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Opinion: The roots of responsibility for parents, teachers
Exam fever is here and more than the students, who are taking the exams, the parents are stressed. Many working women have taken leave to be with the children and to be of moral support when they face the ordeal of the final school exam. Hopefully they will not interfere in giving them the last minute coaching with their outdated knowledege!
This is something very unique to Indian households where elders get totally involved in the scholastic and career path of their children to the point of dictating what they should do instead of leaving it to the individual to listen to the inner calling and deciding for oneself what one should do.
The season for school admission for toddlers has also begun. It is intriguing why parents want to palm off their children so early in life to a regimented learning. But they are very clear on one skill that their children should possess – fluency in spoken and written English. Even those parents from poor economic status want their children to go to English medium schools charging exorbitant fees while there are equally good government schools imparting quality education totally free with 34 different free education aids to children from schoolbag to laptop! They cannot be faulted for their perception that only knowledge of English is the mark of an educated person as society is equally responsible for creating this notion. After all, language is only a vehicle for communication while knowledge is totally different but this point never gets attention.
Many parents are also in search of better schooling for their children always guided by market sentiment. Some schools have built a brand over a period of time and parents believe that once their children get admission in such schools, their future is secure. Many of these established schools have mastered the art of churning out students who score very high in the board exams, all through rote learning! These schools have talented teachers mostly women steeped in middle class values with committed work culture, who firmly believe that denial of gratification will alone ensure scholastic success. And they are not wrong.
Another trend is to shift students to state board for final two years of higher secondary as there is a perception that high score is assured in the state board due to liberal valuation which in turn will ensure admission in elite colleges. So the rat race continues!
It is well said that there are no incapable students but only ill-equipped teachers. A good and committed teacher can work wonders in bringing out the best among students. Everyone has innate talent. If we do not recognise it then it is the fault of the learning system and once recognized, if we fail to build then it is a great injustice to the gift bestowed on us.
When Alexander the Great was born, his father King Phillip II did not highlight the fact that an heir apparent to the throne has arrived but said that he is happy that his son would get to learn from his Master Aristotle. That is the power of a teacher. Alexander the Great took Aristotle with him listening to his sagacious counsel during his onward march to conquer the world. Aristotle’s greatest gift to his students was the ability to cultivate an enquiring mind, the urge to ask the right question to get the desired answer. Whether to appear a fool while asking a question or remain a fool forever by failing to ask the question is a dilemma which everyone faces. A prudent man clears the doubt and moves on and therein lies the success. This is what education systemshould inculcate.
According to Fernando Reimers of Harvard School of Education, great schools should prepare students for global life. Teachers should provide them with disposition to transform the world. Teachers shouldn’t have borders and cultivate academic excellence with emphasis on character development and socio economic quotient.
Value based education is essential for balanced personality development. Somehow with the present skewed social narratives on various issues, when one talks of values, it is viewed with suspicion as if it is an attempt to dilute the secular ethos. All religions only propagate universal love and brotherhood. And moral education should give the children the right attitude to discern right and wrong, appreciate gender equality, environment protection,respect to National institutions, protection to women and more than anything else conducting oneself in a manner which willenhance the image of the societyand the country.
Pollachi incidents of outrage to modesty of women is a blot on society and an indication how low people have descended. How can youngsters behave the way they did with impunity unmindful of legal, moral or social transgression they were indulging in? Where was the parental control? Communication among family members as to what is happening seems to have broken down. If only the parents or elders had asked basic questions as to where the youngsters of the family were going, what they were doing during their nocturnal rounds, such incidents of sexual assault would not have taken place.
Much has been said about the impact of sleaze content in the internet. Whether movies reflect happenings in society or society is getting influenced by indecent exposure in films is always debatable. But now with the power of the smartphone, everything is available at a click of a button. This definitely distorts the young mind that crosses the boundary with scant regard for values.
Justice Verma commission constituted by the government after the gruesome Nirbhaya incident in Delhi in 2012 has given detailed recommendations. The committee discussed at length the present education system, what kind of inputs to be given to create right attitude among youth and the need for mature sex education. The commission also recommended creation of a Constitutional Authority akin to Comptroller and Auditor General for Education and nondiscrimination in respect of women and children.
Education plays a vital role in shaping society and in bringing out the full potential of the power within us. Leonardo da Vinci multi-faceted with diverse talent, considered the genius of the world had that insatiable curious approach to life, an unrelenting quest for continuous learning but tempered with continual refinement of senses. This is what is lacking in our system.
Freedom of expression and freedom of action comes with lot of responsibility and we owe a duty to ensure this.
— The writer is MylaporeMLA and former DGP