President & Group Managing Director: Dr.Shelly Ahmed | Editor in Chief & Group CEO: M H Ahssan

Saturday, November 09, 2013

Tody's Education Beyond Teaching, Tests And Textbooks

By Sultana Shiraz / INN Live

If our school education has to make a mark, it has to surpass tests and textbooks, argues INN Live

School education has become a mere jumble of books, syllabus, portions, homework, tests, exams, marks, grade, percentage, detentions, and impositions. Is there anything more to school education beyond these? There seems to be no proper data of improvement in learning outcomes with such education. When young minds are forced to get molded into this rigmarole it saddens our hearts.
A number of child educators might have started child centered schools all over the country to cater to the elite population. They may refute the above ideas and say, “We are not into such a pattern.” But for most of our children, the education scene is not a happy one. 

The dominant model of education is still fundamentally rooted in learning by rote and writing after writing.  Punctuality, regularity, attendance, silence and punishments; these are the hall marks of education in majority of schools that cater to the ordinary children. Even private schools that boast of innovative teaching seem to have a myopic vision regarding this.

Kindling a flame
Children are not materials to be processed, programmed, and quality-tested. Schools are forced to prescribe certain text books for children according to the dictates of the State Education Department and other boards where the selection committees are also at the mercy of some higher authorities. 

It is true that the present educational system of India is an implantation of British rulers. Wood's Dispatch of 1854 laid the foundation of the present system of education in India. Before the advent of British, Indian education system was a private one. With the introduction of Wood's Dispatch known as Magna Carta of Indian education, the whole scenario changed. The purpose of it was to prepare Indian Clerks for running local administration. 

The mind-set remain the same even today. It is not that the schools and educators are happy about it; but they are silent as their hands are tied. Bookish knowledge is given prominence .

World’s renowned people have always been saying everything against factual knowledge. Einstein said, “Imagination is more important than knowledge.” Socrates, the great philosopher, said, “Education is not filling of a vessel but kindling of a flame.”

John Taylor Gatto, an award-winning school teacher from the public schools of New York City, said: “I’ve noticed a fascinating phenomenon in my 25 years of teaching — schools and schooling are increasingly irrelevant to the great enterprises of the planet. No one believes anymore that scientists are trained in science classes or politicians in civics classes or poets in English classes. Thousands of humane, caring people work in schools as teachers and administrators but the abstract logic of the institution overwhelms their individual contributions.”

Text book culture
Prof Krishna Kumar of the Department of Education, Delhi University, opined, “We are mired in textbook culture of the nineteenth century that required the textbook to be a bible.” In majority of schools teachers are tied to textbooks and are expected to elucidate the texts lesson by lesson in a particular order. Teachers are supposed to ensure that children are able to write answers to questions based on any lesson in the text book without looking at the text. This is what they call education.

Kumar further opines that the school is not the place where a child can 'make sense' of the world. Skills that any child would use to solve new problems have no place in the primary school. Indeed 'making sense' and 'solving problems' are not on the agenda at all. What seems to be on the agenda is influencing and even subverting the teaching of history and civics in the country by exercising state control on prescribing text-books. 

Dismal higher education
H E Gorst, a british lawyer and politician, said, “As long as education is synonymous with cramming on an organised plan, it will continue to produce mediocrity.”

Higher education opportunity in our country is entirely based on marks of entrance tests. So, it is natural that schools work towards maximising this chance.  Unfortunately high marks and grades are not the criteria for achieving desired goals of university education. Undue emphasis on marks has hurt the chances of really bright students. 

The kind of doctors, engineers and other professionals we are churning out in our country are able to give only mediocre services. They have been given seats in professional colleges based on their marks. The blame is on the type of education that they have received in primary, secondary and higher secondary schools.

The educational scenario in India seems uncertain even today.  Recently, the Cabinet of Ministers has approved a bill to allow foreign universities to set up universities in India to offer their degrees. Kapil Sibal, our former Human Resource and Development Minister, felt that this bill would open more opportunities to Indian students and the educational scenario would improve.

When students from various local schools enter the university, their educational background is inadequate as they may not have been exposed to the kind of academic disciplines that are required for graduate studies.
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