Away from Alien­at­ing Education

Na­tional Cur­ricu­lum Frame­work 2005 con­ceived of evolv­ing a Na­tional Sys­tem of Education ‘ca­pa­ble of re­spond­ing to In­dia’s diver­sity of geo­graph­i­cal and cul­tural mi­lieus while si­mul­ta­ne­ously nur­tur­ing our com­mon val­ues’.

Alive - - Contents - – Sau­mi­tra Mo­han

There was a time when the In­dian stu­dents pur­sued education for learn­ing life skills and ac­quir­ing knowl­edge. The pur­suit of learn­ing then was not about mug­ging facts and in­for­ma­tion, but was di­rected to lead the learn­ers to wis­dom thereby en­rich­ing the en­tire so­ci­ety. It was a time when none needed Govt per­mis­sion for open­ing an ed­u­ca­tional in­sti­tu­tion and when no for­mal de­grees or diplo­mas were awarded to stu­dents by the renowned Gu­rus through once famed ‘Gu­rukul’ sys­tem of education. The will­ing par­ents sent their wards to the con­cerned Gu­rukuls

It was a time when none needed Govt per­mis­sion for open­ing an ed­u­ca­tional in­sti­tu­tion and when no for­mal de­grees or diplo­mas were awarded to stu­dents by the renowned Gu­rus through once famed ‘Gu­rukul’ sys­tem of education. The will­ing par­ents sent their wards to the con­cerned Gu­rukuls where there was no screen­ing test for ad­mis­sion.

where there was no screen­ing test for ad­mis­sion. The stu­dents’ sole cri­te­rion for ac­cep­tance as a learner by the Guru was their pen­chant for ac­qui­si­tion of learn­ing and knowl­edge.

The knowl­edge ac­quired at such Gu­rukuls was never linked to par­tic­u­lar jobs or ser­vices as me­chan­i­cally done today. The num­ber of such Gu­rukuls was less, yet there was no hue and cry for ad­mis­sion into those in­sti­tu­tions be­cause the con­cept of education was never con­fined to the three Rs (read­ing, writ­ing and arith­metic). Those in­ter­ested in trade, busi­ness, com­merce, arts and crafts learnt the same di­rectly on the job through the prac­ti­tion­ers of the re­spec­tive pro­fes­sions. The caste and class sys­tem in the Vedic Age is said to have been open and af­forded lat­eral move­ment for peo­ple de­pend­ing upon their trade and pro­fes­sion.

Knowl­edge was pur­sued for the plea­sure of learn­ing de­pend­ing on the in­ter­ests of the learn­ers. Trades and pro­fes­sions were learnt mostly on the job through prac­ti­cal ex­pe­ri­ence. Those pur­su­ing education de­rived plea­sure in shar­ing the same rather than us­ing their knowl­edge to earn their thirty pieces of sil­ver. Education was never deemed as a prod­uct or a means to earn­ing one’s liveli­hood only, but was more of a way to nur­ture one’s cre­ative muses and fac­ul­ties. Per­haps that is why, In­dia of yore was much more ad­vanced eco­nom­i­cally, so­cially, spir­i­tu­ally, ma­te­ri­ally and in­tel­lec­tu­ally. An­cient In­dia ex­celled in sci­ence, meta­physics, lit­er­a­ture and com­merce. Our an­cient thinkers are still much more revered for their orig­i­nal­ity and path break­ing dis­cov­er­ies than neo In­di­ans as prod­uct of mod­ern education sys­tem are known today. In fact, many of us have made their marks af­ter they have crossed geo­graph­i­cal bound­aries and reached for­eign shores.

Be­com­ing joy­less

But today we have come to a point where school­ing and pur­su­ing education have be­come te­dious, mun­dane and joy­less even though our nu­mer­ous ed­u­ca­tional poli­cies over the years have em­pha­sised

the need to make education joy­ful while link­ing it to the ac­qui­si­tion of life skills. How­ever, we are still far way from re­al­is­ing the hallowed ob­jec­tives. As a coun­try of over 1300 mil­lion peo­ple where about two third pop­u­la­tions is be­low 35 years of age, we have mil­lions of de­gree and diploma hold­ers with­out any worth­while life skills, with­out any em­ploy­a­bil­ity or with­out any con­fi­dence to think of a ca­reer be­yond the for­mal, or­gan­ised or clas­si­cal sec­tors of liveli­hood. It is th­ese direc­tion­less youths with­out a vi­sion and self-be­lief who have be­come a tick­ing time bomb wait­ing to ex­plode, thereby also nix­ing our en­tire de­mo­graphic div­i­dends. They are of­ten used and abused by dif­fer­ent vested in­ter­ests as they, de­spite ac­qui­si­tion of for­mal education, don’t have the ca­pac­ity or abil­ity to tell the chaff from the grain and hence, be­come a can­non fod­der for ne­far­i­ous and neg­a­tive ac­tiv­i­ties.

Where are we head­ing

It is here that we need to pause and pon­der about the way we are evolv­ing as a so­ci­ety and a polity. If we im­me­di­ately don’t in­ter­vene and take cor­rec­tive mea­sures to bring in the de­sired changes in our education sys­tem, we will con­tinue lan­guish­ing as the world’s Back Of­fice for do­ing the me­nial chores for rest of the world and by also be­com­ing a sup­plier of skilled labour/brain power. We need to wrest the ini­tia­tive to re­trieve our in­tel­lec­tual lead­er­ship po­si­tion in the Comity of Na­tions by re­work­ing our education sys­tem by care­fully nur­tur­ing cre­ativ­ity and orig­i­nal­ity among our chil­dren by act­ing on the myr­iad rec­om­men­da­tions based on the prob­lem di­ag­noses made by the var­i­ous ex­perts and spe­cial­ists on the sub­ject.

It is no­table here that the Na­tional Cur­ricu­lum Frame­work 2005 con­ceived of evolv­ing a Na­tional

Sys­tem of Education

‘ca­pa­ble of re­spond­ing to In­dia’s diver­sity of geo­graph­i­cal and cul­tural mi­lieus while si­mul­ta­ne­ously nur­tur­ing our com­mon val­ues’. Our Na­tional Education Pol­icy, as changed from time to time, has al­ways en­deav­oured to make school education com­pa­ra­ble across the coun­try in qual­i­ta­tive terms in sync with Con­sti­tu­tional val­ues and also make it a means of en­sur­ing na­tional in­te­gra­tion with­out com­pro­mis­ing on the coun­try’s plu­ral­is­tic char­ac­ter.

While many changes have been in­tro­duced over the years into our education sys­tem, more of­ten than not, they have been cos­metic and piece­meal in na­ture. Our education sys­tem, like any other, has been sta­tus quoist, try­ing to sus­tain the age-old so­ci­etal con­sen­sus and wis­dom on dif­fer­ent as­pects of life. So, even though we have more schools, more class rooms, more play­grounds, bet­ter in­fra­struc­tures, bet­ter fa­cil­i­ties and ser­vices, more teach­ers, more train­ing, more stu­dents in the schools in keep­ing with the pa­ram­e­ters laid down in the Right to Education Act, 2009, we don’t have qual­ity and class in our education sys­tem.

Skills miss­ing

Our youths of­ten have de­grees and for­mal qual­i­fi­ca­tions, but they don’t have skills re­quired to sur­vive nu­mer­ous life sit­u­a­tions and ergo, ex­pect to be spoon-fed by the Govt through doles, pa­tron­age and other pop­ulist govt pro­gramme like par­a­sites. Where our education pol­icy should be such which could equip our youths for fac­ing ev­ery life sit­u­a­tion con­fi­dently to see ev­ery chal­lenge as an op­por­tu­nity, on the con­trary, be­cause of a con­torted pri­or­i­ties, the emer­gent dif­fi­cul­ties and hard­ships of life of­ten break them to re­sort to neg­a­tive paths in­clud­ing in­creased alien­ation and frus­tra­tion.

The in­creas­ingly de­vel­op­ing (eco­nom­i­cally)

In­dia has also seen a ver­ti­cal split in our so­ci­ety what peo­ple like An­dre Gun­der Frank would call ‘Core’ and ‘Pe­riph­ery’ or ‘Me­trop­o­lis’ and ‘Satel­lite’. So, while peo­ple from the ‘Core’ are no longer de­pen­dent on the Govt for their needs and com­forts, those from the ‘Pe­riph­ery’ are com­pletely de­pen­dent on the Govt for meet­ing their ba­sic needs in­clud­ing education. So, the chil­dren from the two back­grounds have dif­fer­ent cul­tural cap­i­tal of their re­spec­tive sub-cul­tures and have ac­cess to two dif­fer­ent education ser­vices: one in the Govt sec­tor and the other in the pri­vate sec­tor even though both are in­formed by the same ed­u­ca­tional pol­icy. The ex­pec­ta­tions and pri­or­i­ties of re­spec­tive clien­te­les also vary due to dif­fer­en­tial back­grounds. Hence, the dif­fer­en­tial out­comes in their ed­u­ca­tional at­tain­ments.

Most of our chil­dren are dis­ad­van­taged or hand­i­capped right from the in­cep­tion be­cause of the ac­ci­den­tal births in in­fe­rior or lower sub-cul­tures with value sys­tem other than those of the main­stream or dom­i­nant value sys­tem. So, those from the pri­vate schools do bet­ter in a highly prej­u­diced so­cial pecking or­der, while those from the Govt schools of­ten fall by the way­side un­less their mo­ti­va­tional cap­i­tal nudge them enough to break through the glass ceil­ing of sta­tus and class. But all said and done, the ba­sic thrust or thread run­ning through both kinds of schools re­main the same as they are both guided and in­formed by the same ed­u­ca­tional pol­icy and so­cial con­sen­sus on education. Hence, even the youths with the su­pe­rior cul­tural cap­i­tal have a util­i­tar­ian and in­stru­men­tal view of education.

Think­ing fac­ul­ties

The in­sis­tence on learn­ing by rote, cram­ming of facts and pass­ing an ex­am­i­na­tion of­ten numb the think­ing fac­ul­ties of our chil­dren as they are all made to run the rat race of land­ing a gain­ful em­ploy­ment. As one can gather, of­ten the syl­labi of the for­mal education and re­quire­ments

Most of our chil­dren are dis­ad­van­taged or hand­i­capped right from the in­cep­tion be­cause of the ac­ci­den­tal births in in­fe­rior or lower sub-cul­tures with value sys­tem other than those of the main­stream or dom­i­nant value sys­tem. So, those from the pri­vate schools do bet­ter in a highly prej­u­diced so­cial pecking or­der, while those from the Govt schools of­ten fall by the way­side un­less their mo­ti­va­tional cap­i­tal nudge them enough to break through the glass ceil­ing of sta­tus and class.

of an em­ploy­ment have no prac­ti­cal re­la­tion to each other. Most of the jobs in­clud­ing civil ser­vices, run­ning a busi­ness or a pro­fes­sion re­quire cer­tain ba­sic skills in­clud­ing lin­guis­tic, numer­i­cal and com­mon sense with a dash of ‘good char­ac­ter’. If one has good com­mand over lan­guage, know ba­sic maths and have some com­mon sense, one can do most of the works re­quired for the day to day life. If spe­cialised jobs like en­gi­neer­ing, medicine etc had more of the prac­ti­cal and em­pir­i­cal com­po­nents than the for­mal, the­o­ret­i­cal com­po­nents, we would not have the in­stances of build­ings or fly­overs col­laps­ing.

In his cel­e­brated work, ‘Deschool­ing So­ci­ety’, Ivan Il­lich posited self-di­rected education, sup­ported by in­ten­tional so­cial re­la­tions in fluid in­for­mal ar­range­ments. He be­lieved that the ped­a­gog­i­cal alien­ation in so­ci­ety is worse than the alien­ation of labour as sug­gested by Karl Marx. He fur­ther said that the schools con­di­tion peo­ple to be con­sumers of pack­ages pro­duced by other peo­ple and to ac­cept ideas of end­less progress, thereby bring­ing us to a precipice of an en­vi­ron­men­tal catas­tro­phe. Il­lich thinks deschool­ing cen­tral to the ad­just­ment to bring so­ci­ety to a more hu­mane level.

Il­lich’s prac­ti­cal vi­sion for learn­ing in a de­schooled so­ci­ety is built around what

The in­clu­sive, friendly, peace­ful and demo­cratic school en­vi­ron­ment should be made ac­ces­si­ble to learn­ers from all sec­tions of our so­ci­ety. Our schools, both Govt and pri­vate, should also have ad­e­quate room for push­ing a child’s imag­i­na­tion and think­ing, for in­cit­ing her in­quis­i­tive­ness and ques­tion­ing fac­ul­ties dur­ing in­struc­tions. Chil­dren should not be made to sim­ply ac­cept things as in books or as told by the teach­ers.

he calls ‘learn­ing webs’. Il­lich en­vis­ages three types of learn­ing ex­change; be­tween a skill teacher and a stu­dent, be­tween peo­ple them­selves en­gag­ing in crit­i­cal dis­course and be­tween a mas­ter (a mas­ter prac­ti­tioner like Dronacharya) and a stu­dent. This lat­ter kind of re­la­tion­ship, which can oc­cur in in­tel­lec­tual dis­ci­plines or the arts, but can also ma­te­ri­alise in crafts or skills such as moun­tain climb­ing is sti­fled in a schooled so­ci­ety where nonac­cred­ited (read non for­mal) learn­ing is looked at askance.

Aim

So, our education sys­tem should be suit­ably trans­formed to re­gain our lead­er­ship po­si­tion in the world. In­stead of as­pir­ing to be an eco­nomic or mil­i­tary su­per­power, In­dia should as­pire to be a knowl­edge su­per­power, a po­si­tion now oc­cu­pied by the United States of Amer­ica and the rest would au­to­mat­i­cally fol­low. But for that, we need to get away from the sundry in­flex­i­bil­i­ties suf­fused in our in­sti­tu­tion­alised school prac­tices which ne­glects the present of a child for fu­ture, while also ne­glect­ing dif­fer­ent ways to help the child evolve into a com­plete per­son. For this, we need to adopt a holis­tic ap­proach through a child-cen­tric ped­a­gogy by con­nect­ing knowl­edge to life be­yond schools. Such an education sys­tem should have a suf­fi­ciently re­duced cur­ricu­lum load which ought to nur­ture cre­ative think­ing and orig­i­nal­ity among our chil­dren.

The in­clu­sive, friendly, peace­ful and demo­cratic school en­vi­ron­ment should be made ac­ces­si­ble to learn­ers from all sec­tions of our so­ci­ety. Our schools, both Govt and pri­vate, should also have ad­e­quate room for push­ing a child’s imag­i­na­tion and think­ing, for in­cit­ing her in­quis­i­tive­ness and ques­tion­ing fac­ul­ties dur­ing in­struc­tions. Chil­dren should not be made to sim­ply ac­cept things as in books or as told by the teach­ers. They should be made to learn through ac­tive ques­tion­ing about the ra­tio­nale or cor­rect­ness of a con­cept or an idea. Had Raja Ram Mo­han Roy or Vidyasagar ac­cepted the given wis­dom, we would still have a heinous ‘Sati’ cus­tom con­tin­u­ing or ‘Wi­dow Re­mar­riage’ would not have been pos­si­ble.

Fill­ing the gap

We should also en­sure pro­vi­sion­ing the same qual­ity of education in Govt schools as in the pri­vate schools. The qual­ity of education im­parted in Euro­pean and Amer­i­can Govt schools is much bet­ter than those in ours. Un­less and un­til we re­alise it, we would be miss­ing to reap our de­mo­graphic div­i­dends. The learn­ers should ac­tively con­struct their own knowl­edge with help from the teach­ers as fa­cil­i­ta­tors and co­or­di­na­tors by re­lat­ing new ideas to ex­ist­ing ideas and the same should hap­pen through col­lab­o­ra­tion, ne­go­ti­a­tion and shar­ing of views.

Also, as and where needed, par­tic­i­pa­tion of com­mu­nity mem­bers for ex­pe­ri­ence and knowl­edge shar­ing should be en­cour­aged. The teach­ers and in­struc­tors should en­gage learn­ers through ex­pe­ri­ence, mak­ing and do­ing, ex­per­i­ment­ing, read­ing, dis­cussing, ask­ing, lis­ten­ing, ac­tive think­ing and lis­ten­ing and by en­cour­ag­ing them to ex­press them­selves. Teach­ing should be con­tex­tu­alised with the lo­cal knowl­edge, with real life so­cially rel­e­vant ex­am­ples.

Does hold­ing a de­gree make stu­den­tʼs life suc­cess­ful and hap­pier?

Learn­ing doesn't only in­volve books or com­put­ers.

Education em­pow­ers hu­mankind at ev­ery level.

A nice book to read for education lovers.

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