Education for today

Education for today’s children –Vidya Shankar

What every parent wants for their child – to become a genius. Atleast that’s what the first sight of a newborn would prompt their thought. They slowly find themselves at cross roads – “which school would serve this goal”? The gamble begins early and ends on the day of admission into a prestigious school! Now rest assured, parents outsource the “genius creating” process to the school.

The sad part comes next. How contemporary and ready are schools to receive today’s children, with an understanding that it is human making environment that the child needs and not pounding of concepts and theories. Information folds out aplenty on the click of a button, a student certainly need guidance to manage such a glut. He needs role model adults around him whom he can rely on, whom he believes his parents have entrusted him to. When his zeal is punctured, the student’s wrath turns onto all adults in his life, who have failed in his expectations. What are his expectations -one may ask. If we know and love children, we would realize that he surely does not expect a lackadaisical easygoing life and holidays all the while.

In many schools, students and teachers are just tied to textbooks and a set curriculum that is linear, without considering the learning styles, abilities, inner potential, local knowledge and resources, besides importantly the way children want to learn. Inspite of many years of formal schooling, today the drop out rates and knowledge levels of children in our schools do not portray justified spending of resources.

What about the teacher?

Dr. Maria Montessori a saint and legend for children in her various discourses has in her book               “ To educate the human potential” mentioned about teachers,

“Not in the service of any political or social creed should the teacher work, but in the service of the complete human being, able to exercise in freedom a self-disciplined will and judgment, unperverted by prejudice and undistorted by fear.  (1973, p. 3)”

Today teaching is a profession that hardly pays or is rarely supported. It has been regarded as a last rung job, and not for those who feel the teacher in them.

Where is the child?

We need to consider what will go on in the mind of the child when he first experiences a separation trauma. The very act of sending the child to school seems to eschew the peaceful transition. Neither parents nor teachers have given a thought to this as “anyway the child will forget and move on”.

Built on a series of negative experiences and insecurities, kings of tomorrow march on their path of “school based education”, reluctantly towards the future.

If we understand children’s needs we would know that they have remained the same, ever since the human race existed. They were- unconditional love and a feeling of security. Yet, we numb these needs and activate “materialistic wants “ at school and home that tends to be an extension of school, whereas it has to be reverse. The school has to feel like an extended home.

What is education then?

Swami Chinmayananda.  Tapovan Prasad Sep 04

“If each new day we find ourselves more trustingly helpful to others and we do our increased load of work with mounting joy and interest, then we can be sure that our Education is taking us in the right direction.”

A completely new approach to education from the existing factory schooling is the need of the hour. If we would take a litmus test with any child in a school, to inform us whether he would enjoy a holiday or going to school, it would reveal the hypocritical nature that a school today is nurturing. Children by nature are curious and ever willing to learn. If they detest going to school, what are we turning a blind eye to? Experiments by educationists and philosophers have time and again proved that it is the facilitating significant adult and a learning environment that makes lifelong learning a habit for children, way past into their adulthood.

 Where are the parents?

Caught between lack of understanding of the children’s needs, and lack of choices, parents buckle to the pressure of societal norms, of admitting their children to reputed schools, standing in long queues. Well known Educationists have given a clarion call to parents to take charge of their children’s education forming associations advocating and implementing quality education for children, perhaps participating actively in schools and influencing the managements to believe that they wish well for their children to learn peacefully and happily with respect and dignity in their premises.

 Democracy in education

In any educational setting, where young people have the right

  • to decide individually how, when, what, where and with whom they learn
  • to have an equal share in the decision-making as to how their organisations – in particular their schools and colleges– are run, and which rules and sanctions, if any, are necessary,

they have the readiness to step out as responsible citizens into a democratic society. If students do not realize and understand freedom and accountability, how does one explain our duties and responsibilities of a citizen in a democratic country?

Time for a Renaissance

When do children feel the need for delving deeper, or become lifelong learners?

When their early classroom experiences made them

  • feel loved
  • feel understood
  • feel respected
  • feel valued
  • feel safe

The questions we need to ask ourselves when we think of educating our children

-          why is fear considered the only way to learn?

-          what if students are thought of as customers who are rights aware?

A teacher is venerated in our country. But if we ask today’s children, they would respond by saying, respect flows from friendship and camaraderie rather than fear.  Will the teaching community rise up to this fact and treat students with dignity and model decorum?