October 27, 2010

[Education] Laments about us, the Learned Lads and Lasses!

After spending some hours digesting certain really shocking material, I feel compelled to share my understanding of how the unborn potential in most of us, was poisoned prematurely.

"Now, what is that revolutionary stuff you seem to be reading, is it some banned manuals, some blasphemous novels?" Hardly! far, far from it. It's just some textbooks on education. "You are really one to exaggerate. What, on earth, could be so startling of all things, in a textbook?", I hear that. Turns out that there is so much that I can hardly do justice in this one article. May take a lifetime and this is the first stone in the water.

On asking friends on Facebook [http://www.facebook.com/Karkys/posts/141544872559258], the meaning of education, their kind replies range from specifics like 'knowledge imparted/shared' to the all-encompassing "appreciation of the purpose of life" and "awareness". To be very honest, I never expected to get such a wide range of responses . The truth, though, lies in the broader version of this word, to which only life and harsh experiences exposed us, rather than our education system. To me, education is finding your true self and learning to live it, in all that you do, all your life. It doesn't end with the school or college or even a Ph.D, there are some very moving lessons to be learnt on the deathbed, I am sure.

There was another thing I asked friends - About the one thing they wish they learnt in the school-college set-up. In this case, all the divergence of the previous replies converged at a singular point - A wish to have some real-life learning. The Edu-Geeks would call that "situated learning" and I am sure google and wiki would enlighten you much more than I ever can. This is again an illustration of what most of us now accept that Education should do: To give us the skills of "Learning to Learn" (http://www.campaign-for learning.org.uk/cfl/learninginschools/l2l/5rs.asp). How absolutely useful it would have been to have researched like scientists or taken a Tamilnadu tour to learn about the types of soil or be given access to some real-life reference, tools and guidance to program rather memorize line-by-line, semi-colon-by-semicolon, "program to determine if a number is odd/even!" Why don't we hear our managers laughing their heads-off!

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Having said all this, what have we got out of all these years of school and college? One facet. Memory! We can read and reproduce. The question of the moment is "when data-transfer is done so seamlessly by some cute-looking robots, why should we as humans compete and lose against them, trying still only to master memory and recall?" May be these scholarly(!) concepts were not evident when we were studying. But why still, in this age of knowledge explosion are students here, still mugging for their 12 th Standard exams? Why is knowledge tested, instead of skill/aptitude? The really funny thing is , I have seen people memorizing answers for the so-called "Aptitude" tests given in IT Companies. Totally defeats the purpose, I would say! There is a real surprising cultural element here. Just take a look at our wedding meals. There is one whole sequence of things starting from Idli, Dosa , Veg biriyani, Bisi-Bela Bath, Kadai Paneer, Mushroom Masala, Aloo Gobi, Rice and more Rice, Vatha Kulambu, Rasam, Curd Rice, Rasamalai, Ice-cream and so on, whereas the education system just serves you a urughaai. That's right, we are filled up with the whole-meal pickle!

This is not to say, we gained nothing out of our education system. Some of us picked up a lot of things along the way. All this is mostly a coincidence, not knowing if these were right/wrong. There is no attempt to instill in us, in a realistic way, skills to face life, awareness of respecting fellow humans, a caring attitude towards nature, abilities to make sure that this world does not explode with all the harsh things we seem to be inflicting on it and simply, the understanding of who we are and what we are best at.

Feeling Depressed?! Just think, If there are so many problems, that should only excite us of all the possibilities and solutions, just waiting around the corner. All it takes, is to move forward, a step at a time. Here's wishing that these Laments become Movements in the right direction, in our life-time!