Saturday, November 19, 2011

On education.........

Time and again I have been lamenting on the plight of our school going children who are not enjoying their school life the way we did. Competition is stiff and the children need to perform they say. What exactly is performance? Getting a good rank? Coming 1st in class? Will rote learning that children are presently subjected to help in the long run? Many of you are young mothers and I really want to know what is going on?

A recent report in Hindustan Times claimed that a grade IV student in a government school was not able to solve problems in math of the grade II level. Teachers were not able to answer questions from the lesson they were teaching. We would all like to take up government jobs because accountability is almost nil. But are private institutions any better? We have a bunch of kids in our complex that would be playing in the campus when I returned from work. They were probably in their primary school. I would have to be careful while entering the compound and parking my car. One never knew from where a little boy or girl would come running. Of late I noticed that there were no children playing downstairs. Where had they gone? There was a super expensive coaching class being run from a newly built multi-storey building in our neighborhood and at least 20 children from our complex were being sent there for coaching. They had subject teachers tutoring them from 3 to 6 in the afternoon. The children would be forced to learn since they would not be sent home unless they finished mugging up for a test or completed their home work. A little girl known to me was detained till 8 in the evening because she was taking longer to learn. The girl was so tired that she went off to sleep without having her supper.

What is wrong with young mothers? Why are they not able to handle children in the 1st or 2nd grade? Most of them are stay at home moms. Do these children have to compromise on their play time? Will they not lose their love for learning? I am appalled to say the least. All these children come from fairly affluent families and go to reputed English medium schools. Is the school over burdening the children? I hear that some schools in town do not allow the children to write answers in their own words. The teacher marks out the answer in the text book and they just have to reproduce it word to word. Just out of curiosity I asked a boy in Grade V to describe his hobby in 5 simple sentences. As I expected his language lacked imagination and he could not write beyond the 3rd sentence. He simply could not think for himself. He has never been encouraged to do so. He has also been packed off to the above mentioned coaching class. Teachers do not encourage children to write out answers in their own language since it would mean additional work for them.

Why am I worried? Long back a friend said in jest that we Indians could never be leaders. We are happy being followers. I disagreed. I gave the example of my own brothers who had studied in Gobichettipalayam with Tamil as their medium of instruction and recounted their efforts to stand out among their peers. I wonder if I’d be able to defend our present school goers with the same zeal. If schools are going to churn out robots what can I do with them at the undergrad level? We have students who have opted for Botany Honors because they were not offered admission in any other subject. These girls do not have an idea about the basics of Biology. I have to start with cell organelles and often give up midway because nothing that I say seems to register in their minds. I cannot be expected to start from grade IV level.

Things were not this bad even till about 4 years back. I recall the golden days when I took up my job as Lab in charge. The girls would take 5 minutes to settle down for their practical class. They would discuss the lesson taught in theory. Their enthusiasm would be contagious. Most of them did not have educated mothers. But they were schooled by dedicated teachers who saw to it that they got their basics right. I am afraid that these days teachers expect parents to teach their wards and parents particularly mothers do not have the confidence to teach children in their pre teens let alone children in high school classes. Coaching centers are mushrooming and it seems easiest to pack them off to tuition classes and relax.

My advice to young mothers would be to encourage your child to think for him/herself. He may take a while longer but will benefit more. I am not going to be working when these kids move on to college. It is in the interest of making the best use of the intellectual resource of our country that I write. The available potential in the form of youth energy needs to be groomed and utilized.


Anonymous said...

my sister teaches in a govt school and tells me that students bunk classes,are not petrified by scolding and have become audacious.there remains no love for learning as they've enrolled for free meals or money as per ladli scheme,have no ambition whatsoever while teachers struggle to restrain them and countless lectures on benefits of education falls flat.children from poor families come to play and chat,and as per govt ruling pass till tenth class.they do not have background that's conducive to study though their parents do take heart in the fact that their kids are going to school.
conversely,kids of educated middle class parents are burdened by expectations and peer pressure.

Smitha said...

That is such a scary situation. I remember when I first came to the UK, some of our friends who had children then, would complain about the quality of education here. They used to say that the children were not pushed enough etc etc..

Today with my 5 yr old in school, I have to say I have a different perspective. They do have homework, and they do have assignments. The main difference i see is that they are not taught from textbooks, and there is no rote learning. They are encouraged to think and be creative. My daughter now reads really well, writes short stories- just like that , because she feels like it. Of course she makes spelling mistakes, but I have learnt to encourage her rather than demoralize her by correcting her mistakes - she is after all only 5. She seems to enjoy her learning - so far. I have no idea how this sort of learning will pan out in the long term - but so far studies are fun for her.

As for tuitions - I was appalled when I heard that UKG onwards children seem to be in tuitions. I can't help agree with you - what are the parents doing? Surely, it can't be that tough!

I just hope that our education system and society evolves to reach the right balance between getting marks and understanding the subjects.

radha said...

So true. Teaching children by rote method is not the right way. In an attempt to overload the child, we are losing out on so much. The basics should be taught well, and the child can pick up everything else as he goes along. And as for play and creativity... all that is lost. It is time to realise that these are also part of overall growth of a child. We should encourage all round development in the right manner. Why is there a need of extra coaching if the school (teachers) does its job?

hillgrandmom said...

And then when they join the work force, they wonder why India, with so much higher education available, is unable to come with creative solutions to problems and always someone else to make decisions for them.

Deepa said...

Hi. The decay in the education system has been going on for a long time now. My father used to complain that my teachers were not as good as his. My sister now complains that her daughter's teachers are not as good as hers. Education has now become a business. It is not fair to fault the government schools alone. The private schools and colleges that have grown over the last few years have a great role to play in churning out mediocre students. Then this whole mania for engineering and medicine. When good quality education is not given, how will the products that come out of this system be good? Its a shame. Really.

Cocktail Party said...

I just remembered an instance when a girl who was told right from her younger days on how to speak, write, even think by her mother...she got so used to her mom telling her what to do that when she was married off she was so scared to take decisions on her own and run her own life...Be it Education or Life you always learn from you mistakes and no amount of forced learning can help you in exploring the best in you!

Tassu said...

If I talk about my childhood , I was very weak in studies till grade 6.School was a nightmare then.I always fared badly in all subjects because may be I simply didn't want to study.Only time when anyone would find me learning would be during final exams which is why I could push myself till grade 6.We were like almost sure that I wouldn't get a promotion to grade 7 because throughout the year I'd fared terribly in all the terms.Thankful to god that I got a blissful jolt just then.I flunked but this really made me studious and a good learner right from day 1 of the same class.First time I'd got certificate of merit in 2 subjects at the end of that year , after that life was good. :):)

R's Mom said...

Awesome post HHG!

This one I am forwarding to my parents..something both my amma appa have been screaming about for the past 5 years...Amma has the same problems in school as you have..if she asks children to 'think' about the answers, parents come to her saying 'aap de do..we will make them learn'

Creativity or independent thinking is lost..completely lost..what is the point of getting 90% if you cant solve 1+1 = 2...

some kids need extra help and going to tutions for that is totally fine..but today I have a mother of a 3 year old in my office bus who sends her son to school because

1) there is no one to teach at home
2) At least he will learn something there

I mean tution for a THREE YEAR OLD!

Its sad..but its true...

Can I mention again that I loved this post


Hip Grandma said...

Anon:The tax payer's money is used to pay government school teacher's. But the standard is pathetic. Mid day meals may be an attraction. But isn't is the duty of teacher's to create an interest for learning in the minds of children. IF A TEACHER'S INCREMENT WAS DECIDED ON HER STUDENT'S PERFORMANCE WOULD SHE NOT TRY HARDER TO MAKE THEM UNDERSTAND THE LESSON? mAKE TEACHER'S ACCOUNTABLE AND SEE THE DIFFERENCE.

On the other hand I do agree that Government school teacher's are not left free to do the job. They count cattle and work for the election commission as well. I am not sure but some of them too wouldn't mind doing the job and very often prefer it to class room teaching.

Smitha:My grand daughter's school follows the same system in USA.There is no coercion and children learn at an easy pace.There is a teacher and an assistant teacher handling 20 students. But as you say many Indian parents are not happy with the system. It seems there are two sets of home assignments. One is compulsory and the other is optional. Indian parents force their children to do the optional one which doesn't make sense to the teacher. The very purpose of making it optional is to let the child identify his/her areas of interest and work more on subjects that she enjoys studying. Indians will always be Indians I suppose.

radha:In India schools are over crowded in towns and almost empty in villages. When the teacher is over burdened she looks for the easy way out. Hence she encourages learning by rote.

hillg'mom:I feel like saying Amen. Very few Indians think beyond a regular salary. Mediocrity is no issue in India.

There is a joke that for a govt. servant the salary is paid for coming to work and 'do number ka paisa' is for the work they do.School teachers and some college teachers would think the same about the money tuitions could fetch. There is a rule that a teacher is not supposed to teach students of her school/class at home. TI wonder if it is followed.

Deepa:True, but the downfall is more acute now. I see it happening with our students.

Cocktail Party:Spoon feeding is harmful whatever be its form. Learning for oneself, by oneself is always better.

Tassu:People attach so much negativity to failure that it prompts youngsters to run away from home and/or take away their lives. Failure is the stepping stone to success but parents demoralize children so much for poor academic results that a child is afraid to try harder and accepts the fact that he/she is worthless. This should change. I hope your own example inspires others. My sister was like you in her primary and middle school. She just would not try hard. Once she reached high school she became responsible and majored in Physics.

R's Mom: Your mom and me are soul sisters - really.

I don't blame your friend for wanting to send her child for tuitions since she cannot devote time. I talk of mothers who pack their children to tuitions to escape responsibility.

Anonymous said...

dear grandma,
rather then tightening the noose around teachers as you've suggested above,please understand there exists certain conscientious teachers too who do their duty despite children have no interest in learning.

Hip Grandma said...

Anon:I did not mean to undermine the teachers who are sincere. I am sure your sister must be one among the dedicated ones. But would you not agree that they are a minority. I have studied in a private institution and I know the pressure on teachers to perform and I work in a govt. college and have to admit that accountability is much less.

I too struggle to motivate my students who come to college to escape the monotony at home and agree that it is very difficult.

I was just generalizing.

R's Mom said...

I had to write a post on this one...

parijata said...

This post, as all others, struck a chord.
My teachers were the learn-by-rote-or-we-will-not-give-marks type, but thankfully my parents, both teachers, helped us get real education. Often, I would get my Mom to explain poems to me again, so I could really savor them. Dad would get us to perform simple experiments and during the summer nights, we would all gaze at the stars and try to recognize them.

Now, things have changed. I taught English to some ninth graders for some time and it was so tiring. Parents and teachers are equally to blame.

On the other hand, I am really happy with my kids' school. The kids are made to learn gardening, they cook occasionally, are encouraged to write letters to friends, taken out to trekking often (their school is on a hill), encouraged to read newspapers and take clippings - you get the picture. Of course, we have to be on our toes too, constantly. But it is all very satisfying.

Tassu said...

Since ur last post, I have been coming daily to your blog just to find the same old post of 13th Nov...plzzzzz write..!!

Saumya said...

Amazing topic! It is my pet peeve - the problem with these mothers is they make the rest of us who do want to allow our children to blossom at their own pace look like slackers!

Oh how I wish people would back off their children! How much fun learning can be - I am so blessed to have had parents who never forced me or got caught up in the first rank/second rank race.

Give children their childhood!