Thursday, June 23, 2011

How to address India's education problem - II

This post is second in the series after the first one. First we need to identify the real problems, for which we need to look at a number of symptoms of this decease carefully (e.g. why don't Kerala students go to schools as much as earlier?):

  1. There are not enough schools (which adds to parents stress) therefore, those existing ones have arbitrary entrance tests, even for admission to nursery classes!!!
  2. Even average, no-good schools charge extra-ordinary fees, and if some parents complain, children are humiliated as a punishment for their parents' action (showing how much they must love those kids in the first place.)
  3. Many students (from poorer families) can not go to the 'established aided schools', Some schools even deny entry to many students. Students are thus forced go to horrible government schools, so many patronize smaller private (un-aided) schools instead. Of course, these private schools are often run by a small team, even then they outdo government schools, for
  4. Government schools do not have enough trained teachers (heck, some states did not bother to have any norms to employ teachers), and many of teachers do not report to work. Those who do teach, are forced to also do menial jobs (for the same salary), such as cooking, census duty and election work. Note: no retraining of teachers or gradation based on teaching skills.
  5. It is not just school teachers, the whole pattern of Indian education system is like a badly-made, well-worn quilt. There are only a handful of schools who care for their students' learning: Hrishi Valley, Genie Kids, (once upon a time) Shanti Niketan...
  6. Against no-fail policy, schools fail students in 9th standard, only allowing the brightest students to appear for 10th examination under its name. This explains 100% pass percentage and guarantees that more students will flock to that 'good school'.
  7. No wonder, students do not want to be in schools and schools are not relevant and do not respond to their lives' demands.
  8. Those students who stay in schools are stressed (can you believe this: some schools have removed ceiling fans so students can't hang themselves ?)
  9. If all this was not enough, there are school examinations and other prestigious examinations to appear for, and students have enormous stress from exams as well. In 2006, about 6000 students killed themselves over examination stress, and many deaths were possibly not reported as such (where are Roy's, Hazare's and Baba's now?)

Simplest things to make out from above are:
  1. Schools are designed not to be fun and are disengaged from students' lives: so students are stressed.
  2. If schools are just about tolerable, there are 'tough' examinations, where gradation is disengaged from learning: so again students are stressed.
  3. For many students, being in school does not give returns in terms of skills for survival.
  4. Most school managements do not care for points above, and are interested in status quo (which includes removing ceiling fans, of course.)
  5. Government makes rules/ laws (who runs a school or how to employ a school teacher) and they do not work, which is not surprising, for
  6. Most government rules are arbitrary, without any love or care for children underpinning it or even simple market economics.

Now, read how Tagore approaches schooling. This is the angle we will pursue further about how schools ought to be (did you not guess it from my previous posts?)

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