My neighbor’s child, a 13 year old in her most formative years of education had a computer science exam a few days back. She came to our home to prepare as the parents had a wedding to attend. Seeing her all perplexed, I came in to help. I asked her questions, such as what is a cell in a spreadsheet?. Closing her eyes, trying to regain from her last 2 hours effort of learning; in the most parrot-fashion there is, she muttered hastily, “A cell in a spreadsheet is a..”. It took her a few more attempts after which she finally was able to spit the whole definition, “A cell is the intersection between a row and a column on a spreadsheet”. I was a little unsettled after seeing her journey to the answer. Being a topper of her class comes with the expectations of her being a rational and a logical student. I then went deeper with the question, asking her to explain to me where a cell or a spreadsheet was used. Upon her silence, I tried to probe the cause of such an apathy. Her statement in defence stood that she didn’t have many practical classes. Sadly, this is the sorry state of one of the most renowned centrally funded schools of our country.
The present scenario of the state of schools in our country shows a uniformity in the learning pattern. Every kid receives the same textbooks, and gets the same notes. But how then do we grade our students? In order to do this, the country follows a uniform system of education which primarily aims at imparting basic education to the great 41 percent of our population. We believe that students need to be brought to the same footing across the country so that they have an equal shot at the life that awaits them. But in doing so, we try to measure the capabilities of every student with the same yardstick, forgetting the niche of every student.
The recent upsurge in the number of students who score 90% and above in boards, and not an equal one when it comes to their employability, goes on to reveal the nuances of the system that rote-learning has been successful in producing. Question papers are designed in such a way that any student having decent rote-learning capabilities can score well. Hence, there is a very limited motivation for the students to dive deeper in the subject. The propensity of their parents in wanting them to finish at the podium only worsens the case.
School years are the time when we can make our kids fearless in exploring. We can pick their curiosity and help them in stretching it to the extents of the Universe. Also, the roles of teachers in the schools are so strictly defined that even a hint of difference between what is taught to the children and the doubts that occur to them is almost always ignored and left under appreciated.
The definition of education in India is restricted to a handful of subjects and the appreciation for kids in fields other than those is lowly applauded. It doesn’t matter if it’s a Kathak queen or a Violin prodigy; all of them are only encouraged to score well in the 10th and prepare to become a Doctor, another engineer or the white collared Chartered Accountant.
To build a strong nation, it is required for it to have a solid foundation. For a country which has its 2/5th population under 18, it becomes imperative that a rightful methodology is placed in the education system. This 41% of India will define where our country ranks itself on the social, economical, political and scientific fronts for the century to come. As Mahatma Gandhi once said, “what is really needed to make democracy function is not knowledge of facts, but right education”.