|EDUCATION TRIBUNE||Tuesday, August 6, 2002, Chandigarh, India|
Schools raise fearful, not eager learners
Elementary education: an evasive goal
institutions need of the hour
THE 20th century witnessed many highs and lows in the process of human progress. Unprecedented scientific and technological advances were achieved but the hiatus between the privileged and deprived only widened.
In the field of education, it was a century of expectations and achievements. Mankind, for the first time ever in the history of civilisation, globally took conscious steps to eradicate the scourge of illiteracy.
Though the dream of universal elementary education is yet to be realised, governments everywhere can report with satisfaction that the journey towards it, at the end of the century, is irreversible.
However, there is no room for complacency. The United Nations Human Development Report, 2001, paints a desperate picture for basic indicators of socio-economic development. India, with a literacy rate of just 65.1 per cent and public expenditure on education just around 3.8 per cent of the GDP, has a long way to go. The country has only recently decided to make the right to education a fundamental Right.
So we stand at the crossroads. There is tremendous potential for development in this nation and the whole world recognises that India can make a much bigger contribution to humanity’s social, economic, technological and industrial progress in the third millennium. On the other hand, there are too many hindrances, most of these created by ourselves. The divisive tendency of our opinion leaders which manifests our outlook on most issues, covers education as well. A small part of that is played out everytime —the policies and content of education for our school system — is reviewed. In recent years, in the education debate, so much was done to weaken our national educational institutions for narrow gains.
But that was just one part as I pointed out. Having spent nearly four decades in education, I feel that more than just periodic renewal of the content and process of teaching and learning in schools is needed.
To tell the full story, I have to rewind to the famous challenge thrown by Mahatma Gandhi at Chatham House, London, on October 20, 1931 when he said, with reference to the fallacy of continuing schools of the European model in India by uprooting the age-old traditional institutions by British administrators:
English-born Indian Civil Service officers cared little for our ancient schools. After Independence, the founding fathers of our Constitution did remember the dream of the Father of the Nation to dot every village in the country with its own school where the Indians of tomorrow would be fitted out with the capacity to compete, whatever their economic condition. So what was done?
The Constitution enunciated the Directive Principle: "The State shall endeavour to provide within a period of 10 years from the commencement of the Constitution for free and compulsory education for all children until they complete 14 years of age".
The 1960 deadline came and went. Even in 2002, the uncertainty persists. In 1998 we realised that though we supported the 1948 adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which expressly stated that all individuals, irrespective for sex and economic status, have the "Right to Education" we were about to observe its 50th anniversary without even bothering to formally include it on our list of Fundamental Rights.
But, when after half a century of procrastination we finally decided to enshrine this right, a good section of our political-academic class (the distinction is anyway blurred) went into its usual game of one-upmanship. As if it was an achievement for just some Indians.
Whatever our record, we Indians initially had a headstart over other newly independent, developing nations in creating capacities and infrastructure. We degenerated, however, not because of alien influences this time, but our own.
Of course, initially some notable educational figures like Humayun Kabir, K.G. Saiyden, J.P. Nayak, Chitra Naik and others were inducted in planning a roadmap out of the prevailing despondency, decay and despair.
But these are more exceptions than the rule. Look around and you will not only find the education departments but also academic institutions, be it at the Centre or at the states, being generally manned by non-academics.
It is often argued that educationists either lack administrative skills or adequate work culture or both to deliver the results. If this is indeed a lacuna, it ought to have been addressed a long time ago. Over the years, nothing has deterred the state from imposing more and more faith on them in every branch of life. When the state needs help in any of the sciences, it calls on scientists, why cannot it accept education as a serious field of specialisation and nurture its institutions?
Schools raise fearful, not eager learners
MY five-year-old son keeps falling while playing soccer in the playfield. This at times has worried me as he is agile with good coordination and balance. At other times I felt it was some kind of a prank to get attention. I was wrong.
A friend of mine, a psychologist who chanced to accompany me and my son to a park, explained, to my utter astonishment, that my son had only devised a strategy to relieve himself of the tension that kept building inside him while trying to steer the soccer ball towards the goal net!
I learnt that when my son fell, it relieved him, at least for a few seconds, of the great tension he faced while playing. Not very strong, he was afraid of crashing into bigger boys, but he was afraid of exhibiting his fear. this put a strain on his nervous system.
So every now and then, he manoeuvred a fall and got an honourable respite for a second or two! We must set a limit to the tension that we put our children under. If we don’t, they will set their own limits by not paying attention, by being evasive, by fooling around, by resisting learning.
Any exercise given to a student in the classroom becomes threatening. If he gets all answers correct, he wins teacher’s applause and scores a perfect 10. He feels this is evidence to prove he has been intelligent in his work. But he is aware that the reverse is also true — if he does not get the answers correct and gets poor grades, he is dull and stupid.
This realisation creates so much fear and tension in the child that he resorts to escape strategies. This is the mechanism by which fear destroys intelligence. If affects the child’s entire way of looking at, thinking about and dealing with problems. So we have to work on two platforms — to stop children from being afraid and then to break them of the bad thinking habits that fear has driven them to.
There is much too fear in schools, but very little is said about it. Perhaps, most cannot recognise fear in children, except for the grossest signs — when the child is crying or refuses to go to school. The subtle signs of fear — in children’s visages, voices, gestures, in their movements, the ways of working — are also indicators of how fearful children are at school.
"Like good soldiers, they
control their fears, living with them, and adjust themselves to them
.... the adjustments children make to their fears are almost wholly
bad, destructive of their intelligence and capacity. The scared
fighter may be the best fighter, but the scared learner is always a
poor learner" (John Holt in ‘How Children Fail’).
Elementary education: an evasive goal
THE Government of India’s account of the state of elementary education in the year 2002 makes an interesting reading. Like any other official document, it conceals as much information as it reveals, excludes as many calculations as it includes, and suppresses as many facts as it expresses. However, as Dr Johnson has said, when speculation has done its worst, two and two still make four.
Also, as Huxley has observed, facts do not cease to exist because they have been ignored. Thus, by reading between the lines, and by putting two and two together, one can manage to get a glimpse of the gloomy picture that lies buried under the rosy presentation that the Government of India’s document makes.
The official document on national policy framework on education highlights that the two goals targeted by the policy were (i) to make available "free and compulsory education for all children upto the age of 14 years before the commencement of the 21st century; and (ii) to provide six per cent of the gross domestic product (GDP) for the education sector, out of which 50% would be spent on primary education".
Enrolment figures reveal that while at the primary level the number is 1136 lakh, at the upper primary level (the middle level) the number steeply falls to 420 lakh. This clearly means that 73% children discontinue their studies during the primary education period itself. Here, two aspects are pertinent. One is the authenticity of the enrolment figures. It has been quite often discovered that those responsible for enrolment make enrolments only to complete the required figures. The other is the nature of conditions prevailing in the government schools responsible for the primary education, particularly in the villages where there are generally no schools in the private sector.
A look at the figures again reveals the grim reality obtaining in the primary sector education. If we match the number of schools for the primary and upper primary education, which for 2000 is 8.39 lakh, with the number of teachers for the same year, which is 32.17 lakh, it comes out that there are only four teachers per school.
The enrolment figures show that from
1999’s intake of 1109 lakh to 2000’s intake of 1136 lakh, an
increase of only 27 lakh took place, whereas the rate of growth of
population shows that 280 lakh were added to the population in that
one year. This means that only less than 10% are actually added to the
school, casting a shadow on the government claim of 94% enrolment.
AMRITSAR: Staff of Guru Nanak Dev University have been facing a lot of inconvenience due to lack of residential accommodation in the campus. They have to wait for years to avail of official accommodation.
The newly elected president of the GNDU Teachers Association, Dr Narpinder Singh, has vowed to pursue the university authorities to construct more flats for the staff. His other priorities would be to re-establish the dignity of the teaching profession. The teachers association would endeavour to promote research, apart from striving for implementation of the UGC pay scales.
The president says the association will strive for implementation of the UGC pay scales in toto, including retirement at 62.
* * * * *
The Vice-Chancellor, Dr S.P. Singh, completed one year in office this week. He has been instrumental in introducing new courses, including MCA, M.Tech and M.Tech (five-year integrated course). He tackled the unrest among students over the ‘highhandedness’ of a security officer within a day. However, cases of sexual harassment remain pending in the Punjab and Haryana High Court. The case of ‘fake admission’ in the MCA is yet to be over.
The Vigilance Bureau is investigating certain appointments made during the tenure of Dr Harbahajan Singh Soch, former Vice-Chancellor. It is for the first time that such an inquiry has been entrusted with the Vigilance Bureau. The inquiry is yet to be finalised. The complainant had alleged that merit was ignored while making appointments.
The university authorities have rectified the decisions of the Syndicate held on July 22 last, a day before the retirement of Dr Soch. The two-year extension given to Dr Satinder Singh as Professor and Head of Baba Ram Singh Chair, much before his retirement, stands withdrawn.
Aug 31 Tamil Nadu Veterinary & Animal Sciences University, Chennai 600051 (TN)
Cert in Animal Welfare (1-yr, Dist)
Elig: Bachelor’s degree. Age: 20 yrs.
Appln F: Send Rs 50/- by DD favouring "Professor & Head, Department of Communication & Entrepreneurship, Madras Veterinary College, Chennai 600007" with self-add, stamped (Rs 10/-), envelope (27 x 12 cm).
Aug 23 Indian Air Force, PO Bag No 001, DHQ PO, New Delhi 110011
Website: www.careerairforce. nic.in Recruitment of Women Pilots (SSC)
Elig: Unmarried, female, Indian citizen. Bachelor’s degree (Maths & Phys at 10+2)/BE. Age: Born bet 2 Jul ‘80 - 1 Jul ‘84.
Selectn: PABT, Medical Exams.
Appln F: Send in prescribed format with specified enclosures to the above add.
Details: See Employment News (27 Jul - 2 Aug)/Website.
Aug 30 Indian Navy, DMPR (R & R Sec), Room No. 204 ‘C’ Wing, Sena Bhawan, Naval Headquarters, New Delhi 110011
Recruitment of Engineers for Technical Branch (SSC, 10 yrs)
Elig: Unmarried Indian males. BE/BTech (55%). For Engg Br: Mech, Prodn, Aero, Met, Marine, Control; For Elect Br: Elect, Electron, TeleComm, Avionics, Instru & Control. Age: 19 ½ - 25 yrs (DoB: 2 Feb ‘78 - 1 Aug ‘83).
Selectn: SSB Interview.
Appln F: Send in prescribed format to the above add.
Details: See Employment News (27 Jul - 2 Aug).
Aug 16 Punjab Engineering College, Chandigarh 160012
ME 2002-03 [Civil (Highways, Structures, Irrig & Hydraulics); Environ; Elect (Power Sys); Mech (Rotodynamic Machines); Electron; Electron Product Des & Tech; Indl Materials & Metallurgy; Computer Sc & Engg (IT); Computer Intg Mfg]
Elig: PU recog BE (55% for Comp Sc & Engg (Info Tech), others 50%) or Sec A & B of AMIE/IETE with 5-yr wk ex (research/proff).
Selectn: Qualifying test for AMIE & IETE students. Entrance test for Comp Sc & Engg (IT) (Aug 22).
Appln F: Send Rs 200/- by MO favouring "Principal, Punjab Engineering College, Chandigarh 160012". At Counter : Rs 150/- (Cash).
Aug 8 Directorate of Technical Education, Maharashtra State, 3, Mahapalika Marg, PO Box No 1967, Mumbai 400001
Ph: (022) 2641150/1151
BE/BTech (Lateral Entry into 2nd yr of prog) (in Govt. Non-Govt Aided, Univ managed & Un Aided colleges in Mah)
Elig: Dip in Engg/Tech (Ist Div).
Appln F: Available at 44 Application Receipt /Network Access Centres. At Counter : Rs 400/- (cash).
Note: Outside Mah students (OMS) will be admitted against vacant payment seats after admission round for Mah students.
Details: See website.
Aug 12 National Council for Cement & Building Materials, 34 Km Stone, Delhi - Mathura Rd (NH 2), Ballabgarh 121004 (Har)
Website: www.cementresearch. com Ph: 91-129-5242051-55
1) PG Dip in Cement Tech (1-yr)
2) PG Dip in Concrete Tech & Constrn Mgt (1-yr)
Elig: For 1: BE/MSc (PCM in BSc); For 2: BE/BTech (Civil).
Appln F: Send in prescribed format with reqd docs to the Director General at the above add.
Sep 10 Central Scientific Instruments Organisation, 2nd Fl, CSIR Complex, Library Avenue, PUSA, New Delhi 110012
Ph: 5733791, 5733794
Comp Hardware Maintenance (6 mths)
Elig: 10+2/BSc/Dip in Engg.
Selectn: Written test/Interview (Sep 17).
Appln F: Send in prescribed format with Rs 100/- by DD favouring "Director, CSIO" payable at New Delhi to the above add.
Aug 29 The Institute of Chartered Accountants of India, Indraprastha Marg, New Delhi 110002
PE-I, Intermediate, PE-II and Final (Old & New Syllabus), MAC Part-I Exams
Exam: 1 Nov at several centres in India and 2 overseas centres (UAE & Kathmandu).
Appln F: Send Rs 25/- (for MAC Part-I) & Rs 50/- (for others) by DD favouring "Secretary, ICAI, New Delhi" with self-add slip & stamps
(Rs 12/-, not for MAC Part-I) to the Joint Secretary (Examinations) at the above add.
Sciences - Social
Aug 9 School of Archival Studies, National Archives of India, Janpath, New Delhi 110001
Cert in Reprography (2 Sep - 11 Oct)
Elig: Bachelor’s degree (Sc prefd). Age: Below 50 yrs.
Appln F: Send in prescribed format with reqd docs, Rs 25/- by DD favouring "Administrative Officer, National Archives of India, Janpath, New Delhi 110001" to the DG of Archives, at the above add.
Details: See Employment News (27 Jul - 2 Aug).
Red Alert !!
Aug 16 Staff Selection Commission, New Delhi Upper Div Gr Ltd Dept Competitive Exam, 2002
Aug 17 DGAFMS
Dental, New Delhi
Institute of Personnel Mgt & Industrial Rel, Ch ‘grh
Aug 19 AIMA-CMS,
New Delhi (www.aima-ind.org)
Aug 24 Indian
Aug 25 NOS,
National Board for Higher Mathematics, D/o Atomic Energy, Mumbai
Annamalai University, D/o Distance Educn (TN)
Alagappa University, D/o Distance Educn (TN)
Aug 31 Indian
Airforce, New Delhi (www.careerairforce.nic.in)
Aug 31 The
Instt of Electron & Telecomm Engineers, New Delhi (www.iete.org)
Aug 31 Indian
Institute of Ceramics, Kolkata
Aug 31 Guru
Jambheshwar University, D/o Dist Educn, Hisar
Aug 31 IGNOU, School of Health Sc, New Delhi (www.ignou.ac.in) PG Dip in Hospital & Health Mgt, Maternal & Child Health; Cert in Rural Surgery, Health & Environ; Post-Basic BSc Nursing.