Four Ideas on Education

A friend with young school-going children was recently talking to me about education. Some ideas came up in the conversation that I thought were worth sharing here as this week’s blog post.

  1. Imagine a classroom with many children working on some set task and an adult sitting in the classroom busy with some work of his own. He will be available to answer queries, if required, while the children are learning on their own in small groups. The work the teacher could be doing may be something that actually earns him his livelihood. For example, we can imagine that the teacher is part of a distributed software team and he is doing his work finishing a project while the children in his class go through their maths or science syllabus. If you think that this idea is Utopian you should take a look at the work of Dr Sugato Mitra who has experimented with giving unsupervised computer access to illiterate children and seen them teach themselves English and complicated subjects like biochemistry (
  2. School can be a place where the teacher grows in knowledge and wisdom. Transacting the school text books with passive students leads to neither knowledge nor wisdom. If we have a good artist, a good craftsman, a good poet, a good actor, a good boxer, all hanging out together in the same school staff room with an agenda to learn from each other, it is possible that all of them will grow in knowledge and wisdom. It is grown-up, wise men and women we need if we want our students also to aspire to be grown up and wise. This seems to be obvious but in every school the teachers are so stretched finishing their syllabus that there is no time for self-development.
  3. One often hears people saying that they enjoy the company of children so they chose to work as school teachers. We see that the company of grown-ups is helpful in making us grown-up. This is the idea of the Sangha where people at different stages of maturity come together and help each other to grow up. So what my friend was wondering was whether spending all your time with children, getting involved in all their activities, was not a way to infantilize ourselves? You may not agree and this is a slightly controversial idea but I think it is worth thinking about.
  4. A large percentage of school teachers are women. This has happened probably because the work of a school teacher is perceived to be easy with its long breaks and fixed timetables. A woman who has to make food and take care of children and take care of the house will probably find being a teacher easier than being a software engineer working to tight deadlines. All this is very commendable but is it not true that when we bring up our children, both the mother and father play different roles and both are equally important? I know that in the polarised world of today’s feminist ideologies there may be people who think that the father plays no role or plays a negative role. Keeping such foolish ideas to the side, does it not seem that children spending huge amounts of time in our current school system are like children who are being brought up in a fatherless house?

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