An educator can offer to a child only what they are. If the mind and heart of the teacher or the parent constitutes of conceptual confusion, narrow thoughts and mechanical knowledge then education imparted through such adults will follow a problematic pattern.
Therefore, it is imperative that the teachers and parents, both, are trained to understand their own strength and weaknesses, before they begin to play a role in the child’s life. This kind of understanding will enable them with strategies to regulate their emotions, thoughts and conduct, which is essential because they need to be effective role models for children, who are constantly emulating them.
An educator lacking in positivity, inner harmony, inner strength, confidence, creativity, subject expertise, imagination and scientific thinking will be ill-equipped to be a teacher or a parent. Therefore, only when educators begin to focus on self-education, continuously and sufficiently, will the Indian system of education begin to strengthen.
For a comprehensive education revolution two more aspects need to be undertaken; one is inclusion of in-depth understanding of child behaviour, child psychology, learning differences, learning difficulties and the other is the development of robust indigenous curriculums.
Teachers need to be trained to understand that they are not imparting knowledge but only facilitating knowledge acquisition for students who are independent individuals deserving of equal respect and dignity. Once this is established, the educators will be able to chart out their role in the child’s learning journey appropriately.
As far as the design, content and delivery of a vigorous curriculum is concerned, it must take into consideration India’s educational infrastructural capacities, aspirations of the Indian people, Indian student demographics like children’s age, learning difficulties, children’s interest and the socio-economic settings.
The end goal of such a curriculum should be to develop in children an interest for discoveries, application of the mind, self-worth, healthy body, life skills, value for one’s culture, empathy and respect for all and love for life-long learning. The current trend of importing foreign curriculums such as IB, IGCSE and partnerships with foreign universities are not the alternative to our progressively deteriorating state board, national boards and universities.
There are two reasons for this — firstly, because these imported curriculums are unaffordable for most people of our country and secondly, because we are capable of developing something far richer.
Author Sahana Singh through her book The Educational Heritage of Ancient India: How an Ecosystem of Learning was Laid to Waste has done a great service to the people of India, by transporting us back to an era when India fuelled a knowledge revolution in the world. This gives us hope that we can do it again.
The Indian people, historically, have attended to matters of teaching and learning with a sense of sacredness, she says. It is enlightening to know that about 1000 years back, India was considered the educational capital of the world. Indian universities and ashrams followed a multi-disciplinary approach and were places of learning and teaching that had something for everyone.
According to the author’s research, the University of Takshila, which is known to have existed at least around 6th century BC, Vikramshila University, Nalanda University, Kanthaloor University (also known as the Nalanda of the South) were apparently only some of the universities of the time for which students from world over sought admission, similar to how Indian students today are frantically seeking admission into Oxford University or Ivy League Colleges.
Ashrams like that of Rishi Vyasa or Rishi Vishwamitra were led by a male or even a female guru who doubled up as parents. Each ashram helped the shishya to master in a subject type and proceed to another ashram for another subject, this was the process followed to attain the degree. Well-established ecosystems were in place to support the universities.
For instance, the Nalanda University was funded by 100 villages surrounding it. It had state of the art infrastructure, a library nine storey tall, eight lecture halls with 100 lectures a day and not a single lecture missed by any student. With a capacity of around 8500 to10000 students and 1500 teachers, it had a brilliant teacher-student ration of around six students to a guru.
The current system in our country is disabling the teachers and the students alike. The government recognised BEd besides being devoid of several important components suffers from the problem of content and problem of delivery. Its content focuses on the adolescent age group and the few elements that focus on child psychology are largely inaccurate or crudely presented.
This programme does not even have the flexibility a in-service teacher or a working parent would ideally need. Such factors make this degree very unattractive for those teachers who care about quality of education.
The Indian education today needs to be overhauled to include elements that support life-long education for teachers, teacher remuneration being commensurate to their hard work and that which makes student’s learning experiences joyful.
Two things the Covid-19 pandemic has woken up Indian educators are that technology and education cannot be kept separated and the fact that “what we know is not all that is there”. The writer is an independent educationist