On Education Policies- I

Dear Readers,

Thank you for your continued patronage. My article has been published on an English newspaper Daily “Tripura Times” on 22nd august, 2016 in the editorial section. It was also published in the web-site of “Tripura Info” on 23rd of August, 2016 at the special section.Those who have missed my article in “Tripura Times” and “Tripura Info”, here is the article-

Teaching is a service, not a job

Since time immemorial, and also during the advent of Lord Krishna on Earth, the Gurukula system of education has prevailed in the society. We know how Karna had a curse from his Guru, Guru Dronacharya, when he hid the truth of his apparent origin as Sutputra, which reflected during the battle of Dharma against Non-Dharma in Kurukshetra. We also know of Eklavya, who have given his right hand thumb for the devotion of his Guru. Today, we are in the same situation where there are a lot of Karnas and Eklavyas in the battleground of merit in our education system. We do not need any more of them, or even if there are- we need to help them survive.
The word Gurukula is derived from two words in Sanskrit- Guru meaning teacher or master, and Kul meaning extended family. After the colonial reign, Gurukula system was declining in India, when Dayananda Swaraswati- the founder of Arya Samaj, and Swami Shraddhanand were the harbinger of the modern Gurukul system. In 1948, Shastriji Maharaj Dharamjivan Das Swami followed suit and initiated first Swaminarayan Gurukul in Rajkot in Gujarat state of India. The result was obvious- even today, although the Gurukula system is not prevailing, the side effects of the Gurukula system  are deeply ingrained in our DNA. Take an example of a class, where a teacher in an average public school in India, teaches via direct lectures of his communication to his students, and the students listen in awe, and blunt admiration. The structure is more command-control driven.

Compare this method with Montessori methods of teaching and Waldorf methods of teaching.

 The subjects related to academics are kept distant from the younger students. The subjects are introduced at a much later stage than Montessori. The basic philosophy is to make studies enjoyable. The days are filled with make-believe, fairies, art, music and generally the arts, putting off reading, writing and math until the age of seven.

MONTESSORI: Dr. Montessori, the pioneer of this system, on the other hand, filled her first school of 3-6-year-olds with dolls and other traditional make-believe toys. She believed when the children were given the opportunity to do some real work such as cooking, cleaning, caring for themselves and the environment, they preferred real work.

WALDORF: In the early years the activities are most often taught and carried out in groups. The teacher was just a facilitator by leading. The academic subjects are studied in a more traditional way, with the teacher lecturing the children in a group. Children are kept together with a group of children their own age. The teacher ideally moved up each year with the children. Arts are a part of the academic studies.

MONTESSORI: Social developments are more like that of real life, as children are not kept in a group of same-age students, but are grouped in the 3-6 year age span like (3-6; 6-12, 12-15). The teacher imparts education to one child at a time, and often lessons are given to one child by another child. The choice of what to study or work on at any one time is left to the child, with guidance by the teacher.

A high level of creativity is expected to be reached because the children’s experience is based on the real world and the exact use of materials. Children learn exact techniques for many of the materials, just as they would learn the exact use of a piano or a violin. This use of materials has been taught to the adults, adapted whenever necessary, through the direct and continued observation of children all over the world over the last 100 years.

WALDORF: In Waldorf philosophy, play is viewed as the work of the young child and the potion of fantasy, so lively in the young child, is an accurate part of how the teacher works with the child. The teacher incorporates storytelling and fantasy into the curriculum. The child can use for the most part any of the materials in any way.

MONTESSORI: In Montessori fantasy and imagination are a part of the creative process. However, since the real world is seen as a wonderful creation as it is, children are introduced to the real world in all as variations in the first six years, and then use their experiences to build for the rest of their lives. The word “work” is used to describe the child’s activities instead of “play” because they as treated as adult activities.

We can draw the best practices, amalgamate the best practices from different methods, for different type of schools, and deliver based on the learning methods. The GoI can implement different learning and coaching styles for the different schools based on geography, type of audience, type of school, and the learning of teachers.

Interactions are an integral part of the series of studies. To deliver, some processes are used. Combining these methods, we get the best practices for the learning methodology as-

  1. Learning via empirical experiments with a look for a pattern
  2. Learning via practice to minimize errors
  3. Learning via trial-and –error to develop perfection
  4. Learning via intuition to develop a right brain approach
  5. Learning via experience to know how to tackle the issue or problem
  6. Learning via problem solving to see the new methods learnt
  7. Learning via on-the-spot assignments to know how we develop new methods
  8. Learning via illustrations to know the art of repetition
  9. Learning via offline methods teaches you to tickle your mind, even when the formal structure is not in place
  10. Learning via natural and empirical observations with a  hint of cause and effect

However, we need to have a systematic representation of our ideas. Experiential Learning should be encouraged- a method of learning via trial-and-error. However, there are new suggestions that can have a space.

Can we have a scheduled regular training for teachers? Can we have Bachelor of Education mandatory for the teachers? Can we have a salary structure of the teachers in the primary school as equivalent to the salary structure of the high school? There are many concerns regarding the education policy.

Given the fact that the younger people need a different attention; it becomes pertinent to understand their thought processes. The delivery needs to be innovative to catch the attention span. The students should feel that the teacher is one of us. No one can impose his views on the students. There has to be a continuous feedback system. There should be a space to allow young students to make mistakes. The freedom is important- the freedom for the students to make mistakes and learn from them. However, the teacher can guide not to make the same mistake twice, but to learn from them. Any mistake should be made only for the purpose of learning. Allowing students to ask questions throughout about the future prospects and applications opens up a new vista. Let them challenge the basics. Activities inside and outside the classroom can make a huge lot of difference. The purpose of learning should be stated. Why are we learning a new chapter? The goal of learning should be made clear. Learning should be fun.

The teacher must be accustomed to the happenings all around, especially on the contemporary subjects. There can be a transparency in the lecture delivered. The teachers can go for summer training during the summer to upgrade their skill-sets. Around 2-3 training can be nominated for any teacher per school. A teacher must be co-operative, coach-able, friendly, have extra-ordinary patience, innovative in delivery, play games, have a great attitude, identify the best teaching methods.
Some of the very young students are FBI agents- FaceBook Intellectual agents. It is imperative for us to disconnect that cord of FBI curiosity. Much before Deepa Karmakar had gone into the finals of the vault, there was a facebook message that proclaimed that Deepa had won a Gold. This was stated in a GD-PI mock session in one of the engineering college in Mathura, UP that Deepa had won a  gold, by learning from facebook. Such information lead to social stigma and information asymmetry in the country. Similarly, the Karnas and Eklavyas do not need to tell a lie to their guru to learn and educate themselves, or even sacrifice their merit for less meritorious students. Education till Class Eight should be free from clutches of severe tests and severe testing patterns. At times, aptitude is important, but attitude and a positive attitude towards life makes a lot of difference to aptitude, and learning.

Apart from this, there are many issues like access to and participation in education, quality of the education imparted, equity in education, system efficiency, governance and management, research and development, and financial commitment to education development. All of them needs to be addressed- in phases.

Even if we devote 60 hours of teaching for the underprivileged students in a year, we are giving back to the society. After all, we are fitting a brick in the whole wall, and a wall is made brick after brick. So does a nation of a population of  around 1.28 billion people. For teaching is a service, not a job anymore.

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