“Education”

By Aadith (MIT, Manipal)

Education could broadly be understood as a method to ‘facilitate learning’. Whenever something is being taught, and this teaching is being received, it is education. Schools taught us to read and write. That is education. Parents taught us to behave politely, that too is education

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About Aadith (Author)

Apart from a basic level of proficiency in academics or a set of skills that can help one sustain a livelihood, I feel it is important for a person to possess certain good qualities, such as a well developed personality, and it is essential for a person to have ; passions and hobbies that drive him, a sport for his leisure or as fitness, some basic awareness of global affairs and social currents, civic and social sense, and at least minimal level cultural understanding, amongst many other things, to become more a happier person and one more beneficial to family and society.

Education could broadly be understood as a method to ‘facilitate learning’.
Whenever something is being taught, and this teaching is being received, it is education.
Schools taught us to read and write. That is education. Parents taught us to behave politely, that too is education.

Everything we have learnt, either comes to us either by Experience or by Education.

Thus, the education we receive plays a major role in making us who we are as an individual, a community, and as a society. That is why it is essential to look deeper into how we are educated and how we educate others.

Though learning comes from all around us and happens everywhere, most of our early structured education comes from our schooling, and this sets a base as to who we become. So, when we talk about nature of our society, its important to look at our schools and universities.

Our schools and colleges fall under what we label the education system. As a community, we all follow a system of formal education that has developed into a trend and over time, and this trend has gotten naturalized into our society.

So now, most of us don’t give it too much thought as to how effective or ineffective our system is, and trust it blindly as the right way to go about things.

This is very dangerous as our education system is far from perfect. Its ridden with numerous flaws which perhaps lead to the capping of our country’s potential to progress to a better society. Thus it is ever essential to constantly analyze and modify our system to get us closer and closer to the utopian dream of reaching a perfect society.

Apart from a basic level of proficiency in academics or a set of skills that can help one sustain a livelihood, I feel it is important for a person to possess certain good qualities, such as a well developed personality, and it is essential for a person to have ; passions and hobbies that drive him, a sport for his leisure or as fitness, some basic awareness of global affairs and social currents, civic and social sense, and at least minimal level cultural understanding, amongst many other things, to become more a happier person and one more beneficial to family and society.

These are qualities that are seldom developed inherently without a conducive environment to nurture them. These are picked up with effort from both the individual, as well as his environment, and our approach to education thus, must accommodate , or rather emphasize on developing them.

When we see a majority of people starting to focus more and more on only one aspect of education at the cost of most of the others, then its evident that something is going wrong.

Today academic performance has become the sole aim for a child to achieve.

Children barely out of infancy are now burdened with expectations and the pressures of work and studying.

Small kids, hardly past kindergarten are pushed through series of examinations and tests, are compared and judged, and made to study and prepare most of the day.

Time they should be spending playing carefree in the park, or splashing and splattering around colors and paints, attempting to draw.

As they get older, the demand on their time further escalates, depriving them surely and steadily of the many pleasures of their childhood.

Evenings when most used to be out playing cricket by the street or playing ball in the alleys, are now used to attend tuitions to help score better in the ever-upcoming exams.

More and more, younger children nowadays tend to have lesser and lesser hobbies, play lesser sports and instruments than before in a general Indian context.

Many who did have the good fortune to pick up a sport or an instrument, or develop some hobbies and passions often have to forgo it at a later stage for the same reason many were unable to pick it up in the first place ; the effort and time demanded by academic education.

Throughout, many are constantly compared and consumed by how they fare against their fellow peers, and this often inhibits the nurturing of vital virtues like teamwork and cooperation.

One of the driving forces of our system is competition. Granted, competition is inherent in our biological wiring, but everything is effective only in moderation. Our system thrives on it, and it drives those who function within its framework to give full priority to ‘do better than the rest’ . This itself in the right amount can spur one to do better and push harder, but when it is constrained to a narrow scope, it can end up being more counterproductive. Not everybody’s strength lies in academic excellence (which is measured by marks and scores) and marks are not always an accurate measure. The constant judging and chastising received from society and even oneself for lack of performance often ends up destroying one’s self confidence and self-worth, and real talent which in more favorable circumstances would have flowered then gets wasted.

People are misled to believe success is almost always a consequence of academic excellence, where ‘academics’ itself is narrowed further down into the idea of the ‘right sort of academics’ ; ones that ‘pay better’ and society ‘looks up to’. For example, in our country, there is this mad rush for parents to push their children into ‘professional’ streams like engineering or medicine. 

Thousands of children are forcefully ‘prepared’ (by which I mean they devote a good chunk of their high school to studying all day for this) and sent into these streams much against their will, interest and aptitude , all the while being told that this will guarantee them money and good careers. This is clearly not true. Statistics show that as high as 60% of engineering graduates are unemployed and as few as 7-10% are really skilled enough for core jobs.

Many students, unable to handle the expectations and pressures of this education resort to suicide. It’s pretty evident when one’s country has a suicide rate of one student ending his life almost every hour, that things are more dire than ever. Of course these are not black and white issues and are very circumstantial, but it is undeniable that our method of education has a major role to play.

A vast majority of people then begin careers they may or may not have interest in but in the process of getting there, have forgone their interests and hobbies. Left without stress-relieving passions and other leisures to drive and assuage them, they slide into bouts depression, anxiety and worry that comes with the burden of corporate and career lives. In a utilitarian sense, this immensely reduces the productivity of our nation, and in a humanitarian sense, it is a great loss to the person and to the undiscovered talent lost within them.

Now, many people after they finish school and college education, come out well versed in their line of work perhaps, but have difficulty in getting along with people, and expressing themselves. Some lack very basic social awareness of the world round them, and thus don’t involve themselves as members in their society. This can be very damaging, as when one passively spectates , he gets immunized to detrimental changes in society, and is as guilty as perpetrators of this change. As Dante famously said, The darkest places in hell are reserved for those who maintain their neutrality in times of moral crisis.

Today one can observe that fanaticism and conflict are on the rise. More intolerance and misunderstanding are spreading across the country. People find it tough to involve themselves in stimulating conversations and discuss and reshape their beliefs and principles. Many have become narrow-minded and close themselves to new ideas and different perspectives. This is a result of our partial education. We have not been educated enough on tolerance and coexistence and we haven’t been exposed or normalized to the existence of different beliefs and cultures.

Evidently, there great need for change and improvement. We need education that also encourages questioning and rethinking. Debate and discussion are essential to help understand any idea and belief. We need education that gives importance to physical fitness, our mental processes, as this helps us to be mindful of what and why we do things, and keeps us physically and mentally active. An Education that lets us explore our space and discover and follow our passions, interests, and talents. Education that exposes us to deeper questions and philosophies , making us receptive to new lines of
thinking. Education that makes us appreciate music and art, and makes us care for the earth, its people and the environment. Education that defines our lifestyles and makes us constantly challenge how we live and why we choose to live that way. This is the what we must strive towards. For this is the education that will reshape society and help us ameliorate the troubles that plague our lives and those that plague humanity.

Of course this is a lofty ideal to set, but it is our duty to try and reach it to the greatest extent we can. Awareness is beginning to spread but not enough. There are people, small communities and institutions that are trying to address this problem and by looking at their progress we can see it is something worth aiming for. For example, there are a few alternate schools scattered across the country, which in their own limits are aspiring to achieve similar objectives and have met with commendable success. If they can reach one step closer, so can the rest of us.

Take for example, Rishi Valley School, was an alternate school founded in the early 1900’s by philosopher J Krishnamurti. This school attempts to provide a more diverse and effective form of education while still resting on the mainstream educational framework.

The school believes that competition is not supportive for effective education and thus attempt to minimize it to the extent they can. For instance, the school does not hold examinations till 9th grade (after which they are required to by the ICSE and ISC board which they follow.)

The junior classes don’t have homework and assignments. Classes are often held outdoors under the shade of the trees and practical hands-on learning is emphasized. This is to ensure students don’t feel academics as a burden to struggle through but as a way of understanding the world around them.

Forums for discussion and debate over anything is welcome, in fact, encouraged ; from questioning school rules to raising global events and movements, students are given the freedom to speak their mind and learn through constant discussions and arguemnts.

Specific classes are allotted for discussion over more abstract and deeper ideas and topics , giving the students to space to challenge and explore them. Group discussions are held regularly where teachers and students discuss more philosophical ideas as equals.

Morning assembly gatherings are varied, from chanting of Kabir bhajans and folk music to presentations and plays by students and teachers alike. Many classes of ‘Arts & Crafts’ are held for all classes, where students are taught and given an opportunity to learn things like Needlework, Woodcrafting and carpentry, Batik and dyeing, pottery and Art. Students engage in projects and activities like building tree-houses and making wonderful sculptures and artworks in their leisure time.

Apart from this, sports is encouraged for all students on a daily basis where they insist one at least does basic levels of fitness while also learning a sport.

Located in a valley, the school is placed in a beautiful and forested area and students are encouraged to go around trekking, climbing and walking, with birdwatching activities and such held on a regular basis.

On weekends interested students gather to learn and enjoy some folk dances collected from over the world.

Even in the 10th and 12th standards, during the board exam time, the teachers do not insist that students ought to continuosly study and pile them with expectations. In fact, students are advised to study intelligently and not overdo it, and further suggested to keep oneself mentally fresh by going outside and doing other things too.

Whats interesting about all this is that despite them not giving sole priority to academics, students tend to perform very well academically (and in other spheres). The overall class average is consistently amongst the highest of all boarding schools in the country and even by conventional outlook , its definitely commendable. The stress free environment, the hands-on and varied approach to education more often than not, enables a student to perform better, and moreover, make one a more understanding, considerate and knowledgeable person.

In this kind of an environment, children are given great exposure to many varied areas, and allowed to find their rhythm of learning, and these students tend to be more involved and active members involved in reshaping society apart from leading successful and satisfying lives after school.
Its good to see people are starting to look these alternate forms of education, but if we want to induce a change at the nation-wide level, then we’ll need a nationwide change of mindset. If schools like Rishi Valley School can attempt to give a new aspect to education (with a good degree of success) then so can others. We as members of society must make the environment ripe for a revolution to transform our flawed system, into a better one.

In short, though academic education is important, and helps many earn their livelihood and support their families well, it isn’t by itself sufficient to make one self satisfied, more wholesome and productive as an individual. It is important to not neglect all other education and strive only to do well academically. Naturally one must focus on what may interest or be supporting him more than the others but a healthy balance must be attained. It is our social responsibility to be a active and functional member of society and not constrain ourself to just being a passive labour force ; we can
be socially and academically more fruitful if we are better developed, happier and more aware as human beings , and this is what we must aspire towards.

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