EDUCATION TRIBUNE

Reform school education
D. S. Cheema
i
N the post-Independence era, our visionary leaders and educationists realised that human resources development was essential for the economic development and growth of the nation. Hence a lot of interest was laid on expanding education by opening schools and colleges. Somehow, primary education, especially in rural areas, escaped to get the desired emphasis from the authorities concerned.

Save children from learning by rote
Kanwalpreet
I
thought that I had left behind the memories of class work, homework, projects and assignments with the farewell party on the school premises. But I was naïve enough to harbour such thoughts. I later discovered to my horror that I had to relive the trauma again while teaching my son, especially as he moved to the higher classes.

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Reform school education
D. S. Cheema

iN the post-Independence era, our visionary leaders and educationists realised that human resources development was essential for the economic development and growth of the nation. Hence a lot of interest was laid on expanding education by opening schools and colleges. Somehow, primary education, especially in rural areas, escaped to get the desired emphasis from the authorities concerned.

The number of recognised primary educational institutions increased from 20,967 in 1951 to 61,076 in 1997-98. While the upper primary schools and higher secondary schools increased by 13 times, colleges for general education increased by 18 times and the universities increased by 8 times, the increase in the number of primary schools was merely 2.82 times. The figures themselves reveal the lopsided view of primary education by the successive governments.

The basic purpose of a primary school is to provide suitable foundation to the child, so that he is ready to adopt secondary and higher education in due course of time. However, the picture of school education is very dismal. Government primary schools in villages are poorly maintained. Many of them are being run from one or two rooms, with broken furniture and windowpanes, dry hand pumps, loose and hanging electric wire, dirt and filth littered all around. Though state governments are busy handling big projects involving crores of rupees, nothing concrete has been done to improve the school education system, which needs drastic measures.

Leaving aside the basic requirement of suitable infrastructure and funds for primary schools, the following measures need to be given due consideration: The teachers teach from a position of authority directing the child to accept everything that is being said as a sacrosanct pronouncement. He must accept whatever the teacher tells—mug up on, repeat, rehearse and produce exactly the same. The basic purpose of such learning process should be to develop a “spirit of inquiry” in the child. Unfortunately, schools and teachers just don’t do it. Rather than encouraging probing questions, teachers punish an inquisitive student, nipping their natural creativity in the bud.

A textbook culture prevails in the classroom. What is taught in the schools (teacher solely can’t be blamed for it but education policy planners) is not relevant to a child’s day-to-day life. The textbooks do not explain the ‘why’ of what is happening around the child and there is a vast gap between what he sees around him and what he is made to mug up from the book. For instance, a child from the northern region can hardly perceive a coconut tree or a pineapple tree, but he can definitely relate himself with local trees, crops, animals, birds, etc.

The best way to teach children is through play. Montessori and other educationist do lay stress on such education-imparting techniques. However, only a very small percentage of primary-level students are able to enjoy these privileges, and that too in urban areas only. A teacher is regarded as the ultimate authority of knowledge. When a child grows up, he just refuse to accept the fact that there can be some information beyond the reach of the teacher as well. Such perception needs to be corrected by the teachers.

Passing the examination and securing good marks is the hallmark of the teaching-learning process. A good student, according to the present education system, is one who lives up to the demands of his teachers; demands like remembering by heart the text book lessons and demands related to expect good conduct and behavior. A good student is not expected to differ with what is written in the textbook.

Our education system is often accused of not tackling the two basic requirements of the learning process—developing ability of conceptualisation and problem solving, the twin essentials required in today’s competitive environment. So, the education policy makers should review the curriculum in the light of changing socio-economic realities.
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Save children from learning by rote
Kanwalpreet

I thought that I had left behind the memories of class work, homework, projects and assignments with the farewell party on the school premises. But I was naïve enough to harbour such thoughts. I later discovered to my horror that I had to relive the trauma again while teaching my son, especially as he moved to the higher classes.

Playway, initially, is fun where children are introduced to a little bit of discipline subtly. When I heard mothers with older children complain about the pressure of studies, I only thought that they didn’t want their children to go through the rigours of studies. School is so much fun these days unlike our times, when we had facts and figures pushed down our throat.

My son and the other children of his age, I felt, were lucky to escape a system of studies where you learned things without understanding their significance. But I was wrong. As my son and his friends moved to higher classes, we as parents could see the same confusion in their eyes regarding the distance (the astronomical figure) of the Sun from the Earth. In fact, whatever we had learned in Class V is being taught in Classes II and III now. Asteroids, meteors, the difference between Republic Day and Independence Day, etc., are being taught without explaining these in detail. The system has not changed, and helpless mothers like me continue to wring hands in dismay. Subjects like computers and EVS have only added to our woes.

But I am enjoying rediscovering the facts and figures with my son. As a student, I don’t remember learning, e.g., how shadows are formed. I am sure that I was taught this like many other things, but I have forgotten them altogether. Why? Probably, due to lack of time and lengthy syllabus to be covered in each class left no time for experimentation: learn, write and off to the next class. Now I am learning all over again with my son—about the space, different kinds of soils, about the flora and fauna found in each region, and even about the dinosaurs that are extinct.

I read the prescribed books and later explain to my child by simplifying things, as my mother would have done for me when I was at the stage as my son is today. I try, but I fail to evoke his interest. I don’t have the time to indulge him in more explanations, as we have to prepare for his tests or complete a project. So, I end up telling him in frustration to learn the topic and just write the same in the exam. At times, I feel helpless as I fail to understand why he doesn’t find studies interesting. After the initial frustration, realisation dawns on me that the child is passing through the same stage as I had passed some years back.

What are we trying to do? Why can’t we put across this information in a way that a child looks forward to learning? Every generation goes through this tedious process of cramming formulas and figures. Why can’t our children derive pleasure from learning as I am doing now?

The educationists need to put themselves in the shoes of children to know their requirements. They should involve the parents of school-going children and work on their feedback. At least, it can help in formulating policies which are practical yet friendly. We should take steps to save our children from learning by rote. The steps should be taken to disseminate information to children in an innovative and interesting manner. The coming generation should know and understand what they are being taught.
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Campus NoteS

CCS Haryana Agricultural University, Hisar
Theses repository

Haryana Agricultural University is making them available on-line dissertations on agriculture and allied fields submitted by Ph.D. research scholars in the country. The university will create an agricultural dissertation repository in its Nehru Library at a cost of Rs 1.25 crore.

Work on the project will commence next month. The Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) has approved this project and has sanctioned Rs 1.25 crore under National Agricultural Innovation Project (NAIP).

During next two years, theses and dissertations submitted by research scholars to various agricultural universities and national research institutes for the award of Ph.D. degree would be collected, digitised and uploaded on the website of the university.

Apart from providing ready information about the research conducted so far on a particular topic, the repository will help check repetition of research topics which is rampant in the absence of such a mechanism. The project will be handled by the university librarian Prem Singh. The repository will store full-length Ph.D. theses and dissertations from 2000 to 2006 and only abstracts of the theses submitted before 2000.

World Food Day

Haryana Agricultural University Vice-Chancellor J.C. Katyal has appealed to agricultural scientists to intensify their efforts for boosting agricultural production.

Addressing senior scientists, deans, directors and heads of the departments on World Food Day, he said the day was an occasion when the scientists, policy planners and all those involved in the development of agriculture should review and analyse the food grain production scenario.

The Vice-Chancellor said in a democratic nation, right to food with dignity was the right of every human being. He regretted that despite satisfactory food grain production situation, as many as 90 people in India and 260 million people world over went to bed empty stomach. He said if the nation became food surplus, the problems of poverty, unemployment and malnutrition would be solved.

Katyal said during the last few decades the nation had shown satisfactory progress in agriculture, but more than 70 million tonnes of food grains were being wasted every year due to poor storage practices and pest and disease attacks on crops. To overcome this loss, he underlined the need of producing trained manpower for food grain storage, preservation and value addition.

— Contributed by Raman Mohan
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