Friday, 23 May 2014

Education- For the sake of Learning

Education system in India- Although there have been several severe criticisms against the education system in India, the progress level still remains dismal. The recently introduced Right To Education (RTE) act which makes education a fundamental right of every child in the country between 6 and 14 years of age that includes the right to free, compulsory primary education for all and the obligation to develop secondary education accessible to all, has still a long way to go due to several  constraints. To explain further, the RTE act has a selection process through which children are selected for admission to pre-nursery or Class 1, based on the availability of seats in a particular school. If the applications are more than the number of seats, lots are drawn in the presence of education officials and the selected children will be allowed to pursue free education. This may not ensure free education to all underprivileged children since a lot of them may not even be aware of this opportunity; they could be migrants who do not understand the local language and changed laws, well-off families may try to make use of the act, business-minded schools may not implement the act in a fair manner or simply because they weren't lucky enough to be selected.

But the more important question is; does this so called ‘basic education’ prepare our kids to life in any way? 

Whenever I see the pictures of 10th standard, 12th standard kids who are the toppers in their schools or in the state, I wonder do they even have an idea of what life is beyond exams and high scores. And that academic excellence does not imply excellence in life. I do not think that scoring high is bad, but scoring a mark without understanding the concept is meaningless. Here is my personal experience that I would like to share which would help illustrate the above point better.

I had a Mathematics teacher in high school; his name Panchakshari sir or SBP sir, as we used to call him. He was my teacher for only one year-10th standard. Until high school, everyone had only one thing to say about my academics” she is good in all subjects-languages, science and social, but her ‘weakness’ is Mathematics and she just can’t understand it.” So in the final year of our school life, we were introduced to this great teacher who was a simple man with amazing teaching abilities. He taught Mathematics in such a way that I began to really understand the subject and feel that it is an easy, fun subject which is relevant everywhere. He used to teach us Geometry by explaining the shapes of the objects around us, he used to make us read timings using a clock which does not have numbers marked on it, and also to measure on the scale not always beginning from zero. Stuff like these fascinated me and got me involved in his classes. 

If we made a mistake, we were never cornered, instead he would behave as if he expected better from us. This amazed me and for the first time in my life, I actually wanted to learn and I wanted his approval that I did well. This pushed me to study harder and harder and finally in the board exams I got a 99/100. I still remember how he congratulated me and asked me where I lost that one mark. Nothing else was a happier and satisfying moment for me as a student. The final result is that now, I am not afraid of mathematics anymore and even today I can pick up any text book of it till engineering and teach it to kids.

Incidentally, I had another teacher in school who taught Kannada for us. I had just joined high school and since my parents had always encouraged me to write my own answers, I was completely confident about myself and did not exactly follow the notes word-by-word, as given by my Kannada teacher. That was until I scored less in the first unit test. When I asked my teacher about the low score despite of me answering all the questions well, she told me that I would be given full marks only if I followed her notes and wrote exactly the same answer as given by her. As I had been a good student and then scoring less would unnecessarily complicate things at home, I decided to do as she suggested. I did not think too much and started following the prescribed route.

Even though we had 2-3 pages answers written in a long note book, I could easily remember them after revision. Since my visual memory is dominant, with practice, I can remember which word comes after what and hence I could replicate all answers into the test paper. Not only did I score well in her classes throughout the three years she was my teacher, but I even got a 114/125 in my board exams. All was well, I had scored well and my parents were happy with the results. But, what I did not realize at that time was that this process killed my ability to write and express in Kannada. Today I find myself searching for words to talk in my own mother tongue. All I learnt in this class was to mug up and throw it on the answer sheet.

The reason I gave the above examples is just to show that high scores do not mean learning. No, it simply means high score and it certainly is not a measure of the student’s capabilities. In my case, two different teachers with two different approaches had the same intention of their students scoring well. But one’s approach of inspiring, liberating teaching methods made me let go of my fears and gain knowledge while the other’s confining approach stubbed my growth. Sadly, in today’s world, we have more number of the second category teachers who push the children only to score “95% and above” to become ideal machines for the demanding career they will join and not the first category of teachers who encourage them to learn, have fun in the process and grow to their complete selves. All we are doing through this kind of an education system is develop shallow, materialistic, sad human beings. Is that what we want of our future generation? 

To allow kids to learn and accumulate useful knowledge in all creative ways possible so that education is not just a namesake but is one which teaches them life skills is the intention and this is our standpoint.

- Madhushree Lakshman

(About the Author - Madhushree is not just another young Bangalorean who passes-by without notice. Change is a way of life she believes, driven by her will to solve the problems around her. Co-founder of 'Volunteer For a Cause (VFC)' a registered non-profit, she knows from experience what it takes to tackle a real world problem and is on the path towards solving it)


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Really great work Madhushree :):)

  3. Nice one.. That math teacher story reminds me of an excellent math teacher in my high school!

  4. Yup. My life too had a jump start after learning under two great teachers who taught maths :)