A terrorist called ‘compulsory’ in education

Gaurav Sharma

Does imparting education mean filling a mind with knowledge? Or is it just about invoking curiosity to elucidate and clarify concepts?The truth is that there is no end to learning and getting acquainted with numerous phenomena taking place in and around us.

Filling a mind with a mountain of knowledge does seem like an uphill task. Personally, I would never wish to be bestowed upon with such a harrowing challenge. To me,the second objective is more feasible. Just ignite a spark and let the engine run until the driver wishes to switch it off.Simple.

Imparting education is more challenging than to acquire it. It needs a research, thorough planning and careful implementation.Unfortunately, the education system in our country is ineffective and is an utter failure in delivering what education must communicate or warrant. As things stand today, there is nothing to attract young minds and to sustain their quest for learning. On the contrary, an overdose of information tends tokill their interest. Thisis why the truth behind ourliteracy rate has been crawlingfor seventy years sinceindependence despitehavinginvested millions. We have managed a meagre 1% cumulative increase in our literacy rate per year and even this hasn’t lead to transformations that Indian students need to look forward to.

A large number of people think education serves only a lip-service of making a person capable of interacting and acceptable in society. Some label a person as literate if he speaks English.By and large, we weigheducation by the testimonials a person acquires by passing exams. Each of these notions have flaws.A person’s education must be measured by the knowledge he holds, the maturity of his views and his attitude towards society; may it be formal or informal.

Not stretching it further, I would like to switch over to my perceptions of imparting education.The beginning itself needs rectification. We must emphasize on quality than quantity. At the primary level itself, exams are like a war for our tiny tots. They are strangulated with three languages, Mathematics, Science, Social Science, Moral Education, General Knowledge and Drawing. An exam for Drawing? Seriously? Instead of helping our children master a subject all that we are teaching them is to master the art of passing exams. I strongly recommend formal examination only for three subjects instead of eight or nine at the school level. When one can learn languages in months, why he is made to linger on with them for years? For languages, there need be no exams at the school level and teachers must focus on improving writing and conversation skills. With the present system, despite learning a language for ten to twelve years, how many students are able to speak and write well in that language?However, after a few years in jobs, we can hear them speaking the same language fluently. Can’t we do that in schools itself? We are definitely wasting resources and energy on a futile exercise.

There should be no compulsory subjects in school and after-school curriculum. Elementary education of Mathematics, Science and Social Study must be complete in five to six years and after that, a child should be allowed to choose only one or two subjects he wants to study. Compulsory subjects are like an infection that makes pupils sick of (or should I say, with) studies. Our education system consumes ten precious years of our lives for preparing us for real education.

Incentives in education can do wonders for a poor country as ours is and no, I am not talking of monetary incentives for every achievement. That would be a trite form of bribery at best.I advocate assurance of security at different levels of education.For this, we can categorize jobs in the government and semi government sectors on the basis of academic qualification, ascertaining some mandatory academic level for every job.Reaching every new academic level will assure a job suitable to his qualifications. This is what ‘skill development’ is all about. If he wants to study further and get into serious academics, he can carry on with this aim. Whenever a student believes that a job is vital, he should be given that opportunity according to his highest educational credential. Obviously, jobs need to be in synchronization with the sort of future-ready qualification he will seek. The guarantee of a job will boost confidence and bring positivity about education eradicating the deep-set pessimism prevailing now.

To have educated unemployment is the biggest failure of our educational system and is a curse for not just the prevailing education system but also for our economy.Every youth is a resource and we can’t afford to let it go waste. The question that now arises circumnavigatesways of creating appropriate jobs for these varying levels in education.The first step that needs to be taken for this is to make a law against engaging illiterate and unskilled labour. This will improve efficiency and productivity.Education imparted in a correct way will help in solving the problem of unemployment because education iscapable of inventing meaningful employment.

Another serious flaw that our education system has is that we measure the quantum of knowledge by the marks secured by the aspirant in a written examination. This system encourages cramming and rote learning.Most of the students are unableto answer questions they have attempted correctly the previous day and are unable to delve into the mysteries of creative solutions. This reflects neither knowledge nor acquiring education. It is just a battle of possessing testimonials.For most of the prevailing job profiles, the candidates today are selected on the basis of written as well as viva-voce examination. So it would be better if we start the practice right at the school level by giving equal emphasisto written as well as oral examination.Education must speak for itself enabling the spirit of meaningful exploration. If a person has acquired a level of education, he need not to present testimonials to prove his credentials but must be able to testify his knack for identifying and then creating value-added answers or solutions… this is where thereal voice of his education ought to be loud and audible as compared to competitors.

Most Parents do acknowledge their duty to educate their children but they end-up simply managing fees and nothing more.  Their contribution towards developing a creative involvement with learning needs a push because schools today hardly ever focus on all-round development of children. Only students havingsome inherent talent get benefitted by the current formal education patterns. Theexhibitionistic emphasis laid by the schools on co-curricular and sports activities also create chasms and obstacles for meaningful education. In such a scenario, the participation of parents can make a lot of wonders. The involvement of parents needs to be participative and not just about buying and making accessible certain aids to learning. However, the present day trend circling the Spending-Time-Together drill is only limited to sitting in living room watching TV and occasionally indulging in frivolous conversation.I have emphatic examples.Last month, I had been invited to the launch a book authored by a ten-year-old boy. His class-teacher recognised his storytelling skills and contacted his parents. The school and his parents teamed up and got his stories published as a book. The school organised a grand launch function and invited many dignitaries. Any child can blossom if he gets such zealous support and participation of parents and teachers. I remember when my father learnt about my inclination towards writing, he started giving me a random topic every day. I would write on it and read aloud the write-up to him after dinner. I enjoyed the exercise a lot and it helped me honing my writing skills.

The world as we know now is literally living on an overdose of technology. Parents often complain that their children spend hours staring at their smart phones. I agree that there are many negatives related to this form of tech addiction but indulgent monitoring, a little vigilance,and proper guidance will go a long way in putting things in the right perspective. Technology does save time, money and energy. It offers variety and knowledge at the cheapest denominator. But technology needs to be harnessed in the right way to become a productive ally. Use of technology can make lessons more interesting and easier to learn.

Education is a fundamental right and it should be imparted with constructive and noble intentions. A little innovation and thoughtfulness can make a major difference to our education system. Education is one sector that needs immediate amelioration and if achieved, it can find solution to our every woe and worry. The first step, as I have mentioned earlier, can be doing away with a terror called ‘compulsory’.


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