The education system of India is getting more politicised day by day. It is the politicians who decide whether English will be taught in schools, whether or examinations will be held for primary students and whether tuitions by government schools teachers will be legalised or not. The story is even worse in colleges where politics has permiated even to the student level. “The whole movement of student control is a mistake. They’re so busy controlling that they are not students,” Stephen Leacock had once remarked. But in India, not only do students control but also have strong political affiliations. And in this process, education is the greatest casualty.
Physical punishment has been barred from schools by the long hands of our law. But has even this simple law been implemented? Let us not just think of the schools of our metros, the schools of Bangalore, or Hyderabad or Cochin, but of those schools that are supposed to increase the literacy rate of our nation. Let us rather think of those schools situated in unheard of places and those schools that are nameless. It is exactly this set of institution that is supposed to spread education and awareness to the countless surge of illiterate masses. These are the institutions that must ensure that the next generations of Indians do not lag behind while their counterparts in the metros have the aid of technology for bread and butter. Has the law formulated by those at the higher rungs of the education system ever been implemented in these schools? Are the students of such schools given free and more importantly, fair education? Do they get the basic amenities and facilities due to a student? The answer, in many cases, unfortunately is in the negative.
Now let us take the case of the urban student. A mournful lad crosses the road with a heavy load on his back. What tragedy might have befallen this lad – maybe about ten – that he sulks ruefully, you might wonder. Ah! he is only a student, a student on his way to school, says your friend and you get your answer. A typical Indian school student presents the true picture of our system of education. His face says it all – the ere cheerful visage wilts under the load of textbooks and copies – and the irony is that the child knows perfectly well that this education might at the end, be of no use to him. The type of education that we think, or rather or policy makers think necessary for the countless innocents, is so monotonous that it lacks in vibrancy. The same schedule of reopening of school, tests in the same format at regular intervals, mugging up for the year-end exams… it seems as if life for the student is cursed. The run of the mill textbooks make history more boring and bi!
ology seem lifeless and chemistry too acidic. Moral science, thus remains only on pen and paper, and geography becomes a regular chore of memorising the capitals of various nations. And the less said about mathematics, the better. By the time they pass out from school. most of them are so gripped with the phenomenon of ‘maths phobia’ that the maths teacher becomes a nightmare! Finally, after finishing school, come the crucial stage of career planning. With career-counseling centres mushrooming round every corner of the city, out little friend gets even more confused. What follows is a nervous-breakdown and patching up again becomes difficult. So that was the synopsis of life of the urban student of India.
‘Brain drain’ is one high-sounding phrase often used by the leech-like politicians clinging on to our education system as an anti-US sentiment. But instead of addressing the root of brain drain, we are content with lamenting on the ever increasing rate of emigration. If we, even for a moment compare our pattern of imparting education to that of the US, the deficiencies of the current system will command our attention. For example, the Wake Forest University at North Carolina, USA had recently undertaken a programme of learning more about India and South-east Asia in general (undertaken by the dept. of Mass Communication) for better understanding of different cultures. About fifteen students of 19-year-olds volunteered and their enthusiasm was characteristic of any other teenager. Apart from regular classes on the concerned subject, they were required to communicate with Indians residing in India via electronic mails. Such a facility gave them an opportunity to discover their subject themselves and also acquire a first-hand report on other communities. Being part of the programme myself as a volunteer from India, I found that their perception of India as a poverty-stricken, illiterate nation changed and they could finally appreciate the rich cultural heritage of India. Such a project as this not only makes learning enjoyable, but also helps the student discover the joys of learning. Why can’t we, in India make our pattern of education as interesting as this? Of course, the facility of emails is not so widespread as in the west, but we do have the facility of an intricate postal service. Any project undertaken in our schools and colleges remains limited to the prescribed text-book and our students are not able to comprehend the subject practically.
It is true that a vast number of schools in India do not even have a building to hold classes. But even then, we must make use of whatever little asset we have. Let biology classes not be confined to class-rooms alone. Let the young minds breathe fresh air, free of real-politick and assimilate the joy of learning to its fullest degree. We do need to change the way we impart education because in a way, we are still slaves – slaves of the ‘thumb-impression’ and the sooner we attain our freedom, the better.