Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Hey, Teachers!! Leave Us Kids Alone!!

In all the din being created about children, their education, and the control we think we have on their lives, how many of us take time out to actually LISTEN to them? What do they want? What kind of a school would they like to be in?

Of course with all the researches in psychology and Child Development which is getting more and more advanced, the education policies are focusing on the child, making the curriculum more child-centered. A general direction is being given and framed along which the policy makers would like to see future Indian schools to move on. A lot is being said about bookish learning which they say has to be substituted with a kind of learning which is applicable in every day life, and connects children with home and society. Having said that, I do not for a moment doubt that implementation of these newer standards are not being complied with by all schools across the board. We know the constraints both economical and 'related with the will to change', along with the wide Diaspora of cultural backgrounds our country is dealing with. Nevertheless we as teachers/educators should, I think, at least ask children their view point as to what kind of school they would want to be in. A school which has ‘no boundaries’, and a place where children are excited to be present everyday. Excitement is what children look for in their lives, it is an important ingredient in facilitating quicker learning. Our schools cater to anything but this emotion.

The teacher in a school-the vital link between children and society needs to play a very subtle role. The image of an ‘authoritarian’ instructor who expects ‘to tell’ children things is something of the past now. Children tire of being ‘told’ what to do, soon and school hours are full of such instructions. Children need to share a laugh with the teacher rather than at him/her. I for one advocate a lot of independence among children as in making them speak out as much as they want, don’t worry about the controlling bit, that comes slowly, they learn to understand their limits. I read a book recently called ‘The School that I’d Like’, edited by Edward Blishen. It is an ‘old-time’ book, published by Penguin Education in 1969. I shall post a few comments of children, for you to understand their view point and also decide whether the situation has changed, if so, how much. What could be the reasons if nothing much has been able to change up till now?

Comment By A 17 Year Old: “give me the school where discipline, regimentation and good manners are not everything. We would rather have a school where we can talk on equal terms with our teachers on sex, morals, ethics, royalty, religion etc. We want a school where teaching will be equated with a perpetual quest for truth, beauty, and integrity. A school where personality and brain-building come first and diplomas or certificates last. After all , a diploma or a degree is not a perfect vaccine against stupidity.”

By a 16 yr. old :” Our school is like a machine- churn, churn, churn- comes out a genius, a stuffed puppet, reeling off facts and dates and predigested ideas at the pull of a string, wondering if it was really worth it and if it is really intelligence.Boredom, so many pairs of vacant eyes regarding with a hollow stare the woman at the front of the room who does the churning. Minds too apathetic to think, bodies too lethargic to do anything but sprawl over desks and carve names, with infinite care, on the lids…..”

By an 18 yr. old : Above all, education should be exciting. No educated person can claim boredom amidst so much knowledge. School life should be crammed with interest-the buildings too. Yet nothing is more depressing than the average buff-colored classroom!! Revolution must break out, they must be invaded by novel color schemes and different architectural styles, taken over by paintings and sculptures. No two should look alike. The pupils should have more freedom in the planning and execution of form, room decoration and gardening. Excitement should be injected into school, so that one is completely surrounded by it.”

By a 15 yr old: “The fault with a lot of schools today is that teachers are not prepared to listen. There is a teacher at our school who is very keen on discussions until somebody makes a point which she is unable to explain, and she gets angry and tells us to sit down. I think that’s the attitude of most teachers today. They don’t mind discussing various topics as long as it ends up with them being able to prove a point to you and not the other way.”

By a 15 yr old: “Respect for the pupil is just as important as respect for the teacher, because after a young person’s opinion has been disregarded three or four times the child may never express an opinion again.”

By a 15 yr. old: “I see no point in separating the sexes- after all, they have to know the horrid truth about each other one day, so why not at secondary level? Anyway one-sex schools seem to be against the laws of nature.”

By a 16 yr. old: “What a bore school is, the same as it has been for hundreds of years. What we get is the same old thing – teacher, outdated books, and a class fed up to the teeth with the teacher and the school. What we need is one vast change in the education system of this country. Children do not want to be taught at, but to find out things for themselves. If a child is interested in the way a dogfish’s heart works, let him go and find out , by cutting one up.”

By a 13 yr. old; “If children are to be taught solely by stereotyped machines, are we not in grave danger of producing mechanical, stereotyped children? The place of the human, individual teacher must always remain secure to provide a contrast to machine teaching.”

By a 14 yr old: “I would use computers in my ideal school as I feel that this would cancel out any teachers errors and this would mean that no child’s education would be impeded by a teacher who is slow or not experienced.”

By a 17 yr. old: “ Modern equipment? To me. it’s sheer poppycock. We want intelligent teachers and not machines. It is the poor doctor who hides behind a whole gamut of patent drugs.”

By a 15 yr. old: “The first step must surely be to raise teachers’ salaries by at least fifty percent to recruit top class personnel to the profession. And the only means of doing this is by offering salaries commensurate with their responsibility in shaping the hopes of tomorrow and competitive with those offered by industry. Furthermore it is imperative that teaching staff be relieved of extra duties.”

Well, I leave you to ponder and mull over this. I am aware many issues several schools are considering. But that is for you to decide and see around you…HOW MANY?

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