Being born in a family of educators, my sister and I grew up with an awe-inspiring experience of learning every word of the
Archarya devo bhava (Sanskrit for may teacher be your God) and
(Mathru) pithrau devo bhava“, translating to, parents be your God.
I belong to a small town, Vizianagaram, where most schools and colleges were established and supported by the local kings: Gajapathis. Also, our town had had a concept of feeding the financially struggling students (typically attending a university), both local and non-local, to pursue their education. These students approach the halls of residences patronised by royalty or the student’s lecturers or any generous people who can afford a meal to these students. The way it’s done is unique and inspirational. Warm hearts who could feed a student or more can fix on one day of the week, say, Mondays; lunch and dinner at this fixed house, elsewhere on Tuesdays, and so on. In my language, Telugu, it is called “Varalabbay”- Varam- any particular day of the week and ‘Abbay–boy! I had seen only boys practising this; maybe, only boys were allowed to study in such challenging situations – patriarchal society. I still remember such students coming to my house, Mondays & Thursdays. By the time they finished their courses and found a meaningful livelihood, my mother, more than my dad or their parents, was the first one with whom they shared their happiness! Feeding the hunger is the kindest deed one can observe. Wonderful memories those were. All this was before the demand vs. supply of the education and government interference was minimal.
By the mid-’80s, the capitalist approach had slowly entered the education sector, which paved the way for the growth of many private schools and colleges. Who can afford what was the hidden motto, worth had taken a second place. At the age of two, the first school I attended was run by our family friends, and my mum was a teacher there. For our high-school studies, my dad sent my sister and I to our times’ top Christian missionary school. And we were a handful of children in our area to get such privileged private education. I remember almost every teacher of mine to date, and I learnt something from every one of them and had been many of their favourites. My teachers have inspired me, instilled discipline and principles along with knowledge. Many of my high-school teachers, my undergrad lecturers are ones I owe a lot to. I was also my undergrad college topper. Education was totally a changed scenario by then. It’s grown into a major business sector. Globalisation, awareness, affordability, everything stirred up, and private schools, colleges, universities mushroomed. So much so that every street has an education institute. Quantity over quality and the most dominant factor, caste-based reservations, rule the Indian education system. The zeal in students may or may not be appreciated. The teaching profession, mostly, is seen as a means of livelihood, and education is precipitated into getting a paper called a degree. By the time I started my masters, I must say, there was a perceivable digression from education as a pursuit & sharing of knowledge in both the parties, students and lecturers. On my part, that was the major regret in life. I must stress there are still those who teach with a passion for knowledge and mold a student’s life for the better. I bow to those, only those. Moving to England, it was fascinating to see a deviation from the hierarchical structure. Yet, I learnt a lot from my managers and colleagues. But I have started learning more as a mother of two kids. It was enlightening to see not all the students in one class read the same books at school levels. They are placed in one class, only based on their age. Based on their abilities, they follow different levels. That was really a way forward. I remember giving quarterly, half-yearly, year-end exams, and monthly tests that included assignment and unit tests throughout my schooling. In the UK, my son’s first exam was when he was 7 and it was an observational test, not even letting the student know they were being tested. So, there were no external pressures, nor did the student “prepare” for the test. At that age, it was based on what you are just as every day!:
Having moved to the US, the highly competitive school my kids go to bring the zeal out of my very relaxed son and made him nervous at the same time. This system has tests, competitions, tournaments on whatever one can name. Is that necessary? Well, it comes with its repercussions, both positive and not so. Leaving all these competitions aside, schooling by itself is another beautiful system. Students attempt mandatory tests at around the age of nine. Many of the teachers have decades of experience. I believe the local people should teach children at a young age to understand how that country works—getting deviated again. Coming to my original topic, teachers lay a solid foundation for any child’s life. When parents find it hard to manage their kids inside four walls over a week’s break, imagine the tenacity teachers possess having to deal with them throughout the year and build a strong foundation. I am on a book, “living at the source,” by Swamy Vivekananda, based on his speeches during his trip to the US. He says every race has something positive to give to society. Yes, a valid point. But one should not regress from a well-working system to one that’s outdated and possibly unrefined! Many children are brain dead by the time they finish their universities. Life is supposed to start from there, not end there. Trust teachers, trust our children. They have their views towards their aims, ambitions. It’s their world. The future belongs to them. Let them flourish. Let them be thankful for what we, as parents, have done. Not make their escape from us. With a few exceptions, teachers know their role. There is abundant sunlight out there. It depends on how much you, yourself, let it in. How much, as parents, we make our children self-sufficient in discovering it themselves. As said, Knowledge is power. The essence of childhood is not treasured in competitions and measured in scores.
Nice blog padma. I strongly believe in reforming education system in India. We’ve forgotten our culture for gurus who not just taught kids. It molded their lives. India started adapting western education system so much that it forgot to include its rich heritage ( like yoga, vedas, Indian mythology, Indian languages, our philosophy of life…) in to the curriculum. Do you think we can bring that change?
Mouni, When my friends share their views, I feel being appraised for a pay-hike. Yes, our Vedic, ancient knowledge has definitely being left behind. Even otherwise, the modern scientific knowledge, most of the times was not ‘peer reviewed’. It was truly hierarchical and a student always must remain a student. That led to suppression and it’s still the same. Research needs to be pushed not just the basic engineering, Our students from these affiliated Universities when come to West to pursue higher degrees, have to go through their basic principles all over again. Education reforms are a must. It must be knowledge-centric, not the rat-race-centric. Where do we start from?