THEY SPOILED THIS TOO?

By Mansi Soni

(20/05/2020 20:00 IST)

"Education is not the learning of the facts but the training of the mind to think."
-Albert Einstein

Recently, I came across a video clip in which a woman named, Vidhi Jain, was sharing her experience of a painting and art workshops. The workshop had 30 children, out of which 26 children went to school, while remaining four were from "kacchi basti", who had never gone to school. When the workshop ended, she found that those 26 kids drew exactly the same trees, mountains, and rivers. Four other kids, who had never gone to school drew amazing things straight out of their neighborhood- an auto driver, women carrying vessels, snake charmer etc. What this clip compelled me to conclude is that our education system is actually killing the creativity of our children.

Our 'factory schooling system' is producing millions of unemployed, vision less and wisdom less youth. To be frank, modern education system teaches us how to read, how to write and how to score good marks, but it miserably fails to teach us "how to think".

How often have we heard from our teachers that “if you don't score well, you will not get GOOD college or a job??” And that is the truth. Examination scores, that rate student's ability to, recall information from memory rather than their comprehension and ability to apply their knowledge, continue to be the most important marker of performance. This often comes upon us as a burdening factor on students.

The idea-"scoring=learning" has been rooted deep inside our head. And accordingly, we blindly accept the facts, values and long-held notion, just for the sake of getting GOOD marks, without actually understanding and developing our own insight.

At the age of 11 or 12, I remember, I was asked to write the definition of "ecosystem" 20 times on the blackboard, as I had missed the words-'is', 'all', 'system'-while giving an oral test. I did it flawlessly. And I can also recall the teacher tapping on my back and kids clapping for me! But, believe me, it was only in grade 11 that I could really decode the meaning of ecosystem!

Now, I realize that it is our education system, which appreciates and rewards "CRAMMERS". Unfortunately, ‘mugging up' the facts, math theorems, etc., is understood as "true learning". But memorizing is not learning.

Children often resort to cramming, when they do not understand the concepts. Most of the time, children are unable to grasp the concept because of their inability to relate the same to their practical life. This brings me to my next point that is the lack of practical comprehension in our academics.

In your kindergarten, your teacher must have shown you a small round shaped object, while introducing you to the world of words. Yes! It was a BALL. Knowledge is being imparted along with practical demonstrations in at least lower classes. But this trend disappears with increasing classes. It results in what do we call 'rote learning'!

So how do we reach here? Whom to blame for our ramshackle education system? The root cause lies in the British era. As we all know, after the battle of Plessey (1757) and the battle of Buxar (1764), the British East India Company took control of Bengal, Bihar, and Orissa through the right to collect revenue. It effectively became ruler and administrator. As its territories expanded in the coming decades, it required more and more Indians to discharge various administrative duties. For instance-it needed Indians well versed in the classical languages like Sanskrit, Persian and Arabic as well as local languages. Its judicial department needed Indians to assist English judges dealing with Hindu and Muslim laws. It needed clerks to maintain accounts and to help in the administration.

All this means that the company had to pay attention to educating the Indians, according to its clerical needs. Here, I will reiterate that their education system intended to produce only clerks, peons, interpreters and office boys as well a handful of people who could remain loyal to the British Raj so that to sustain itself within the county, not leaders and businessmen. For better understanding, we have to open the layers of their policies and measures that first destroyed traditional Indian schooling and now hovering over our today's education system.

Most experts trace the first policy statement in the Charter Act of 1813 of the East India Company, when a sum of not less than 1 lakh rupees was to be set aside for educational purposes. This was an important landmark in the history of modern education in India.In 1835, Lord William Bentink's government appointed Thomas Babington Macaulay as the chairman of the "General committee of public instruction" to decide how to divert the money, what should be the medium of instruction and the mode of educating the Indian. Lord Macaulay explained that “the aim of education in India was to anglicize the Indians through English education and to make black-colored Indian English in their way of living, behavior, thought, culture, traditions and morality”, as such persons were likely to serve as the connecting link between the British Government and the general public. In simple words, he wanted a class, which was to be “Indian in blood and color, but English in taste, in opinion, in morals, and in intellect”. Hence, he made English the medium of instruction and diverted the money for English education. G.D.Trevelyan writes in "Life of Lord Macaulay" that- "A new India was born in 1835. What Alexander, Asoka and the western missionaries had failed to do was accomplished by Macaulay’s educational minutes, decreeing that India was to receive education through English, language of West".

"The very foundations of Indian ancient civilization began to rock and sway. Pillar after pillar in the edifice came crashing down." But Macaulay did a more harmful thing, which is not generally known. He adopted the "Downward filtration method" for educating the Indians. What was this method? The problem facing Macaulay was that Indians were numerous and The British were a handful. How were they going to educate Indians? How could this nation be weakened so that in self-forgetfulness it would support the British Raj?

The story goes that once when Macaulay was in Ooty, in his residence, he saw an Indian officer coming and touching the feet of a peon sitting outside his office and was obviously surprised. Why was an officer touching the feet of a peon? He was told, "You don't know, this Indian society is a peculiar one. Here the Brahmins are respected and the peon belongs to that caste." This incident struck an idea in his psyche. And he introduced “The downward filtration “method. Filtration literally means coming of something to the bottom from the top. Thus the filtration theory in education meant coming down of education or knowledge from the top to the bottom, i.e., from the higher class people to the lower classes or the general people.

The Company thought that it could not provide education to entire mass. So it decided to educate only a few. But this ‘few’ were only the people of the higher classes. The downwards filtration theory had the following three chief characteristics:

1. To educate only the high class people in order to give them higher posts in the administration with a view to strengthening the roots of the British empire in the country.

2. When the higher class people would receive English education, their culture would be “improved” and the general public would accept them as their models. As a result, the lower class people would also be educated after being influenced by the higher class people.

3. To educate the higher class people who might undertake the responsibility of educating the general people. But it wasn’t popular and didn’t reach the masses.

In 1835, the Elphinstone College (Bombay) and the Calcutta Medical College were established. In 1844, Lord Harding declared that Indians who knew English were to be preferred for the jobs and thus English education picked up some impetus and became popular.

Sir Charles Wood, the then President of the Board of Control in 1854 issued an order, which came to be called The Wood’s Dispatch, where he asked the Government to assume responsibility to educate the masses, that is, it officially called for repudiation of the downward filtration theory, at least on paper. The British still did very little to spread education in practice. However, owing to the Wood’s Dispatch, Department of Education was set up in all the provinces, and affiliated universities of Calcutta, Madras and Bombay came to be set up in 1857, subsequently Punjab University in 1885, Allahabad University in 1887.

But, there was no support for scientific and technical education, hardly three medical colleges were started and one good engineering college in Roorke which was too opened only for Europeans and Eurasians.

Thus, the education of the masses was neglected by the British, which is evident from the fact that the literacy rate in India was 16% at the time of independence. The education policy, whichever was introduced was only to produce “cheap clerks” who could help them in administration in their pursuit of economic subjugation of India. The British destroyed the Indian education system and made one of the most literate nations illiterate. In the Round- table conference in 1931, Mahatma Gandhi in one of his speeches said, "The beautiful tree of education was cut down by you British."

Therefore, we see how step by step British education system eaten up the creativity of Indians and transformed them into “senseless robots.”

Although, it's been 73 years since the reign of Imperial power ended, but our education system is still geared to churn out clerks not leaders. We have not deviated much from that pattern till today. How often did you find yourself engaged in logical thinking, critical analysis, original thoughts and creative activities? Very less, right? We are still in the pursuit of mere marks. Our upbringing has been such that we see study as a source of earning and not learning. Education is an evolution to discover the human values and true potentials encrypted in us. But unfortunately, it has been made a process to secure a job.

As I mentioned earlier that our education ecosystem evaluates subject understanding and competence of students based on their abilities to read, write and compute numbers. But we have to admit that in the modern 21st century, such an evaluation is not sufficient. Consider the example of Engineering, one of the most sought after degree in India, which promises a potentially lucrative career. However, only 19% of engineering graduates in India are employable in the jobs for which they received training. Why?

Scoring marks in exams are important, but in today’s world they cannot promise a prosperous career. Tony Wagner, a fellow at Harvard University puts this as: The world does not really care about what you know, rather all it cares is what you can do with what you know.

A number of recent surveys have revealed that the number-one skill required to succeed in this changing time is CREATIVITY and INNOVATION.

The whole process of creativity and innovation is connecting the dots. Mark Zuckerberg neither created internet nor computers or digital photographs. These things already existed. What he did is he connected these three existing things together and created a billion-dollar company called FACEBOOK. This is an innovation.

Let's consider an example of India. Sanjeev Bikhchandani is the founder of India's largest job portal-"Naukri.com". He had noticed that people read the newspapers and magazines from back to front in the search of job advertisements. This observation gave him a brilliant idea and he launched naukri.com in 1997 with 1000 ads taken out of various magazines. This is an innovation.

Kids are born creative. You will find them creating spectacular things with stones, blocks, colors, etc. It is our education system which puts them into the box of syllabus and at the age of 19-20 ask them "TO THINK OUT OF THE BOX"!

India secured 52nd rank in the Global lnnovation Index in 2019. According to the World Development Report 2019, India needs to focus even more strongly on the quality of education it offers to its greatest asset-its citizens. That can be feasible by bringing the reforms in our current education system. It is imperative that India creates an ecosystem of innovation and research. An environment, where students are fed with creativity while providing skills for the future, is necessary. This will help India leapfrog into the future as a progressive nation. Therefore, this is mandatory that our schools and universities become cogs in driving this wheel of innovation.

Indian education needs to realize that the absorption power of every student cannot be the same. Hence, the teaching method also cannot remain the same for every student in a class of 30. Some students have faster learning pace and some are slow. Teachers must have a keen eye for observing each of their students. While it is not humanly possible for a single teacher to pay attention to every student, schools must start looking at the use of technologies like artificial intelligence and chatbots who can become the

Helping hand to the teachers as well as students.

The pressure of marks often makes students underperformers. Instead of focusing the evaluation on a three-hour exam, the focus of evaluation should be classroom participation by a student, projects, communication and leadership skills and extra-curricular activities.

Thus, it is high time that we take certain steps immediately so that not only the level of education is increased which will enhance an individual’s knowledge, but also it will in turn lead to the upliftment of the country that we really need and certainly India will become one of the best in terms of education and soon it will be a developed nation.

About Authors.

Mansi Soni

Desk Editor

References.

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