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Learner as Marks-ist

Saumitra Mohan |

The problem with the orthodox education system is the assembly-line production of degree and diploma-holders, with no real value. The focus is always on mechanical transfer of facts and information through learning by rote. The emphasis is more on passing an exam and scoring high marks.

The overriding objective of the learner is to figure in the ‘Marks-ist’. The pattern of evaluation and marking being variable and subjective, the outcomes never reveal the real worth and intellect of an individual. Students are made to learn such facts, information and details which often have no correlation with the requirements of real life.

So at the end of the day, we have individuals whose minds are cluttered with futile facts and information with no worthwhile life-skills, indeed the skills which would see them through their life. The school and university pass-outs today have prescribed testimonials, but generally find it difficult to cope with the challenges of life.

They tend to curse the Government or systemic complications for not getting them a job to at least eke out a living. Hence, youths generally become invalids, looking forward to be supported and spoon-fed through Welfare State handouts. It is such woolly-headed youth who often become deviants while looking for short-cuts to success.

After all, if we are looking for a clerk with better linguistic and stenographical skills, what use is it to scout for recognized school or university graduates? Why can’t we just look forward to the actual demonstrable skills required for the job, without bothering about a formal degree?

This tendency has given birth to a huge industry and network of certifying agencies and institutions all across the world, both in the private and public sector. The stress on formal education with recognized degrees and diplomas has taken the joy out of education.

Ideally, students should be allowed to pursue education anywhere without the hierarchy and stratification reflected in the variable evaluation outcomes of individual learners in the mainstream education system. The extant evaluation scheme elevates or downgrades an individual learner.

The system tars everyone with the same brush while evaluating all against the same yardstick. As all learners are different with different inherent talents and faculties, the imparting of knowledge and evaluation of progress ought to be customised according to individual requirements.

Our education system, if anything, is making a conformist of us all. Being status-quoist in nature, the system is programmed to strengthen and reinforce the extant societal values. The learners are expected to be the carriers and pall-bearers of fossilised wisdom and knowledge. This in itself is not as bad as is the idea and expectation of passive conformism to the same. The students are not encouraged to question their instructors.

If anyone of us is asked to name a word whose first letter is ‘A’, we would all say ‘Apple’ while we could have also said ‘Aeroplane’, ‘Agra’, ‘Albert’ or any other word starting with ‘A’. But the unthinking rote-learning compulsively and unwittingly turns us into a conformist.

That is how we see anything and everything around us. The learners usually accept all that is dished out, without discriminating and without learning to apply their mind to tell chaff from the grain. The written words in the book and the classroom teaching is gospel truth for them.

It is such people who later become a liability for society as they cannot generally differentiate between a ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ and easily yield to rabble rousers’ harangues because of which the rightist or extremist forces are on the rise worldwide.

Such people don’t see any space for ‘grey’; they see everything through a binary of ‘black’ or ‘white’. Such people are easily swayed by polemical arguments of ‘we’ versus ‘them’. So, if the USA or China has ‘Nukes’, we must have it without bothering to delve into the nuances of the same, to dispassionately analyse the issue, to see the truth behind.

All the problems and troubles in our day-to-day life today stem from a garbled education system. While the problems of access and outreach of education are being fixed, we still have huge issues with the quality of the same. The stress on livelihood and job-fixation has made the imparting and acquiring of education very perfunctory and monotonous.

Often a learner ends up going against her instincts or innate talents because of familial or societal pressure. When a potentially good musician becomes an average engineer against his will, the fallout is dangerous. The individual remains alienated throughout his life as he never derives any pleasure from his work.

Working without interest, affection and devotion is a recipe for a disaster waiting to happen. Factory accidents or collapse of a structure are results of such alienating education. What is more troubling is the fact that this fundamental crisis has frequently been discussed.

The Government has also issued guidelines. However, we don’t have the corresponding executing agency to ensure effective and efficient implementation of the same. We are hobbled by multiple systemic constraints and complications.

It is high time we started planning in terms of an alternative education system. Our current praxis needs to be reoriented to ensure that our children are able to achieve their ambition by fully exploring all the intrinsic talents and faculties.

The mental capabilities are the same; it is the availability of right opportunities and resources which makes the difference. Our education system should be so oriented as to ensure the correct recognition of innate faculties of every individual and the flowering of the same, without any straitjacketing of formal education.

An individual, growing according to his talents would not only bloom into a satisfied and successful human being, he/she shall also be able to contribute to the society to the fullest extent.

Besides, instead of inflicting useless information and facts, we should ensure that our children and youth have all the essential life skills as would be required to see them through their life without the crutch of governmental support.

Today, most of our youth would find themselves rudderless if taken out of their comfort-zone of learnt craft or skills. Our education should be such which should make a complete person. Equipped with basic life skills, as far as possible and practicable, our youth should always feel confident to survive in any situation or circumstances.

In the fast evolving futuristic world of information technology, it has been suggested that most of the jobs shall soon be taken over by machines, robots and artificial intelligence. Today, when we shun manual labour, it is advisable that we learn the value of manual labour to remain healthy and fit, to refashion human life and to appreciate its beauty.

In times to come, we shall be required to spend more time in intellectual contemplation to uplift ourselves individually and collectively. To do the same, we would require a speedier reorientation of the extant education system. We shall delay the same only at our own peril.

The writer is an IAS officer, presently working as the Commissioner of School Education, West Bengal. The views are personal and don’t reflect those of the Government.