Redefining educational norms
‘Death is not the greatest loss in life. The greatest loss is what dies inside us while we live’……..Nouman cousins.
In this fast and ‘far superior’ modern world where every minute in student’s life is accounted and expected (in-fact confined) to be spent merely for educational attainment and academic accomplishments.
All other feats like sporting, recreational, ingenuity, physical fitness, spiritual elevation etc seam to carry no value before the grandiloquent numerical in marks -sheets.
Now it’s all percentage that will define your mental aptitude, creativity, IQ and even your worth in our “enlightened society”.
It’s not Germany where a student has terrible reputation as a student, poor performances, which often skipped classes but carved out for himself the recognition of being one of the greatest theoretical physicists of all time, namely Albert Einstein. Today word” Einstein” is synonymous with genius. Thanks to the society where he was not downgraded or looked upon with disgrace of being a failure.
Nor is it United States where a child, after being expelled from school owing to his so-called inability and mental illness, is taught by his mother at home —whose mind was luckily free from flawed concept of measuring one’s ability on basis of academic performance.
Finally this ‘Dyslexic child’ turns out to be a celebrated scientist of 20th century… Thomas A. Edison. It’s apt to recall the actual story. One day Thomas Edison came home and gave a paper to his mother. He told her, “My teacher gave this paper to me and told me to only give it to my mother.”
His mother’s eyes were tearful as she read the letter out loud to her child: Your son is a genius. This school is too small for him and doesn’t have enough good teachers for training him. Please teach him yourself.
After many, many years, after Edison’s mother died and he was now one of the greatest inventors of the century, one day he was looking through old family things. Suddenly he saw a folded paper in the corner of a drawer in a desk. He took it and opened it up. On the paper was written: Your son is addled [mentally ill]. We won’t let him come to school any more.
Edison cried for hours and then he wrote in his diary: “Thomas Alva Edison was an addled child that, by a hero mother, became the genius of the century.”
These two instances should suffice to corroborate the stance that mere academics is not the only parameter to decide one’s ability of being intelligent and of course of being “worthy”. I don’t mean to deny the virtue and usefulness of education.
All I’m concerned about is the defective perception of efficiency which is based on ‘grade obsessive culture’. Such a faulty notion is eating into the creativity of our children. In our typical Koushur culture, opting for Humanities after matriculation does necessarily mean you are ‘nabkaar’ ( useless) while taking science stream earns you the epithet of Kall’e (intelligent).
No wonder the big contribution to the world has been given by “naabkars”(arts students). From Imaneul Kant to Machiavelli, Winston Churchill to Martin Luther Jr, M KGandhi, Sir Muhammad Iqbal, Nelson Mandela to our times Noam Chomsky, Edward Said, Taqi Usmani to name a few…none of them comes from science background. Still they managed to imprint an indelible mark.
To reinvigorate the education system, India spent Rs 6.43 lakh crore ($88 billion) of public funds on education in 2019-20. However, not much strides could be achieved while the plight at ground level remained abysmal. Reporting in the same year, The Hindu writes:
“It is no secret that primary schools record shockingly poor literacy and numeracy outcomes, dropout levels in middle and secondary schools are significant, and the higher education system has generally failed to meet the aspirations for multi-disciplinary programmes.”
Why so many schools achieved so little education of value is that they already rely too much on coercion. They ask students to read a text or listen to the teacher and then to regurgitate what they’ve read or been told, or risk a failing grade.
Such “authoritarian” or “coercive method” rests on an assumption that children are by nature irresponsible and lazy, and will do their schoolwork only if they are penalized for a poor performance.
Moreover exams, marks and grading these three components remain the focal point there. On the contrary bundle of research papers are coming up debunking the flaws in such traditional approach of pedagogy.
In an article last year, neuroscientist Jared Horvath and educator David Bott said that the practice of marks and grades inflates some aspects of reality. Marks should neither be the driver nor the target of learning. At best, they may be a by-product of learning.” After all what do “better grades” tell us about? At best, it informs how well the student has remembered the content within a time limit. Researches tell a different story.
Children are born curious and eager to achieve. When these qualities are missing, investigation shows, some hurtful influence destroyed them. It’s high time to come out of coercive traditional way of teaching (as the industrial hangover…rooted in archaic carrots and sticks) and rethink the standards of excellence and performance because the true teacher acts as facilitator not a dictator.
Especially for parents not to thrust their own choices upon their children which eventually robs them of their creativity and intellectual capacities. With constant force and intimidation they might become what we want them to be, but they will never be able to discover the “genius” in themselves endowed by nature and will end up living not better than humanoids.
George Bernard Shaw regretted the same when he was asked “What would you do if you could live your life over again?” Shaw: “I’d like to be the person I could have been but never was.”
(The author is pursuing masters in Public Administration at IGNOU)