(Continued from last week…)
Young potential educator (Ype): I am not saying that I agree with you but you have certainly given me some food for thought. Tell me some more about modern education.
Me: Let us look at it from two perspectives. Think of a large school. A school with thousands of children, hundreds of teachers, dozens of school buses and huge buildings. In such a school, a teacher stands in front of 40 or 50 children in a class and tries to ‘teach’ some uninteresting, obscure content. If each child is unique, doesn’t this way of ‘teaching’ seem an impossible, insurmountable task? Also, considering the huge infrastructure and the crowd of people moving in it, it is obvious that the school’s focus will be on logistics and administration and classroom management rather than on ‘teaching’. Now let us zoom out and think of the entire Indian education system. The MHRD document ‘Educational statistics at a glance’ which you can download from the internet had the following interesting data points in it. Of the 2.6 crore children who join 1st standard only 90 lakh pass the 12th standard exam. This means that 65% children fail and the 90 lakh who pass through the system are fighting for the less than 1 lakh seats in the ‘good’ colleges. This is how the system is set up at the macro level. Modern education is an impossible-to-succeed exercise in mega-scale logistics.
Ype: You paint a very depressing picture. Surely there are national level efforts to correct this situation. And isn’t what you describe the perfect scenario for the holistic education I want to create?
Me: You must have heard about the national efforts. I have no faith in them but I will only say that making incremental changes in a system that cannot work is no recipe for success. A Sanskrit scholar told me that in our decentralized, indigenous education system that the British destroyed, we used to focus on vyakti-nirmaan. Today’s education is fully focussed on training students to get a livelihood. Vyakti-nirmaan is a natural process unique to each student that cannot be fitted into a ‘system’ or into textbook lectures. An inspirational teacher is probably a basic requirement. All the effort in modern education is in trying to ‘fix’ teaching. What we probably need are environments where children learn on their own with minimal teaching. I hope that also answers your question about creating a holistic learning environment. The World is one such environment and all of us are students in it.
Ype: I think that what you are telling me is that I should not leave my corporate job to start a school.
Me: You are a victor of the extremely competitive game of school and college education, and you have won the prize that modern education is pushing every student towards – a good job. If you leave that and go and start teaching children, will you be working to take these children in some other direction? And how will you succeed if the entire system that you are working inside is geared in the direction of only getting a good job? And even if you want to steer them in some other direction, do you know what that is? Yes, I think you should stay in your good job and not get involved in the sad, crowded, confused field of modern education.