Rethinking education

Published On: November 17, 2016 12:25 AM NPT By: Anjali Subedi

Instead of promoting broader and innovative thinking and making them learn with joy, schools treat children much like machines
When she was just two, my daughter used to show a great love for reading picture books of her level. Later, she developed fondness for writing as well. By the age of three, she had learnt a lot of things with a great fun through books, audio and videos including basic nursery rhymes. Things changed once she stepped in school as a nursery kid. Her love for reading and writing declined and school became the last thing she wanted to go. ‘A well-known Montessori method based school’ in Kalanki, Kathmandu where I had paid hefty admission fee failed to comfort her. I withdrew her from that school on 16th day of admission.

Within those 16 days I had already searched another school nearby. The newly opened ‘Happy Home’ looked warmer for kids though fee was far cheaper. There she became fond of her teachers, school staffs and friends pretty soon and her love for learning new things was recovered. But the school offered classes only up to upper KG which meant she would have to go to another school for grade one and above. I could not find for her school like Happy Home this time. So I admitted her to an average school. Upon my request not to overload children with unnecessary homework and rather give them freer and creative environment to learn, the teachers would call me “an odd parent” with “impractical” demand.

In my time, apart from learning from books, school was more about disciplining me and my friends. And the discipline meant do not discuss, do not express free ideas, do not argue, do not have an eye contact with teachers, do not play and run beyond the limited time, do not ask many questions, do not be angry so on and so forth.  

We still had fun and loved going to school for the love of friends and the different special world that we had created.

About two decades later, the school environment in general has not changed much. The classroom my daughter attends, the teachers who handle her or the texts she brainstorms are more or less the same as in the past. I can see that if she fails to fall in the category of ‘a good, submissive, obedient child’ it is going to be very hard for her to adjust in school. 

In other words, instead of promoting broader and innovative thinking and making them learn things with joy, schools treat children like machines, who are to find their boundaries within textbooks and the suppressive school culture and compound. It is no less than producing unnatural bunch of creatures through the factories called schools which aim to shape them just to fit in the job market in future. Unnatural because being forcefully submissive is not natural of a child. When the commands ‘shut up’, ‘pin-drop silence’, ‘no talking’, ‘no side-talking’ are what the pupils hear all the time, they become timid from inside. So what should be done?

I was reading a report about education system in Finland, whose education system is considered world’s best. Finnish officials want to remove school subjects from the curriculum. Instead of individual subjects like math, physics, history, literature or geography, students will study events and phenomena in an interdisciplinary format.

Studying further, I found that they are avoiding traditional teaching format to make education more rewarding. 

Education system in Japan gives high priority to protecting tenderness and moral values among kids with a clear vision to make them responsible human beings when they grow up. 

I myself had covered a story of Gyanudaya Secondary School (a government school in Bafal, Kathmandu) famed for its child-friendly approach of teaching and producing excellent results in SLC.

The Underachieving School written 5 decades ago by an American educationist John Holt describes what is wrong with traditional approach of teaching and how learning can be made fun. Indian movies like Tare Jamin Par and Munna Bhai MBBS show how insensitive schools are towards students. 

By nature, each child is innocent, curious and joyful. They learn more effectively when handled with love and care. They can learn difficult things if teachers show the right attitude and apply smart teaching techniques. If textbooks fail to attract children despite serious efforts by teachers, that should be just fine. But in schools, when children fail to understand textbooks, they are made to feel the world has fallen apart. Due to lack of awareness, parents behave with such kids equally mercilessly. They also want to keep children’s learning limited to textbooks and tests. What are we doing?

Teachers’ rather rude behavior to students is understandable. This is the byproduct of the education system. The overused and lowly paid teachers are just a part of the cruel system they have not created.  

In private schools there are investors who want to make fast bucks. The business groups will not improve the environment as long as money keeps coming through commissions from dresses, stationeries, extra books and several other rules. Sadly, even the government has failed to sense what actually is missing in the whole education system. 

Business should not come first when it comes to education of children. When so much money, resources and time have been invested for education schools and colleges should not just impart textbook knowledge. They should be offering more precious rewards. 

Learning should be occupation/career centric. It should also be a door to self-realization.

While the first one is important for physical prosperity, the second is essential for the prosperity of the mind and heart. Openness of mind and heart makes it easy to see unity in diversity and such minds always act as messengers of peace and harmony in the world. Only the leaders coming from such society or schooling are inclined to prioritize humanity and justice while taking decisions. 

There is little hope from the current bunch of politicians. So, we must work to make schools and colleges the right zone not only to produce skilled human resource but also to produce visionary leaders for future. We need to redefine the essence of schools and education and overhaul the system with a goal to keep human happiness, prosperity and understanding at its core.

The author is with Republica’s social bureau

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