Let’s first discuss what the word ‘education’ stands for. The very text book definition of education is the process of receiving and giving systemic instruction. Its etymological derivation is from the Latin word ‘educare’- meaning ‘to bring up or to lead out’ where ‘bring up’ literally means to teach a child to behave in a particular way or to have discussions and lead out means to simply guide.
The real question is: are we freeing the students or limiting them? Are we giving them impetus or are we making them sophisticated apes?
Education must fructify two elements in an individual. The first is one should be able to find the real talent granted to one by the existence and the second is to make oneself able to uncover one’s passion. Anyone who finds one’s passion or recognize one’s talent at his early stage of life has very high potentiality of leading a happy and successful life.
There are many dimensions to the real education since a man is the sum total of his/her physical, mental, emotional, psychological, social and spiritual dimensions. Physical aspect of health suggests that being physically leaner, harder and stronger signifies better health where sensible thinking, sharp reasoning and proper understanding amounts to being a mentally sound person. There are emotional dimensions that have profound impact on our overall well-being. Being emotionally balanced is equivalent to not being swept away or controlled by our emotions such as anger, fear, greed, jealousy, hatred etc. The development in cognitive abilities is referred as a psychological development and the basic science and art of being joyful which is the most important dimension referred here as spiritual aspect that unfortunately has not been given any heed to by our schools and colleges yet.
The method of education recently introduced as holistic education can be loosely termed as real education.
A real education would instill the characteristics like curiosity, perseverance and cynicism.
- Curiosity- Real Education doesn’t necessarily give you answers ; it instead flames your inquisitiveness to keep you laser-focused on finding answers to all of your wonderment and queries.
- Perseverance- Real Education makes you inequitable. It’s a proven phenomenon that grit overcomes talent. If you can stick to your queries until you find a way out, you are a winner for sure. It is the tool that helps you to overcome adversity, challenges, and problems in life.
- Skepticism- Real Education makes you ask millions of questions, verify your findings before you settle for anything and you are not simply supposed to buy anything that you read, see or hear in any given platform. Clarity (Not confidence) is the end result of being skeptic.
The person with real education can be evaluated on the basis of following criteria or in other words, an educated person must have these inherent characteristics flourished within himself/herself-
- Competence- It refers to the skills, capabilities, actionable knowledge and even common sense one obtains after spending a large chunk of one’s life at a school and college. It is the core of the practicality and adaptability. The skills mainly entail human skills plus any other skills (technical/academic) depending upon the discipline of one’s choice.
- Art of living- This refers to the spiritual dimension which is a basic foundation of life energy and source. Spirituality is the wisdom of being content, happy and joyful, which one should learn after having formally studied for nearly a third of our lifetime at a school and college combined. The whole of humanity is longing for peace, happiness and freedom; and they want to achieve them through power, position, sex and money. The means are never the ends and almost all of the people do not seem to be getting it in their whole lifetime. Hence, rat-race continues and shall continue unless real education dawns some wisdom in them.
Moreover, guiding students to be self-conscious that would make them conscientious which ultimately brings about character, values, conduct, responsibility etc. is not happening at any levels. Facilitating someone in being a conscientious person is the basic method that transforms everything within an individual. However, a bunch of words are spent at school/college in the name of morality, ethics, discipline, responsibility, good conduct/character and so on, which unfortunately has never worked and will never work in the future either. The civilized nature, discipline and responsibility in a person are the consequences of having conscience/discretion.
An anecdote- We are busy giving white canes to the visually impaired people rather than operating them to make them see the world!
- Rebelliousness- The audacity to politely question any authority for the sake of truth, justice and freedom is rebelliousness. Conformity or docility is so high in this society nowadays. Being a rebel is the very real quality of this era. It does not mean to be a hooligan, though.
Contemporary situations of Nepal:
Although everything is hunky-dory from outside since colleges’/schools’ evaluation is done on the basis of the number of students getting distinction marks and their physical infrastructure, there are some basic problems in our education in Nepal which need to be fixed now. Or else, we are going to produce many educated fools that would be catastrophic eventually.
Let me outline the issues in three fundamental parts-
A. The syllabus or content–
i) No pragmatism– My little daughter has to study about traffic light at school and the irony is we have no traffic lights around us. There are numerous other similar irrelevant things present in the books the same way which I hate to mention here. What this basically shows is most of our content is not of any use for us. My argument is not that such things are utterly unnecessary; what I am rather saying is many important stuffs are simply left out from the content. Our education has no touch with our ground reality. Hollow words won’t really serve any purpose.
ii) Not rooted in our ownness– Our society, culture, geography, custom, history and politics are not on the core of this content-development. Yes, some cherry-picking has happened, which unfortunately does not serve the purpose. The tragedy is we feel so proud to simply be a copy of westernized version of education and everything else. Please do a simple experiment as how much knowledge one scholar carries vis-à-vis our society, history and culture. And, you will be astonished to learn that almost all of them have no knowledge at all. This is happening because there is very little emphasis on the educational content to make our folks rooted in our own culture and heritage. The prime question here is how we are heading as a country if a whole generation is unknown about who we really are. You see, content must be organic where methods and systems can be copied since basic human psyche is the same.
We are flooded with information in the name of knowledge and there is no such thing as experiential learning in the real sense of the term.
B. The system of teaching and learning: The first basic hole there is is the standardized tests all the way from play group to any given level. We are doing our children an utter injustice in the name of competition and academic excellence. The burden and stress that goes into any child’s head is inexplicable and it is even worse since we cannot see it with our bare eyes. As an adage goes “real winners do not compete”, many countries including Finland are doing exactly the same. Let’s try and teach them that co-operation is far better than competition.
There are some basic conceptual flaws in our system of teaching and learning which are as follows-
- All children are the same.
- We can teach them anything we want.
- Rules can be imposed upon them.
- Domination helps us to control the children.
The values inculcated in present education system were designed in industrial age.
Current system of education which we are practicing now was designed to prepare factory- workers.
Industrial age (18Th century’s) values
- We examine them by marks.
- All day long, we only give them instructions. (..Sit down, stand up, do your homework etc.) This makes them dumb and numb.
- You are awarded for doing exactly what you are told to do.
- You are managed and controlled.
- Lack of autonomy- Autonomy is an innate psychological need. Children do not like school because they are NOT FREE.
- Inauthentic learning- Memorization and retention and jug-mug methods.
- No room for passion and creativity- We have the very structured system where a child learns exactly the same thing at a same time in the given way. Everyone is unique.
C. The environment- This consists of government, school/college founders and teachers. The first problem starts with everyone’s own vested interests. Government has its obligation of lulling its donors by taking sides, not listening to the experts and being dictated on making policy level decisions and it gets played in the hand of various developed nations, school founders to earn big in the disguise of service and teachers are busy passing time doing what they can do the best. I personally hold teachers responsible only because of their complacency and insincerity in their prime responsibility. Most of them do not even seem to get the gravity and enormity of what they are doing. They are in the profession of making someone’s future!
Otherwise, I empathize with them since I used to be one in my previous profession.
Let’s focus more on the primary aspect again. Only and only the government could break the ice for this crippled education system to be a whole. There is no regular training, no handsome salary, no dignity, no any extra facilities, no resources for the teachers to broaden their perceptions and knowledge. The popular notion is if an individual does not get any job of his choice, then he will end up teaching at a private boarding school. Isn’t this pathetic?
Its possible remedies
The departure point for this commences from the change in the policy decisions by the government which will help to create a conducive atmosphere for all the stakeholders. So many academic experts from across the disciplines are available now. They must be consulted to make our syllabus ground-reality based (pragmatic).
All stakeholders ought to take some solid initiations to mend it at the earliest possible.
Let me outline the possible remedies in these 7 points-
i) Presentable Syllabus- Our content is so boring since only a pile of information is stocked. I know for a fact that the same content can be designed in a much more fascinating manner which would lull the students to read the lessons in a much more playful and joyful manner.
ii) Relevant content- The content of the subject matter must be based on our ground reality. We rather require more vocational and other pragmatic skills than the sophisticated theories and principles.
iii) Open atmosphere- More effective learning happens when there is an open environment. Teaching methods and approaches are to be changed. Our teachers cannot teach the students without being superior. Domination and control are the tools to conduct classes in our country. An open atmosphere fosters creativity, wonderment and imagination into the students.
iv) More focus on experiential learning- Enough of mere words, rhetoric, clichés, theories etc. If you ask a grade 1 student what the color of a leaf is, his/her answer will be green based on his/her recitation.
However, s/he does not know a thing about the color, leaf or green for real because s/he has not experienced them in his /her life.
The present Delhi government led by Arvind Kejriwal has exemplified this. We can learn a lot from his government’s initiative.
v) Complete elimination of exams/tests at least up to lower secondary level- The burden of competition and fear of exam are to be completely done away with. It is the funniest thing to grade the students based on their power of memorization.
vi) Hike the remunerations and other facilities for teachers- Best-trained and qualified teachers can be attracted only this way. The government must prioritize education sector and school/college founders must work accordingly.
vii) Introduction of open learning, distant learning and hack-schooling- Modes of learning have to be changed. Status-quo must go. Government can obviously do more on this front by introducing the method of open school, college or universities and by bringing distant learning centers and hack-schooling