The assembly is all set to start. Little children from a village in Chhattisgarh wearing blue uniforms, were made to stand in queues. They have assembled in the school’s playground for the Morning Prayer. The teacher commanded in Hindi “Savdhan-Vishram” (Attention-Stand at Ease), but nobody understood what she said, they just started imitating the teacher’s movements.
Everybody closed their eyes, and the teacher started singing:
“Om AsatoMa Sadgamaya, TamasoMaJyotirgamaya, MrityorMa Amritamgamaya”
The children tried to repeat these unpronounceable words after her. The assembly ended with the National Anthem and children rushed to their respective classes. I stood there, watching the whole scene in front of me. I have been a student myself and after many years here I am in a school all over again but this time as a teacher. It’s a full circle and nostalgia sets in. Looking at the little clueless faces in the assembly, makes me wonder “Why are we doing this to them?”
I have been going to this school for a while now, I want to take things slow. I haven’t taught them anything, I am still figuring out how to teach them. I think these kids liked me a lot, maybe because they have never seen a teacher who doesn’t teach and all they want is to play with me. It happened once, I came into the classroom, and kids greeted me with a warm “Good Morning, Abhishek Sir”, yes they have started saying my name now. I came to the blackboard, took a piece of chalk and wrote ‘A’ and said today we will learn the alphabet. The whole class got up and rushed outside the classroom. I stood there in the classroom all alone, utterly shocked, wondering what just happened, “Why are they running away from learning?”
We were in the village, kids were running around barefoot and telling me all kinds of things. These kids kept insisting that they wanted to show me around, so we went for a little village tour. They were climbing trees, plucking guavas and custard apples for me. We went to the nearby lake, to my surprise they knew how to swim and even performed acrobatics. They told me how they helped their parents in the fields, and used to take cattle for grazing. I am sure they know a lot more than I do. The level of connection and involvement they have with nature, and the joy on the children’s faces is like never seen before. Somehow the classroom doesn’t seem to provide the kind of atmosphere these children needed. When we came back in the evening, I was tired and sat under the shade of the banyan tree in the school premises. This realization came to me: “Do they really need this Education System?”
We are creatures that grow from small beginnings, and education plays a major role in what we grow into. Education is a form of empowerment in the sense that it should help to find and enhance a human’s full potential in his life.
(i) In our education system, everybody is supposed to go through the same things and come out the same way. They made everyone to follow the same structures and then try to compare them on the same measurements.
But we all know every individual is unique and different in his own way. Also, putting obedience above intelligence doesn’t seem like the way to bring up our new generation.
(ii) Getting to know something for a human being, learning and moving into new areas of life, is always a joyful process. A child should be excited about learning. Unfortunately, schooling is not a joyful process for most children. Someone made them sit in a classroom and try to teach them, all they want is to run away.
But we all know children are born with immense natural capacities, they have a tremendous appetite to learn, but education has become the problem.
(iii) For most people, education is seen as a process to encourage competition and economic success, and that has led to the most sterile form of education you can imagine for a child. The education system seems like an ancillary unit, supplying spare parts to the main machine that we have created, the Economic engine or the society. And unfortunately, human beings have become the fuel for this machine. The immediate needs of society have to be attended to; sometimes we have to do it, but to what extent? The fundamental goal of the education system is to enhance human perception.
But today’s education system means they made an accountant out of you and mold you into something that society approves of. We are trying to make human life serve social structures but we forget that all social structures are here to assist and serve human life.
Creating a Joyful Education
Education is not about giving readymade answers about life, it is about allowing a child’s active intelligence to seek. Just ramping up the information into a child’s head is in many ways killing the creativity and genius that every human being carries within themselves. The child doesn’t need the information to be fed into his mind, he needs an atmosphere of involvement, and with involvement, we can bring that life to its best.
In my experience working in a school in Chhattisgarh, I came to this understanding, as a teacher we have to develop a huge sense of love with the children otherwise there’s no way we can work with them. They are so smart and they are willing to do just about anything. They are not to be bundled together with our moralities, if we try to teach them, they will hate us and make things difficult for us. The role of a teacher is to help in keeping up the enthusiasm and inquisitiveness of the students. School is a necessary evil, this is the system we have and everybody has to go through it. So the best thing we can do right now is to make it a joyful and loving experience for the children as much as possible.