All the problems of the world would be solved if every child could get education. When I say education I mean ideal education. Of course this is an over simplification of the complexity of problems facing us from war & terrorism to poverty & ill health to corruption & anarchy. However there’s huge merit in saying that these problems are a big part the result of mis-education or else the complete lack of education itself! I would go far as saying that we could make teach good parenting to all people, half of the problems would anyway get solved!
Before we talk about what ideal education is, we need to examine the state of our current education system. Education as it is in India has problems at multiple levels – from the utterly ineffective municipal schools, to a complete lack of educational facilities for a large number of children across India. For the few privileged children whose parents can afford some of the relatively better schools, a different set of problems plague those schools. I am going to elaborate more on those in this article today.
The middle class parents all at least realize the need for education. They see education as a passport to success for their children, especially in the thriving private economy of India today. Unfortunately, education from primary schooling to college is all in a rut today. The lack of seats in good colleges leads to downward pressure up to even kindergarten. Because of this scarcity of seats, the primary focus from the day the child enrolls into school is to get the maximum marks in exams, irrespective of the quality of education. Parents then pressurize their children to either get marks or to conform to a limited set of careers that are supposedly safe. There’s huge emphasis on getting marks without consideration for the learning that’s happening.
Many parents feel the need for change in education – knowing that this doesn’t seem to be the best way of educating our children, but feel helpless, either because they often don’t know what quality education either looks like or whether it is available today.
I have been taken workshops on what we call as Education for Tomorrow for the last 5 years for parents. And I give them a small test papers containing questions from various subjects till the Xth standard. Invariably the pass percentage is very low when I ask facts-based questions such as why do land breeze and sea breeze occur, or when were the three battles of Panipat held. Parents fail even more miserably when accosted with questions based on application. In over 1000 parents over these years, very few parents know why and where quadratics equations (ax2 + bx + c = 0) are applied outside of the examination paper.
The problem is our education system is still stuck in an age where information was not easily available and those who have facts at their finger tips were often highly valued by the market. However, today with in-depth information about everything under the sun being available through the Internet, in our mobiles and computers, it makes no sense for our children to spend 15 years of their lives mugging up information for the sake of examinations. I ask parents – in which industry today has technology not had a significant impact – the only field that we come up with is education! Education today looks almost the same as it looked 20, or even 40 years back.
What this system ensures is that the even the most curious of children lose interest in real learning after a point of time. The tragedy is that children actually want to learn. We need to find the right ways of teaching and the right things to teach.
What’s truly needed is the ability to inquire into the world around us, the ability to find facts and the ability to distinguish between facts, opinions and what’s often just plain nonsense. What needed is for students to learn to work in teams, to lead teams because that’s what all adults are doing in whatever career they are in. Creativity needs to be a cornerstone of education – and not creativity as applied in arts, but creativity as applied in all subject areas and in fact creativity as applied in the solving of myriad problems that we face today as a society.
We need to teach our children to learn to deal with the complex world today. Our children need to learn life skills such as how to handle money, how to make and maintain relationships, how to take responsibility for their own lives, how to stay healthy – by eating right and by exercising, how to live in a society!
In fact, even parents recognize that success in life has nothing to do with the marks that you get. When I ask them what they believe are the success factors behind successful people from various fields, they come up with determination, vision, team work, communication, confidence, positive attitude, risk taking, being a life long learner, living a balanced life, the right ethics! And you know what the funny part is – that parents very rarely mention marks of degrees in this list.
And yet the most important success factors that even parents recognize are not what we are teaching our kids! This is the tragedy of our education system. We are focusing on the wrong results, so obviously we are getting the wrong results.
Fortunately, there are a few systems of education and schools that are making trying to teach the important things. Of course that still cannot address all the problems of education, many of which are due to lack of understanding of what ideal education is, or because systemic governance issues such as scarcity of college seats. But at least these methods of education and schools are showing that a change is possible. That it is possible to move closer to ideal education. If only all of our education system moves towards that, the world’s problems, well at least most of India’s most pressing problems would be solved.