Random musings of a wandering soul

Right To Education

“Education is not merely the teaching of various academic subjects, but the cultivation of total responsibility in the student. One does not realize as an educator that one is bringing into being a new generation. Most schools are only concerned with imparting knowledge. They are not at all concerned with the transformation of man and his daily life, and you – the educator in these schools – need to have this deep concern and the care of this total responsibility.”
-Jiddu Krishnamurthi

Our parents had it very easy. They did not have to ponder, discuss, research, evaulate and what not to decide on a school to send us kids to. Each town or village had a few schools, you applied in one of those, got admission, end of story. Parents who followed what was happening in the schools were a rarity and mostly a source of embarassment for us kids. Their motto was very simple, “If you study well, good for you”. There was no tension about whether you were happy there or not, you just had no choice, period. They had no clue about the various methods of teaching, and I am sure they wouldn’t have bothered even if they knew. They knew the essence of schooling, probably without even realizing it – to prepare you for life.

Today, as we endlessly mull over our choices of schools for our kids, the constant question that nags my mind is are we overdoing it. Education as a subject was something that interested me even before I got married. That was when we started hearing about words liks ‘Montessori Method’, ‘Alternative Education’ etc. Their teaching methods sounded fun, the kids whom I knew jumped up eagerly from their beds on weekday mornings and were depressed during weekends and I was very clear that when I had a kid, this is the kind of school that we would send her to. That was till I heard about the fees that they charge – almost equal to the market price of a Catholic doctor boy (that’s the only market rate that I was aware of at that time, can’t disclose why though 😉 ). To make the long story short, we were, or should I say, our son was lucky enough to get into a Montessori school that didn’t ask us to pawn/pledge/sell whatever we had including us in order to pay their fees. I was hooked by their learning methods, not much pressure on the kids, they learnt things without even realizing it. It was the concepts that were taught, not a few words and numbers by heart. The last 7 years have been a mix of normal and alternative.

We stay close to a well known, 150 year old girls school in Bangalore, so there was no question of where we would send our daughter. One year later, we are in a constant state of confusion as to whether this was a right choice. In the first month of her upper KG, she is expected to learn almost fifty words in English. Knowing how our son was taught, I try to teach her phonetically, and she has started getting the hang of it. I know she’ll start reading on her own pretty soon. In fact,that is what she is most excited about – “I’ll be able to read all the story books on my own” :-). It is the fear factor that I am worried about. First dictation, she just refused to go to school and started howling as if her mother was dead (at least I hope that is how upset she would be, ahem). Till then, we were planning to move our son as well to a normal school , now we are not too sure. In fact, we are wondering whether to move her to his school as well.

Whenever today’s parents worry about these kind of things, our parent’s general comment is,”you guys went to a normal school, did something happen to you?” That is something even I used to think about a lot. The answer has slowly become clear, specially after going for an alumni meeting a few months back. Teaching was a vocation for most of the teachers of that generation. We were lucky enough to have teachers who considered us a part of themselves, they knew the background from which each of us came, there was nothing that escaped their watchful eyes. The scoldings toungues always belied the care and concern in their eyes. They guided us through the most important formative years of ours and what they have taught us outside of the text books have still remained with us. Even though the government schools were considered below par at that time as well, the teachers were of the same genre.

Another interesting thing is that their teaching methods are what is packed and labelled beautifully now as alternative. We did not have the luxury of knowledge at our finger tips then. I do not know how she did it, but I still remember the lessons on Africa that one of my teachers taught us, she ahd collected so much information, we just sat enthralled for hours. And then there was this all time favorite teacher of mine whose History and Geography lessons were like watching movies, she brought the concepts and facts to life through her words.

Is it that we do not have teachers like them any more? I don’t think so. It is just that they come with a cost that most parents cannot afford. If we leave aside the additional facilities and comforts these high end schhools provide, what is the differentiating factor? Without doubt, it is the teachers. Maybe the factor that drives them is an evaluation method that throws you out of the system if you are not effective. The fact remains that the kids that these schools churn out are confident and ready to face the world. Whether their method is based on morals and values is another question and subject for another post altogether.

You could have a school that is centrally air conditioned, a cafeteria where all possible nutritional food is provided, world class sports facilities and anything else that you can think of, but ultimately, if the people associated with this do not have a passion for education, none of this serves any purpose. As the great educator J Kirishnamurthi says, ” One does not realize as an educator that one is bringing into being a new generation”. Unless each and every teacher realizes this, we better guide our children to follow Mark Twain who said,

“I have never let my schooling interfere with my education.”

p.s. for my friends who can read malayalam, here is an article that would restore your faith in government schools – http://www.mathrubhumi.com/mb4eves/online/malayalam/kerala/women/articles/maruvakku-article-150816

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Comments on: "Right To Education" (22)

  1. very right what you have said..
    I mean my grand-dad studied in a old vilalge school yet he came ot the city and made a big name for himself.. wheras I have studied in a public school with every facility an I am not even 1% of what he has done ..

    schooling and education are two different things ..

    I think our education system needs a overhaul, there are good examples but very few .. it does not make a big difference as BAD is more .. so maybe a overhaul is needed to make everything BEtter if not VERY good ..

  2. JayadevM said:

    Bindu

    Haven’t you seen how most of the Universities and B Schools advertise …. Wifi Campus, Modern Classrooms, 50 acre Campus … and then they mention placement percentage.

    How many of them talk about their teaching staff? Nobody says So many Nobel Laureates, this many Ph.Ds or so many research papers submitted or so many projects won from industry.

    Those are the embarrassing bits … the software is missing!

    Very few campuses can boast that they craft careers, the kids succeed in spite of the education not thanks to it.

    It is a sad story … I hope to make a positive impact this sector someday soon.

    Your message is relevant and well-stated.

    • It is so related to your FB post the other day! We have young boys and girls with so many degrees added to their name, and in spite of all that, they don’t really know anything. Amazing!

      • JayadevM said:

        That’s right. it amazes me too.

        Having seen or known couple of “professional” colleges I know a few of the reasons too.

        But kids today don’t seem to be as curious as our generation – I don’t know, maybe I have met the wrong set of kids. What do you think?

      • They are curious enough, Jayadev, the question is, about what?

      • JayadevM said:

        True!

        Hope the kids realise it soon enough.

  3. This is a topic very close to my heart, Bindu. Where have all the good teachers gone?

    My take is that they’ve all found better paying jobs in other fields. You will agree that pay-wise school-teachers are right there at the bottom of the pyramid, which does not help to make teaching an attractive career option. The low pay has fuelled the perception that it is a low-skilled job taken up only by those who have no choice.

    Despite this there are still some good school-teachers in the market but as you say they are lapped up by the expensive schools. The stuff that comes to teach in the rest of the schools is just not that good for the most part. Sad but true.

    • I know, that pay is pathetic! And yes, you’ve rightly said they would be in something else that pays them much better.
      And it is sad that those who come back and try to do something different also churn out institutions that are beyond the reach of ordinary folks.

  4. Bindu, very thought provoking and relevant post. The education system today is a shame. The topics and concepts that the kids in lower classes are taught are well beyond their capability. It is actually the parents who does the projects and the assignments. If a kid tries to do it, then his work is judged along with that done by adults.

    Also it is teaching, teaching and more teaching. Most Saturdays are working days and almost every other day there is an examination. Overzealous parents are also at fault–I have met many who want the school to teach more and more. Since education now is a business, the schools provide what the market need and that means more work and working hours to the kids who should enjoy life at this age. Childhood is no longer fun.

    In spite of all these majority of students who are coming out of schools and colleges (including professional colleges) do not have any knowledge. In an age where teaching and studying is about scoring high grades in the exams and not about gaining knowledge and wisdom, one could not except much.

    The Mathurbhumi article was really good. The R.V.G. Menon mentioned in the article (the Jury Chairman) was my teacher at Engineering College.

    • You are right, in many cases it is the parents who are to blame, they want loads and loads of homework, tests every other day and chains their kids to the study table. One fine days, the kids rebel, kreak their chains off or get broken in the process and they sit bewildered. It is such a shame!

  5. Excellent analysis! The difference between academics of earlier years and now is that education today is viewed as an industry and the objective is profits – not about imparting real education. MArk Twain’s quote says it all 🙂

  6. A topic I am really interested in. Passion for teaching – that is very rare among teachers these days. While students have to do a lot of HW, teachers are just bothered about their perks. Unless teachers could inspire and motivate students, teaching is like hammering the cold iron (according to Horace Mann).
    Once when a teacher was told explain a concept more clearly, she said if she had known how to do it she would have been in some ‘better’ profession.

  7. I absolutely HEART this post, Bindu! I was nodding my head all they way…so true all of it. My son now goes to a Montessori which is not quite cheap but not exorbitant as the ones affiliated to the big schools too. I am looking at a school that is not “international”..and more on the lines of alternate school.
    You have quoted J.Krishnamurthi’s words..does your son goes to The Valley school by any chance?? just curious..:-)
    And, I so agree about the passion being the missing factor these days. Even we had a history teacher who’d keep us enthralled in her classes.
    I shudder to hear about the syllabus some LKG/UKG classes follow :-0

    I seem to have missed some posts here, or maybe the update doesn’t work :-0

    • He goes to Vidyashilp, Uma, though I would love it if they went to The Valley. The distance is a little too much for us, but then getting an admission…..sigh!!

      • Hey….another friend of mine sends her son to Vidyashilp and she’s very happy with the place too. So happy tht she put her 2nd son in their Montessori when he was 1& a 1/2 yrs old. I was like…:-o.
        Here I was trying to keep my children away from school as long as possible….seriously my younger one didnt even go to nursery…straight away put her in KG2 when the time came.

  8. A friend of mine sends her son to a gurukul kind of school[she told me the name but I forgot;-/] in B’lore. Not the classroom kind of school but more lessons under her the tree and learning about and from Nature. Extra curricular activities like music and carpentry given more attention…all this goes on till the 7th std i thk and then they slowly channel the kids towards the syllabus.
    Teachers are supposed to be excellent…they dont teach, they let the kids explore and come to conclusions. Seems like the school is really popular among the celebrities, etc. Admissions are like gold. My friend cd get her son in only because the school authorities were impressed by the fact tht she works in an NGO and her husband is the editor of a popular newspaper.
    The reason I mentioned it……given a chance I’d love to send my kids there but my H will never agree. He’s not sure whether such places really equip a child for the future.
    Coming to teachers…….I can only speak about the ones in Dubai. 80% of the teachers in Dubai are not satisfied with their jobs. In our times our teachers cd speak their minds and even administer a beating and our parents would nod in agreement. But now even a scolding from them is not tolerated and the parents complain to the school making their lives miserable. They are over-loaded with paperwork which they take home to finish & not the least the pay is lousy. Teaching is like a job people consider only if all their options don’t work out. Under such cirumstances tell me how are they going to inspire children and instill the value of learning 😦

    • There are quite a few schools like that here, the point is they are totally out of reach for ordinary folks. As you said, getting an admission is by itself a herculean task and then the fees..
      As for teachers speaking their mind – you are absolutely right, in our days, our parents considered teacher’s authority as sacrosanct. Today they are scared even to raise their voice. Sadly it is the kids who get caught in between 😦

    • Nancy, I think the scenario regarding teachers is no different here…overload of work, less pay and to top it they have to deal with bratty children whom they cannot reprimand and over-protective parents :-/
      Many think like your H..frankly, I too keep oscillating between these views. Our parents had it so much easier, looks like. Here, we have to even rack out brains for the board. While my H and me were leaning towards ICSE, I hear views that ISCE is good only upto a certain standard because later the kids struggle to cope up with the competitive exams :-0 If ICSE aims at concept based teaching, I fail to understand why the students are not able to or would not be able to cope up well???
      Sorry Bindu for hogging your comment section.

      • You are absolutely welcome, Uma 🙂
        I think the point with competitive exams is that you cover some 8-10 years question papers several times and you are almost certainly through. The coaching sessions aremore oriented on the type of questions that would come and how to answer them rather than taking an analytical and original approach.

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