|‘School is meant to divide boredom, encourage talent and also instil overall well-being of the child’
Rahul Bose, the actor, in a recent show for children to raise funds for schools, on NDTV made a point that the child learns from outside the classroom as well — for example, by playing on the field.
This is a very seminal statement on school education, which is the take-off point in a child’s life.
The process of learning is concomitant to the process of growing up in school. The classroom has parallel settings in which the child learns — the playground, the hall, the stage, class picnics, sports day, annual concert — all contribute to the process of learning, and the repository called memories.
And these memories become a fount of inspiration in life, making them an integral part of one’s life.
It is high time we think of school education in a more holistic manner as paving the way for other forms of education, step by step. These processes contribute to experiential ways of learning and not only something that is bookish, and a set pattern of writing examinations, passing them or failing them, or both.
The issue of “failure” in school education must be addressed, as this makes a child more self-conscious, leading to phobia of examinations, indeed of the school.
There are children waking up in the mornings loathing to go to school, out of sheer hysteria or fear of tests, the principal or the teacher. But what is the school meant to do? The school is meant to divide boredom, it is meant to encourage talent in the child and also instil overall well-being of the child, nurturing a set of values, and not necessarily in conforming to diktats, not necessarily also obeying in a moronic manner.
What are sport, music, acting or recitation of use if the school does not play the pivotal role of enlivening these in the child, as curiosity and then talent? Hence the actor’s statement is refreshingly a new way of looking at school education in particular. It is a statement which questions the purpose of education, broadening the “meaning” of the classroom, and creating multiple classrooms. Everything in a school is an extension of the typical classroom. Once a child is out of the manacled four walls of a classroom, he or she breathes in the elixir of life, finding friends, playing, running around which means exploratory learning or knowledge. This is not only of importance, but it gives the experiential side of life a new dimension and hope, just to catch a glimpse of eternal future. I hope statements like these are taken seriously by our policy makers to invest education with the quality of freedom, curiosity and exploration.
But creating more classrooms needs more serious investiture. It is one of the important facets of education today that more alternatives or choices are given to the learner, something which traditional education or the four walls of a classroom could not. So now we have more flexible systems in our educational ouevre, such as open or distance learning. These target people who are working, have missed out on the opportunities of learning for some reason or the other, the differently abled, homemakers, missionary workers and the like. This means that education must have more reach and be as accommodating as possible, including the vocationalisation of education and practical skills.
Here we have more reach as we can take education in a more non-formal way to disadvantaged sections, in the organised sector as well as target groups such as the domestic worker and streetchildren. Creating more classrooms is thus giving a wider social and practical reach to learners and trainees, without much talk of the vaunted cut-off mark. We can do this by enabling a more flexible pedagogy and method into our educational system. Creating such a system is more “open”, more flexible and is a mixed or blended mode of education, not simply creating infrastructure.
The mixed or blended mode will seriously imply one or two things. The first is a construct which enables the learner to study from anywhere and at any time. Further, he or she will get in addition to the advantages of studying at home, the opportunity to attend classes. Not that this has not been happening; we have both the open university of education and open schooling in India. But what is important is that conventional universities must create such parallel structures, together with vocational education, so that education is in its finer sense declassed and reaches the unreached.
We have to look at this concept of creating runaway classrooms which are not so much visible but which lie in the reach of the prospective learner, thinking in terms of training, being updated in one’s profession, alternating between the worlds of work and learning and linking education to the industry, even the unorganised sector. Learning then will not only be knowing, but also doing and acting. The emphasis can also be given to hands-on training.
The Delors Commission published by Unesco in 1996 gives such premium to education and is a document for education with universal goals, which should be taken seriously. In fact, more than evolution of education in terms of degrees, we should now be thinking in the direction of de-evolution and subverting a degree biased system. Hence, this is creating more classroom concept on the angle and this will in a way synthesise basic, secondary and tertiary education. It is very good augury that many state governments in Northeast India are taking up the issue of skill development and vocational training.
Under the aegis of Skills Mission Project of the central government these initiatives must be taken up concretely so that a large target group of so called drop-outs encompassing the age group of 18-35 years must be addressed. This will also be a direct link and connection between education and industry, especially in the non-formal sector. Education must be thought of in terms of certain contiguities instead of simply compartmentalising it into school education, higher education and then research. Once we have a more holistic way of looking at education in terms of continuity and contiguity, then only will the idea of creating more classrooms and more opportunities be a palpable reality.