non- functional; I, for one, am not missing them at all. I do not like too much crowd, do not have much hairs left on the head and was always happy with my ‘Zero Pack’. The E-Commerce is knocking at the door to become the way of life. Netflix and other OTT platforms have replaced the movie halls & TV soap operas with professional ease (Thank God, we have a break from those never-ending soap operas).
Online classes and the webinars have become the style statements of the educational institutes. Internet is connecting the world like it had never done before. The office, education, relationships, and friendships are all dependent on the Internet for survival. Now it should be easier to ‘Date’ two (or more) people in real time, isn’t it?
Survival of the Fittest- Immunity is back in Business
Darwin’s theory of ‘Survival of the fittest’ is coming true. Anyone and everyone who was prepared for ‘A rainy day’ both health and wealth wise has not been affected the way the ones who never bothered to save. Immunity is back in business but, not the type promised by all the packaged food makers who are trying to encash the opportunity provided by the pandemic by labelling every food product as ‘Immunity booster’; It is the ‘Stamina’ fuelled by the savings & good mental/ physical health which will take one through; provide the immunity. Optimal utilisation of available resources and surviving with minimum is the new norm for survival.
Moving from ‘Religion to Responsibility’
Heard ‘Sadhguru’ speaking on the subject on one the TV channels. India, like many other, is a country of believers. Each culture, community, religion propagating their own belief. Two places where there was never a dearth of crowd (Should I say ‘Bhakts’?) was a Religious or a Political congregation. What one gained from there is a matter of debate, but people went there. ‘Corona’ has put an end, may be temporary, to all that. People, in general, have started taking the responsibility of their lives. The ‘GOD’ has come back to where HE belonged, The home. People have (hopefully) realised the true worth of the existing leadership, most of them ran out of ideas (Did most have any?) at the word ‘go’ itself. People are learning to live their lives their own way, within their own means. I hope this becomes ‘The way of life… A New Normal’.
Hugs & Kisses
The hugs and kisses have been put on hold. Though, I am sure, a new ‘sanitised version’ of the hug will soon hit the market but Kiss (outdoors) specially the French version might have to wait. Amir Khan was finding a simple spectacle to be an obstacle in kissing in the ‘Three Idiots’ here we have two masks in between and the fear of passing on the ‘Corona’. One never knows, the French Kiss may end up becoming the most ‘deadliest murder tool’ (Killing me softly with his love…becoming a reality?).
Change is what we all resist; Change is what the pandemic is persisting to bring; The choice is obvious; Change man change.
The teachers are always running against time and hard pressed for completing the syllabus for respective classes but is all that effort actually worth it? Is all that effort actually leading to educating the mind , which it is supposed to? The syllabus are vast, so much to learn in a limited time followed by tests and tests and more tests to test the retention (certainly not understanding) capability of a child’s mind. Some schools and Board of Education go a step further and believe that more difficult the question paper better it is for testing the mind.
Damn it! Job of the schools and all these Education boards is to educate the minds and not just to ‘Test and grade’ . Marks can be obtained through rote learning( which most students resort to ) But education comes through understanding (There is no time to understand nor much efforts is made by schools/ teachers towards that). Ease out the syllabus, give time to teachers & students to make the teaching / learning process more practical.
‘Information by itself has little meaning unless the mind knows how to use it practically’.
Indian education system is in dire need of reforms. Equal opportunities need to be provided, weight from mind & shoulders of students need to be removed, examination policy needs a thorough review, major up-gradation required in government schools especially in rural areas, caste & community based reservation system definitely needs a re-look, the fee structure being charged in private schools needs to be brought under control, dependency on costly tutorial classes to clear the competitive exams has to be systematically removed, all schools including the ones in rural/ remote areas got to go digital. The list is long, and a thorough deliberation is required before action worthy solutions are found. But one thing is
for sure, the Education system needs urgent attention of people in power and time is running out.
Pragmatic reform process requires a deliberation by unbiased minds without any political considerations with only the future of students and the nation remaining the focus of attention.
What is required to be done?
Syllabus. The syllabus requires a thorough revision. The weight on the shoulders of students (in the form of school bags) and on the minds (in the form of exams & grades) has been constantly on the increase over past few years. The content of the textbooks must be reduced. The methodology of imparting education must undergo a change. The syllabus must be divided into ‘must learn’ & ‘could learn’ in terms of importance and students be taught and tested accordingly. Important subjects should be covered in class while online data / videos be provided of ‘could know’ topics to students to learn in their own time.
Exams. Our examination system is the cause of maximum stress in the minds of students. There should not be any exams upto class IXth and for class XIth while for class Xth and XIIth only internal exams be conducted by schools. Boards exams conducted centrally by State Education boards and CBSE/ ICSE to be done away with. This will bring in tremendous financial saving for boards as also save time and effort. Teachers & Parents will certainly raise objections against implementation of such a proposal, but a careful analysis will easily establish that the laborious process of conducting exams has not brought in much change in the quality of students being produced. Let us stop ‘force educating’ and shift the onus of learning to the students; anybody who wants to learn will learn and anybody who does not want to, will not learn under any pressure. Instead of tutoring and mentoring few ‘Arjunas’ the schools should look at finding, encouraging, and developing more ‘Eklavyas’. Focus must shift from ‘testing and grading’ to ‘educating and igniting’ the mind.
Quality of Schools. The difference in quality of education being imparted in private and government schools can be easily made out. Given the present circumstances a student of Government school cannot or will find it very difficult to compete with a private school student in any competitive exams, given that both have not had the benefit of Tutorial classes. The governments must give due importance to education and make requisite funds available to government schools. It is not difficult to bring in a qualitative change, only a will to do is required. The quality of the teacher matters more than anything else. ‘Training of the trainer’ is the sole responsibility of the management and all-out effort must be made towards achieving this. Most of Government schools specially in rural areas are deficient of teachers, this should not be acceptable at any cost; especially when you are dealing with the future of the nation.
Primary Education. A vast divide exists between private schools and the government schools specially the ones in rural/remote areas. Primary education is the base on which depends the height which a student will attain later in life. The child has to be conditioned to think big and this cannot happen in dingy seepage affected classrooms under the guidance of some uninterested teacher. This area requires immediate attention and improvement; teacher deficiency and adhoc arrangements must be done away with.
Equal Opportunities. Governments must ensure that equal opportunities are provided to students from any background in the field of education. The ‘visible divide’ existing between the rich and the poor, city and villages must be removed. I know it is not easy to accomplish but know for sure that it is not impossible. Certain actions like implementation of Right to Education Act have already being taken by the government and require a greater push.
Reservations. Reservation, based on caste, creed, race, income in professional institutes has been a bone of contention since years. Reservation which was started in 1951 as a 10 years package for upliftment of certain class of citizens was very much a need then. But instead of seeing an end, it has gone on and now includes many more classes and castes in its fold with total reservation being 59.5 %. It has seemingly become more of an appeasement tool for all political parties. If reservation was the best method for upliftment of any caste or class, then why it has not succeeded till now in achieving the aim? It only creates further divide among citizens; there are students belonging to so called ‘upper classes’ studying in government schools, having no access to high standard resources being from rural areas or lower income group (not covered under economically backward sections) families and don’t qualify for any reservations too. It is well understood that reservation cannot and should not be abolished in a hurry, it has to be a gradual well thought out process. Reservation based on caste or class has never benefitted anyone, what is required are equal opportunities and a level playing field to compete.
Governments must undertake the undermentioned measures to provide a level playing field for all to compete.
(a) Free education to all ‘backward’ class and rural students in government schools. Implement Right to Education Act ruthlessly.
(b) Improve the quality of education in government schools.
(c) Ensure subsidised coaching facilities to backward class & rural students in renowned coaching classes in cities.
(d) Open Government run coaching classes for backward class & rural, students. Quality of educators has to be ensured. Students should be selected for these classes based on their performance in schools.
(e) Admissions in all colleges to be based on entrance exams so that only desirous candidates join.
(f) More Poly-technique colleges and facilities for earning professional diplomas be opened. Quality must be ensured in such institutes.
(g) Graduation should not be essential for all Class A jobs. Certain diplomas should also be made eligible. This will reduce the mad rush for college admission to an extent.
(h) Psychological counselling/ conditioning should be made compulsory for all students from VIII standard to build their mental strength and shape them towards a better future.
(j) Once adequate measures to provide level playing field in competitive exams have been institutionalised then gradually the process of reducing reservations should come into effect. A start can be made by raising the ‘cut off’ marks laid down for reserved category students for admissions. Any reserved category seat left vacant due to non-availability of suitable candidates must be offered to general category candidate.
Fee Structure. While it is understood that Government must not interfere in every issue but in matter of education, which is a right of every child, it must. The fee being charged by private schools must be governed by a legislation and they should not be allowed to charge whatever they want, at will. Commercialisation of education should be curbed at all costs.
Digital Connect. Online education is the need of the hour. COVID -19 has forced it on the schools and it is here to stay. While private schools, due to the location and the facilities available can manage but the schools in rural/ remote areas are lagging. These schools must be provided with all possible support to implement e – education otherwise there may develop a great ‘digital divide’ and students from rural/ remote areas are bound to suffer. CBSE and state Education boards should develop and host their own e-education portals for benefit of government school students. The facility can be made available to other schools too on payment. High speed internet facility must be provided to all schools and all areas to help teacher and students connect. The teachers need to be empowered to help them in handling online classes.
Education is the basic pillar on which the society stands. The ‘quality of life’ index of a nation is directly dependent on the education standards of the citizens. This sector cannot be neglected. The school going students may not be voters who affect the outcome of elections but on them depends the future and the quality of future leadership of this great nation. I request the people in power to pay attention and work towards bringing in qualitative changes in the education system and make available high-quality infrastructure and resources to students and teachers.
PS: I am not a schoolteacher or an administrator, I am just a parent who has a limited knowledge of management of educational institutes/ schools (having been part of the management of some government run schools). I have had privilege of experiencing school education only till 10th standard (that is the only Board Exam I have faced) beyond that it was more of ‘On the job training’ (I have never been to a college). The views I have expressed are solely personal, part based on my own experiences gained from being a proud father of two children who have gone through the paces of acquiring formal education and from being married to a lady who has been working in the field of education last nearly 26 years with some breaks here and there.
Deepawali, is one festival which is celebrated across India by one and all irrespective of the religion they follow. As per mythology Lord Rama reached back Ayodhya (His Kingdom) on this day after completion of his 14 years exile and vanquishing Ravana in a bitter battle at Lanka. This day happened to be a New moon day (No moon) and each end every house was well lit up with the help of earthen lamps to welcome the prince (Rama). Even now all houses are lighted up using earthen lamps as also modern lights to commemorate the home coming and people burst crackers too to express happiness.
My 17-year-old daughter is in the final year of school. This, as per most of us, is supposedly the most crucial year of education and on the result of this exam will depend the future of the child. This is the stage, when most parents, elders, teachers will be breathing down the child’s neck reminding him/ her the importance of doing well (getting more than 90 % marks). Forcing the child to give up their hobbies or love of games in favour of books. Child is expected to spend as much time with books as possible.
In every class in a school there are intelligent and not so intelligent students or one can classify them as hardworking and not so hardworking or may be the worldly- wise types who know when and where to put in the hard work.
There is a vast majority which religiously does the homework daily and then there are other two types; one who just copy the homework of the hardworking types and then there are the more intelligent types who also copy the answers of the hardworking types but are sharp enough to change the way it is presented, making it look like original work. Well I have no intention of re-igniting the age- old debate as to who among the three types is actually intelligent. I am here to debate as to who among them is ‘original’.
My son is in the final year of his B Tech pursuing a course in computer Science and Engineering. The fourth and final year is most crucial, in the sense that at the start of the session itself major companies start scouting for interns as well as for regular employment through college placement. This is normally the first time the young budding graduates face the interviews for placements. Every student wishes to get a suitable placement as per his calibre, but they all know in their heart that not everyone will be successful through campus interviews (rather a large majority may not get what they are looking for).
My 17 years old daughter is a student of class 12 (Science student). In Indian subcontinent, the future of child is based on he/ she performs in class 12th (at least a majority of us would believe it to be true). As a parent, I want to empower my child with the power of decision making, have freedom of expression and imagination and most of all I want her to live life not to just survive. She is a go-getter, full of life with creativity and innovation being her passion. As she copes with her class 12 studies we are struggling to strike a right balance between ‘Her life” and her ‘School life’. Continue reading “Is our education system encouraging or killing creativity/ innovation????”