Educating …

Times change. And with time, some of the assumptions that society holds are shown to be invalid, and hence must also change. If you are on this side of the grey-black hair divide, you would probably have heard the saying “spare the rod and spoil the child” sometime. Compare this with the way we look at corporal punishment in schools today, and you will get the picture. Interesting article by Mr. Dev Lahiri in the Hindustan Times which one would do well to read. While Mr. Lahiri is writing from the perspective of the teacher which i feel is very well explained, i would probably focus more of the social aspects of education that Mr. Lahiri has brought out quite well.

To begin with, i agree with Mr. Lahiri that the signals children get from school and from home are oftentimes different. There are a few times my son’s teacher, in the parent-teacher interactions, told parents to please follow a pattern which is followed in the school. children learn the value of austerity at school, and learn about splurging at home. Thats only an example, but the point is that if whagt the child sees at home contradicts what she sees at school there are going to be scenarios which the child is not going to be equipped to handle. This is an important thing which parents need to address.

Another aspect, which may be getting ignored is that there is after all something called discipline. I dont think discipline should be taken as far as caning, or any kind of physical abuse, and this is an area which is a concern. Maybe teachers are not well-equipped to reach a stage where they can appreciate how to discipline a child without physical abuse? Lets accept this … teachers are a part of the social system which we are trying to reform. And the education system, too, is a part of the same social system. And in a social system where tolerance seems to be a precious commodity, does one wonder at such excesses? Whether it be tolerance of other groups (religious, ethnic, sexual orientation, you name it …) or whether it be tolerance of opinions which diverge from ours, as a society we seem to be going down a road where these are decreasing day by day. But if were to simply think about it, we would see that incidents like this are essentially due to lack of tolerance. Now, by tolerance i dont mean anything goes. All i am saying is that tolerance is where one can understand the viewpoint of the other, and try to convince the other that their viewpoint may be wrong. This is a long-drawn process, but more resilient. A lesson learnt like this is never forgotten. Caning, on the other hand, is soon forgotten, except as a joke (after the initial pain wears off).

There are definitely quite a few things wrong with the education system. But, as Mr. Lahiri says, which system is perfect? Why is it that the focus today is more on marks than on learning? This scenario (or the scenario of the way IIT coaching happens) reminds me of description in a book i was reading … The Man Who Knew Infinity … about Ramanujan, of the Tripos examination, and the way passing the examination meant much more than learning mathematics. So, let us, as a nation, try to find the positive aspects of the education system (and there are many, as Mr. Lahiri points out), build on those, and add to those to build a system which is resilient, and more important, i believe, tolerant, and most important, aligned towards learning needs of society as a whole.


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