Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Random Thoughts of a Wandering Mind

Whenever I pass through a forest or roam through a sparse vegetation on the outskirts of a town, I see so many trees I can't name. I hear a lot of different chirps, and I wonder which bird it is. I don't know why, but its really frustrating for me to be unable to recognise a tree by its leaf and a bird by its sound. Now on the other hand, do you remember the number of times you learnt World Geography? The Prairies and the Savannas, each and every continent, their countries, climates and crops, their minerals and industries, trade, culture and people, everything? I remember learning it twice during my schooling years, and the way our teachers taught it, the only message that reached my brain was - wow, thats a lot to remember! And now comes the funniest part of it - I remember very little of it ; actually, except the world map maybe, I remember nothing. So I often wonder why my teachers didn't curtail one year of World Geography and rather taught me to recognise my own surroundings. Hadn't I felt a greater sense of belonging had I known them better? Hadn't I learnt to protect them and cherish them, had I known them as one of my own?

In Maharashtra, where I studied, the state board textbooks teach us the Indian Freedom Struggle in three different classes during schooling. For the first time in class 5, then in class 8, and finally in class 10. Each time, the chapters add more dates, more names, more data to remember and rote. In class 5, we come to know that Mahatma Gandhi carried out the Dandi March to mark the beginning of Salt Satyagraha. In class 8, we come to know that it started on the 12th of March 1930 from the Sabarmati Ashram and we came to know of every leader who took part in it. In class 10, we came to know that it lasted for 24 days and 390 kilometers over 4 districts and 48 villages, we studied the entire map route of the March and the precise timing when the Mahatma picked up a fistful of salt from the shores of Dandi.

I know it is really ungrateful to be so sarcastic about our honourable leaders. To be honest, I respect them all from the bottom of my heart. But I believe that the purpose of history is not to honour the dead, it is rather to inspire the living. Studying the Freedom Struggle once is a must, twice is good - to know more details, but thrice is so unnecessary! I often wonder how many of us have ever been encouraged by our glorious history the way we learnt it in school. And I also wonder whether it would've been much more fruitful if they had instead compiled the history of Indian industrialists - The Tatas, the Birlas, the Ambanis, the Mittals, the Mallyas- all of those who gave India an identity in the World today. And if to this compilation they had added the stories of Jagdishchandra Basu, Meghnada Saha, Ramanujan and C V Raman. And if they had been accompanied by Kapil Dev and Dara Singh, and P.T. Usha and Subbalakhshmi.. If instead of telling us how the Dandi March was carried on, they had told us how the IISc was established, and how India launched her first rocket and won her First World Cup... That would've inspired me a lot, I am sure.

How many times have you learnt about the Four Types of Pollution and all the blah blah about it during school? How many times did you learn in Environmental Studies, that you shouldn't waste water and electricity, that they are precious? And have you seen those huge neon sign advertisements every meter away on city streets? Well, I come from a town in Vidarbha where we get drinking water from the Municipality every 15 days, and during summer there is 14 hours of power cut per day. Yes, a day has 24 hours. I sometimes wish that students from the cities should sometimes be taken to visit such towns instead of making them recite the types and sources and all the crap about precious resources. I am sure those students know about such living conditions, but if they saw this with their own eyes, and lived through it for a day or two, it will be a lesson well learnt.

There is just so much more that I can add to this list. There are just so many things I wish to change about the way things are taught in India, especially at the school level. Someday, I believe I will.

10 comments:

Anonymous said...

This is good stuff Radha. The thoughts are really mature and true to their core. I feel the same way about our education system.

janhavi said...

Unique piece with a unique thought !!! Keep it up :-)

Radha said...

At Anon and Janhavi: thanks!

Subhadip said...

Found this to be an interesting discussion and thought I might chip in something. I come from the icse board which as a national board had almost nothing specific to any particular state. But that did not mean I did not learn anything about my place and it surroundings. Why so? The bridge was filled in by teachers and parents for sure and one inquisitive mind. Books have limitations, that they need to be standardized and revised often to keep up with new information. And given a country like India where 'chalta hai' attitude is way too rampant unless we get an 'educated' education minister I don't see that happening. Again given the fact that India is only 60yrs independent I can guarantee you it is here to stay. Talking about industrialists,well I am not sure if a student in 5-6th grade can really appreciate their contributions. These days there have been changes made to school curriculum, students do a lot of 'projects' and I surely believe this is a positive step. So yeah, there are some problems at school level but imho they are not all that bad (atleast not from my experience).

Subhadip said...

ahh tht was a comment way too long :D. sorry for tht

Radha said...

Thanks for opening up a discussion!! (I don't mind long comments!)I think you had a good experience at school :) But I feel your comment is not just.

"Why so? The bridge was filled in by teachers and parents for sure and one inquisitive mind." I do not know the percentages, but more than 60% of Indian students must be studying in state boards,where teachers rarely fill the gap. And parents are as educated only in cities. Inquisitiveness is innate, but a lot of times, its discouraged due to the lethargy of teachers and the monotony of curriculum. We need a curriculum where inquisitiveness is not just encouraged, but also cultivated.

" am not sure if a student in 5-6th grade can really appreciate their contributions." I also do not think students should be taught about industrialists and stuff in class 5. Class 9 or 10 will be great for that sake.

All the school curricula are changing and improving these days, and they are being constantly revised and updated. I just think that we need more than revisions to create something meaningful.

I just hate to accept the 'chalta hai' attitude. Maybe I can never change it, but I just hate to believe that.

Subhadip said...

'maybe I can never change it' - like the fact tht you are taking the responsibility of such a huge task :)

In a country where the vote bank and the minister's whims decide education policies, where education is increasingly being commercialized, teachers (most) who are hardly as dedicated as those in the past, parents who find little time away from their jobs to spend with kids and an entire section of the population devoid of primary education - well it requires more than a change in just the curriculum - an overhaul of the entire system. I guess tht is too much I'm asking for...

Anonymous said...

Hi this is Chidambar, if u remember. Post is good, I had felt the same throughout my school days-y should one study history?. How many such people have you come across with the same feeling about the system?

Radha said...

Hi Chidambar.. I remember you :)
Well, I feel one should study history, but in a different way..
and I haven't found people who think the same way. Most people don't care when they are out of the system :)

Anonymous said...

Thanks for remembering :). Ya now I know mostly the way it should have been taught, or rather learnt. It is sad that you haven't come across many people of same line of thought. When I asked that, was expecting a positive reply. Anyways what ru doing these days? How is life going?