Bavabhai Sondarva, a teacher from Junagadh, asked his students to collect different thorns from different corners of the village. He then explained to them the conditions these thorns required to survive in. A simple approach like this that deviates from the prescribed format of teaching only from the textbooks can drive the point home sooner.
This country has a lot of potential but lacks a platform to celebrate the innovative work of teachers. There is a lack of empathetic perspective and entrepreneurial vision. Teachers should create expectations, be able to raise fundamental questions through experiments and everyday life. Students are not at fault; it’s gatekeepers like policy makers and teachers who haven’t let talent blossom.
India lacks a platform to celebrate the innovative work of teachers
The purpose of education is not to create clones who copy the best answers and memorise them. Instead of examinations, use creative outputs, original projects, essays and scrapbooks to test a student. In 17 years of teaching society and politics at IIM-A, I have never stuck to a reading list. I encourage students to design projects on something from everyday life, and to teach me something new.
So what are the problems?
- Every achiever has been inspired or mentored by a teacher at some stage. Then why is there no catalogue of such teachers? The UGC and NCERT don’t have any space dedicated to the innovative works of teachers. Unless we learn to celebrate the goodness of a system, we cannot generate positive energy for long term reform.
- Why should children excel in all subjects when they are interested in a few? Why are teachers and the system so rigid that they do not allow students with an excellent result in a few subjects and an average or below average in the rest to move ahead? Extraordinary breakthroughs can be achieved by people who devote single-minded attention to what they enjoy.
- Homework isn’t important. Many first generation learners with illiterate parents drop out because there is nobody at home to help with the homework. Whatever self-preparation is required should be done in the school itself.
- It’s strange that India, a future world leader in the IT industry, does not have multimedia or free software libraries for teaching various concepts through real life and socio-ecological experiences.
And the solutions…
- All teachers’ federations should be brought on board to demolish the transfer industry that punishes sincere teachers who do not have clout.
- Backbencher parliamentarians undertook a study of schools in Finland in the 1960s. They found that schools with the highest number of high achievers had made music compulsory as a subject. In addition, they found that those who did not read for pleasure had a tough time in dealing with language and the literacy competencies needed to handle real life challenges.
- An education committee was set up around 1868 in Japan to study how students were taught around the world. It created a 200-year Education Plan and within 40 years, Japan became the first Asian country to be 100 per cent literate. India has never invested in long-term plans. The country promised to make itself literate within 10 years after Independence. It has achieved 98 per cent of the target of enrolment and retention (in primary education) but hasn’t achieved much in terms of competencies in reading, writing and arithmetic.
—As told to Purvi Malhotra