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This article is based on the experiences of the noted educator Shri Manish Jain, whose conviction about the gross damage done by the modern education system galvanized him to find alternative pathways for meaningful education. He has founded/ co-founded institutions like Shikshantar, Swaraj University among other educational experiments to strengthen his beliefs on holistic learning. A thought leader on the global platform, he has edited several books related to educational malaise and their solutions. Unlearning, Developing Tools for Deep Dialogue, Learning Society, Community Media, Happy Education, Vimukt Shiksha are some of these.
The education system of a country shapes the attitude of its people and the existing ‘factory or jail model’ of our schools is a case of one of the greatest crimes against humanity. The unimaginative approach has created a monoculture that stresses only on compliance and uniformity.
Let us observe the impact of some of these practices.
Grouping of students is generally done on ability where the best teachers are allocated to select a group of high achieving students. Children belonging to low socio-economic/ minority groups are huddled in the section having lesser resources and facilities. These children labeled academically slow maybe talented or gifted in other ways. The curriculum has fixed academic courses taught to all the students while a range of enjoyable group activities like sports, hobbies, business and community activities are extracurricular. These are of lesser value to be pursued only in spare time.
Assessment of learning is done through competitions and examinations- and focus is on individual performance. Peer collaboration is not encouraged and sometimes viewed as cheating.
Few pertinent questions arise:
Does the grouping pattern not build a global caste system-implying social injustice and opposed to principle of equity?
Is the uniqueness and endowment of different skill sets of each person recognized?
Can a robot treatment and the same yardstick for measurement be applied for diverse individuals?
Are we providing space for productive joyful learning and collaboration through peers?
Isn’t the ‘extracurricular learning’ more useful in life than the irrelevant theory crammed and marked for grades?
All our great thinkers and philosophers- Gandhi, Vinoba Bhave, Vivekananda, Aurobindo, Tagore and Krishnamurthy- have been critical of the factory model and advocated freedom from this rigid education pattern. Indian ancient belief sa vidya ya vimukte – ‘education is that which liberates’ that has been completely dumped by the controlling education today has to be revived. The inspiring 4 H system of Education ( Head, Heart, Hands, Home) that was prescribed by Gandhiji has few takers.
This prevailing monoculture raises several greater concerns as we recognize that the focus of our stifling education system is entirely misplaced. The focus only on literacy rather than deep design produces literate but uneducated youths. Lack of respect for our natural assets, depletion of natural resources, pollution of land and water bodies, consumption of junk food and related life-style diseases, wastage of money and other resources indicate that modern education has failed with respect to the simple conservative living of our ancestors.
It is a harsh fact that education has become a lucrative business with not many statesmen or educators willing to bring reform. A perceptible outcome of modern education is the creation of a young population of global consumers- obsessed with modern and latest gadgets, they are internally dissatisfied and completely alienated from their local agenda and nature. They are only enabling the nation to achieve that fake economic growth target of 8 percent. Why should then a change be brought?
Let us stop pretending that our modern formal schooling provides us with meaningful learning. Let us free our imagination from the suffocating stranglehold of factory schooling and the global society. The alignment can only be done by a set of creative passionate people who understand that each learner is unique. Each requires their own space and their talents need to be harnessed. Democratic self- designed learning coupled with opportunities for community living, resolution of conflicts and finding solutions makes deep learning happen. Let us reclaim education! From being consumers of knowledge to becoming creators of knowledge!
Session By @ Manish Jain - Swaraj University, Udaipur
Written By @ Dr. Anita Verma, firstname.lastname@example.org