MEANING OF EDUCATION
Prime Minister Narendra Modi recently gave tips to students on how to clear the Board examinations with flying colours. Students of Jawaharlal Nehru University are protesting against a newly introduced policy of making attendance in classes compulsory. Do these things have anything to do with education?
Now educationists globally agree that the system of conducting collective written examinations is not the best method to evaluate students’ learning. In fact, learning a subject in the sense of becoming knowledgeable and scoring good marks in written examination in that subject are totally different things. In a country where tuition and coaching classes are given more importance than school education by not only students and parents but teachers as well, we are only preparing students to score high in examinations. There are better experts in this country than Narendra Modi to guide students on this matter. Our problem is that education has come to mean only passing examinations and scoring high marks. Narendra Modi is also strengthening this viewpoint.
Education means developing a comprehensive understanding of the subject being learned. Ideally the students should select the subjects according to their interest and then learn it at their pace and through a method which they are comfortable with. The role of a teacher should be only that of a facilitator. If we foist a subject upon a student against her/his wishes, s(he) may score good marks under some pressure but never be able to develop a liking for the subject or make use of its knowledge in real life.
Education must be linked to social concerns. There should be all round development of students. The students should acquire knowledge, skills and experience which they think will be useful in their lives. If adults start defining the objectives for children and also tell them how to achieve those then the formal process of education may be completed but it would have lost all its relevance.
If we make attendance in classrooms compulsory education will seem like tedium. The quality of teaching should be so exemplary that students get drawn to the class. This demands competency from teachers. It is only when the teacher is not capable or the administrators have no confidence in themselves and as an extension in the students that they think of making attendance in classes compulsory. If the student doesn’t understand the subject in class it is better that s(he) goes to the library or takes the help of teacher or other students outside the class to learn.
The evaluation should be only of whether the student has learnt the subject. If the student has not understood the subject s(he) should get another chance. If s(he) doesn’t learn even in the second chance then s(he) should get a third chance. This process should continue until the student learns. To close the process of evaluation before that would be against the very idea of education. Somebody can understand a topic only in one reading whereas another person may require several readings. The important thing is understanding, not the time taken to learn. Hence the idea of conducting examination at a particular location within a stipulated time and that too in a competitive setting is meaningless. It is inexplicable why the educated class likes to create an unnecessary artificial competitive atmosphere for evaluation of learning of their children which doesn’t resemble any real life situation.
Ideally no student should fail. If a student fails it should be considered the failure of the teacher and not that of student. The student has come to the teacher as an ignorant individual. It is teacher’s responsibility to impart knowledge. If the teacher is unable to make the student learn it means the teacher doesn’t know how to impart knowledge to the student.
The big question is also to what use we’re putting our education to. If we’re using our education to serve our individual or at most familial interests, facilitate corruption, work against nature and other human beings or to cause disrespect to them then our education has no purpose.
Recently I got an opportunity to teach a short course on ‘development studies’ at National Academy of Legal Studies And Research (NALSAR) University in Hyderabad. In addition to classroom discussions the students were expected to visit a local Anganwadi centre and measure the height and weight of one child each to determine whether the child was malnourished. To understand the background of child they were also expected to meet the family and study how it meets its various needs within a limited low income, given that only the children of this category would attend the Anganwadi. For any problem related to their situation like lack of sanitation facilities, drinking water, they were to file an application under the Right to Information Act to the appropriate authorities. During the eight day period of the course they were also expected to scan some newspapers to see how much coverage of the issues being discussed in the class was given by them. All the work done by students was to be presented in the last class before other students and then a report was to be submitted based on their presentation. Now since every student was studying a different child and different family the element of competition from the evaluation process was eliminated. Some students asked whether they could work collectively. They were given the freedom to work together provided they did the amount of work proportionate to the number of students involved. So, if two students were working together they would study two children and two families. Presentations were to be made separately by each of them. In the process of preparing their presentations they did whatever studies or research that were required on their own.
It can be easily imagined in which process the learning for the students will be greater. By making their own choices of the subject of study and doing it their own way or studying books and restricting themselves to classroom discussions, getting their presence recorded in the class akin to incarcerated prisoners of a jail and having the feeling of being continuously monitored by their teachers and invigilators, performing under pressure to score high marks in examinations?
By Sandeep Pandey
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