Open Letter On Our Primary Education System On The Eve Of Teachers’ Day

Though I am not into professional teaching or an educational analyst or anything of that sort, since some time, I have these concerns regarding a section of latest schooling systems in India.

Just consider schooling during our generation and a little beyond. Whether cities /towns /villages, we went to “ordinary” schools… and those “ordinary” schools had almost everything required for a child to get adequately schooled :

– Safety and Security
– Discipline
– good Teachers
– responsible Support Staff
– thorough Courses
– Labs
– timely Examination schedules and proper Evaluations
– a Playground
– First-Aid facilities and a phone-call-away Doctor
– a Garden
– a School Bus with watchful Attendants
– a Store-room of books, notebooks, pencils and other accessories
– a Library
– Hostels
– an outdoor Stage
– a well-ventilated, well-lighted and sufficiently-equipped Hall where competitions /performances /extra-curricular activities were conducted on a regular basis
– various academic /motivational Presentations by external bodies (govt. or private)
– Office and Notice Boards /Circulations
– Musical Instruments
– observations for 15 Aug. /26th Jan.
– uniform celebrations of all Festivals
– a thorough conduct of Morning Assembly
– periodic teacher-parent Meetings
– easy Interactions with any teacher /principal on any working day
– due Counselling sessions
– due Recognitions /Prizes /Scholarships
– proper maintenance of all Records /Registers
– due Vaccination schedules
– Excursions /Picnics
– active participation in Social Services

Well, I agree some of these facilities like a big infrastructure or an equipped hall or musical instruments were not present in village schools but nevertheless, they were highly accomplished institutions even if one merely counts the minimum factors of good schooling. Haven’t students from these less-equipped schools following “trusted” models of curriculum, excelled later in life – whether at the national or international levels ?!? Or haven’t they excelled in any other sphere but just academics ?… Further, haven’t they been highly sought as teachers by countries where the school education models are so different or talk about some brand ?

Today in India, new type of schools focus so much on “projects” and “activities”. As far as I have observed, these are either wholly done by parents /elders or downloaded from the internet; then it is gathered as print-outs or copy-pasted onto a file (hard-copy /soft-copy) and ‘submitted’ in a day or two. So all these, mostly because of lack of time or in a bid to quickly finish the home-work and move on to the next engagement, whatever be it.

And the next engagement usually is to watch an IPL match or accompany ‘Mom’ to the mall /beauty parlour or go with ‘Dad’ to the nearest KFC outlet or get engrossed in some crap video games !! So ever wondered, how these “projects” and “activities” are really helpful for the child ?

Moreover, nowadays only a few schools (even branded ones) sport a playground – how is that justified when on the other hand, these schools are trying to focus on “projects” and “activities” for better advancement of the child ?? Yes, you got great infrastructure and wash-room facilities but playground – that’s also an inseparable part of a good school !

I find at least in some instances, today’s kids lagging in spheres that they should ideally be leading through. For example – well, its great to be wonderful at singing or swimming but first of all, with one’s usual textual lessons satisfactorily done !! Isn’t that the basic purpose (if not sole) of schooling ?

Though there are few good exceptions, I am afraid many children are moving away from even the basic grasp of subjects. “Projects” and “activities” are supposed to form a mere part of the curriculum and constructively aid in an holistic growth ! These should NOT end up consuming maximum time-energy of young minds, and then leaving them with a tired space, a yawning gape at the end of the day to imbibe the actual academic content or even to play or do physical exercises !!!!

Stress is further enhanced as nowadays our career choices and modern lifestyles have confined us (the youngest generation of parents) in already choked urban areas; and even kids have to start the day at 6 AM or earlier (i.e. board the school bus) and are able to reach back home around 5 PM or later (because of traffic or/and tuitions).

Irrespective of any rule, some schools don’t even conduct at least the basic tests /exams. That makes both the child and parents completely indifferent to academics ! Whether or not they understand the tasks – they are only focussed on finishing the “projects” and “activities” at any cost, by any means and timely ‘submitting’ it at school. That’s what the design of some new type curriculum dictates in many such schools.

Where is the space and time needed to r-e-a-l-l-y grow ? In the hustle-bustle, its also so difficult for parents /guardians /teachers to find a niche to quietly unwind, deeply assess children’s progress and properly interact amongst themselves. I am not hinting at the mechanical routine meetings or discussions but at the r-e-a-l assessment !

And regarding all sorts of fees –  it is needless to mention their inexplicabilities and almost exponential hike-curves ! And on top of that, we also pay a considerable Education Tax !! Why ?

In my opinion, it would do us genuine good if we could go back and stick to the “trusted” version of our schooling that concentrated MOSTLY on the essential features of “academics”, and then wisely balanced the REMAINING portion with extra-curricular “activities” or “projects”. Let’s revive and maintain that old proportion or healthy balance !!!

Of course, I agree – perhaps with the inclusion of some modifications that would best suit India’s budding future (as recommended by educated and experienced Academicians, Social Scientists and Child Psychologists).

But unfortunately, the new models have paced up so drastically that now many of us perhaps don’t have options. Every school in the neighbourhood to the one 15 kms away appears the same. Still, if possible, let’s give a thought and try to revive the “trusted” version of our education system (albeit with approved modifications), starting right with primary-level schools.

While framing policies and making rules per se India, let us keep certain aspects in mind. Here below, I have briefly listed three major ones :

1. Let us ensure a measured degree of uniformity in the country’s education system. Let NOT there be any sort of discrepancy which may cast even the faintest shadows of division across the rungs of our society !! Why thrust the burden of non-uniformities on children and ask them to cope with it ? Let’s be sensible and responsible in the most sincere terms.

2.  Secondly, let NOT educational reforms be mere short-term ones or based on vote-bank politics ! For example, presently the RTE facilitates free education for children up to 14 years and the Government-directed reservations in this category stand at 25 % in each school. But have you ever thought – what is going to happen to these children after 14 years of such schooling ? Ideally, that sums up just the 8th standard. Are there any reservations /provisions for owning up an “extended” support for their “complete” development or is their fate going to confront a full-stop, thereafter ? Then what is the ultimate purpose of such a facility ? A drop-out at that level, particularly from a brand school, is definitely going to struggle more !!… Moreover, it may make matters worse if we suddenly let go their tender hands; a young age as 14 years is too vulnerable to get trapped amidst anti-social elements and get lost into some dangerous anonymity !!!

3. Thirdly, can we possibly weigh options to NATIONALIZE various schools just as we nationalized banks ? It will not only maintain a definite standard (courses, fees, exams, activities, etc.) and uniformity but also build better check-posts of transparency and accountability in every department !

Let’s mind more about exploring the inner sheen than just meeting the expectations of a glamorous exterior !

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Kuch Khattee, Kuch Mithee

Huh… done with today’s purposeful outing at a mall !

A little over a decade ago, malls were so exciting; particularly, when our generation became salaried 🙂 . It was then when the ‘mall culture’ began across Indian cities and big towns. Almost every weekend or at least the alternate ones used to typically start at some fashionable mall, pace through a royal lunch, then had us fly high in car or bike rides or hooked up at a hi-fi cinema hall, and finally rolled into discotheques or pubs or late-night chit-chats on the open terraces. For some ‘poor guys’, the daytime meant office-over-the-weekend and at nightfall, they would join rest of their folks- again at some mall or pub. Only a few among us earnestly managed their weekend time and energy to learn an art or render services at charitable institutions.

 

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Well, the plus points with well-designed and well-located malls still are “relative” degrees of safety, dust-free environment, clean washrooms, one-stop junction for varieties of food, etc., saving of horizontal space (including parking facilities), streamlining distribution and management of infrastructural resources, increasing levels of employment, ground of opportunities for the ‘modern people’ to practice and teach mannerisms to their kids 🙂 and… good malls may sometimes, plainly map all its sparkle onto empty souls !! The last point acquires great significance when the youth venturing into career options, whether studying or working, in far-flung cities stay away from their families and confront various types of struggle or face loneliness during such trying phases of life; then they are usually prompted to visit a dazzling mall (alone or with friends) and ‘just chill’. That’s definitely a wiser thing to do than idling away in gloominess !

Moreover, malls are also excellent ‘match-fixing’ (matrimonial match-making) spots 🙂 … In many cases, not only the prospective couple but both the prospective families also meet without any hassle or raising their envious neighbour’s eyebrows. The same convenience is explored even for ordinary get-togethers among friends and their families because then the host just has to co-ordinate and make the payments only; he /she does not have to bother about the nitty-gritty in this minutes-starved world. This has therefore become quite an acceptable lifestyle in India.

 

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Hence even if one doesn’t wish to really shop, malls are somewhat good spots to catch friends up all on the quick gossip or catch rays of hope…

But over the last few years, I find malls and cinema halls terribly suffocating. This, even when I need to make serious business. In fact, nowadays I don’t visit malls alone because often I sweat profusely and feel dizzy at times… I don’t know if its the ever-increasing crowd or the insatiable cravings of many people over sales /discounts /offers on various items (branded or not) or their superfluous definitions of modernity or the crazy video-games counters or the jam-packed food-courts or the concrete roof or the artificial lights or the over-lapping loud noise or the pungent perfumes or vague constraints of space and time or an almost total absence of interpersonal warmth, or… a mix up of everything !!! And of course, it deeply concerns us to see many children and youth left unguided for taking appreciable interest in story books, classical music or other forms of art, physical activities or integrated development programmes; rather they too, knowingly or unknowingly, seem to be caught in perturbing rat-races and gibberish talks !!

Neither I enjoy the various online shopping options, particularly clothes because we cannot feel the texture, let alone checking proper fittings. And one usually finds all those famous wholesale or factory outlets stretched along ‘old city’ areas; reaching those spots means manoeuvring huge tasks through the motionless or erratic traffic, dust, noise and stench from nalas (drains) or chemical and leather processing units !

Wish we could still retain the old-fashioned simple layout of shops in lanes and by-lanes of approved market areas in a few places; primarily, to facilitate bad shoppers like me 🙂 and secondly, may be to cherish memories of by-gone days… In any case, at least employment and business would be guaranteed.

I so much miss my hometown shops: the open vertical space around the by-lanes which let us breathe well even in a crowd, see the starry or blue sky and experience the drizzles.. the bindaas thele-waleys (carefree vendors of portable stalls) making hot, mouth-watering snacks and serving tea in little earthen pots.. the fruit-sellers and the florists from the beautiful countryside selling fresh produces.. the fragrance of the incense sticks and neatly stacked items in shops were always so attractive.. the greetings of the shop-owner and his staff (mostly well-acquainted faces) were so warm.. and the music- whether a bhajan (devotional song) sung by a beggar or the flute played by him or a pop number reverberating from a tape-recorder, always stirred up the dullest of spirits. In general, life’s vivid hues graced the senses wherever they turned to. And often, they taught us something wonderful.

I am sure every Indian city or big town has its own charmful notes in this context. Shopping, for any occasion… for any number of friends or relatives or for oneself, was so enjoyable then………..

One Episode, Two Realizations: an Emotional, a Funny

Every year on Rakhsha Bandhan, I remember the early morning gift (a Raakhi and a Coconut) from the priests of Jagannath temple at my hometown. (In this festival, this is also a ritual between temple priests and yajmaans (hosts); the yajamaans in turn gift them due dakshinas.) Being the only child, I used to much look forward to it because to celebrate the occasion, I neither had a brother nor I was/am a brother to someone. Actually, I more desired that someone tied a Raakhi to me ! Moreover, my near cousins were either too young or too old or resided in remote terrains or atheists.

Hence to fill all sorts of emotional gaps on this day, my sister-in-law has now made it a point to include a Raakhi for me too in her annual Raakhi parcels to Bangalore. I was indeed elated with her idea…

Last year, she sent a beautiful gem-studded Raakhi. But while it was in transit, thieves stole it 😦 !

So this year, she sent a ‘Jaga-aakhi’ Raakhi (based on Lord Jagannath’s eyes). As usual, thieves have torn the envelope but it seemed the ‘Jaga-aakhi’ deterred them !! My sister-in-law’s trick worked this time 🙂 .

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The other realization : chor adat se toh majboor hain hii… saath mein, police-ke-dandey aur divya-netron ke ” sirf ahesaas” se bhi majboor hain 🙂 ! (no doubt, thieves have a habitual compulsion… at the same time, they also have another compulsion owing to “mere realization” of police-batons and divine-eyes !)

Mallika-e-Ghazal

Hamri Atarya Pe Aao Sanwarya
Deikha Deikhi Balam Hoey Jaye”

An all-time favourite, this wonderful ghazal, in the still and chill winter nights of the early 80s, permeated the air with an amazing intensity !!

Merely a child then, I never paid any heed to the lyrics or theme. Nevertheless, it was a composition to be thoroughly felt in love with the poignant music, profound tone and style of the eternal Begum Akhtar.

Truly, ‘Mallika-e-Ghazal’ !!!

Desi Thelewale Bhaiyya, Zindabaad !

Today morning, I came across an article detailing certain analysis of Indian food by a well-known Australian culinary historian, Charmaine O’Brien. While reading it, I was prompted within to reflect on my own thoughts related to it.

Last week, we had fresh hot thelewale Samosas (an Indian snack from portable stalls) presented to us by our Help.

I was a bit hesitant since I have just recovered from Viral fever. But ultimately I couldn’t resist the utter temptation – toh “Jay Jagannath” bolke khaa liya (so I had it trusting Almighty) 🙂 … It was indeed so mouth-watering !

Then I remembered my hometown’s 50 paisa /1 rupee variety Chops (stuffed Pakoras) that were incredibly tasty, and just slightly bigger than old one rupee coins. Those from the thelewale used to be a perfect treat with Moodhee (puffed rice) and Masala Chaaye (herbal tea) on rainy evenings ! They are still there but with increasing awareness on hygiene and new options of snacks, now the portable stalls are mostly seen in properly monitored exhibitions and traditional melas (fairs).

samosa_kachori

hmmmmn… Kitna bhi badda restaurant ho le ya aap kaise bhi banalo (howsoever big may be a restaurant or one prepares it with all care), when it comes to Pakoras, Chaats, Jhaal Muri, Ghoogni, Pani Poori, Dahi Vada and these kinda stuff, you can’t beat that of our very own desi thelewale Bhaiyya (India’s street Hawkers) !

For a while, forget the hygiene: zindegi ki woh ‘zing thing’ kahaan se laogey (from whence would you attain that unique pungent flavour of life) 🙂 !!!

And the charchaa (gabfest) around fresh street food and the Hawkers’ portable stalls, under the thundering clouds and in the cool zephyr… usmein baat hii kuch khaas hai, hai na (there’s a special air about it, isn’t it)… ?

muddheemasla

 

Reflections: Part-VI

In the epic of Mahabharata…

[I]  King Dhritarashtra’s charioteer, Sanjaya, was granted divine eyes (divya-drishti) by Rishi Vyasa to witness the greatest Dharma- Yudh (War for Righteousness). Seated in the royal palace, Sanjaya watched it all and relayed the same to King Dhritarashtra.

Even the entire Bhagavad Gita is Sanjaya’s recital to King Dhritarashtra of the conversation between Arjuna and Krishna.

Isn’t that just like our modern day concept of live-telecasts via television (duur darshan) and satellite systems ? 🙂

Quite the same with the Brahmastras and Nuclear-war or Star-war; and also with Maya and Stealth technologies ! 🙂

Hmmn… sometimes, man’s conscientious dream or vision leads its actualization and physical perception by thousands of years !!!

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[II]  One sub-section of the epic contains a great Dharma-Yudh Gyaan (Wisdom from the War on Righteousness) depicted by Lord Krishna.


Whether it is on the battleground or in the struggle of life, Success is infallible only where there are these three aspects: Dharma (Righteousness), Sahash (Courage) and Dharjya (Patience);

Rest all traits are merely Sadhan (Wherewithals);

But in the pursuit of Success, along those three aspects, when there is also a look out for Avsar (Opportunity) to weaken the enemy, then such an Avsar itself becomes Chhal or Kapat (Deception or Treachery);

The outcome is thus- that Dharma is devoid of truthfulness which requires an Avsar, that Sahash is incomplete which cannot be awakened without an Avsar and that Dharjya is unworthy whose essence is lost before Success even begins to actualize !

Well… let’s note that the above Gyaan is relevant when we consider only Dharma-Yudh ; the moment we consider Avsar, it becomes today’s Strategic or Opportunistic wars and confrontations within !!! Isn’t it ?
 

Svalpa Adjust Maddee !!!

We are a highly populated country with intensely varied demographies and inadequate infrastructure. Perhaps due to such factors and somewhat due to our inherent liberalism, since childhood we come across these two terms on a routine confrontation “thodda adjust kar lo” (svalpa adjust maddee /please adjust a bit) and “chalta hai” (its okay).

And sometimes that “thodda” / “svalpa” / “a bit” is tremendous 🙂 !

It becomes our habit, then reflects in our behaviour and finally forms our attitude towards almost everything in life !

So much so that at one point, we either forget (do not realize) how to justly rebel or become simply lethargic in voicing our deepest concerns even against things we stood object right away !!! We quietly accept everything, whether subtly or openly- whatsoever unfair it is against us, our families, our societies or our nation.

From the vital healthcare industry to an ordinary kiraana shop (general stores), we keep hearing these two terms.

On my birthday last year, despite proper instructions, the confectioner in the by-lane in front of our apartment wrote my hubby’s name on the cake and that too was mis-spelt. Let alone offering a replacement, the confectioner advised us thus, “anyway, you are a couple na… svalpa adjust maddee” 🙂 !

Well, coming to a serious context… Down the line, when we join a profession involving thorough interactions with disciplined clients (may be desi or videsi), or we are posted abroad in a culture where there is no such ‘adjusting’ business, we find ourselves stuck somewhere. If not for all cases, still quite often, we are then unable to realize what the problem is and end up grumbling that the other person is “such a strict customer” or simply “such a rigid felaa” (friend /acquaintance /colleague /boss) 🙂 . This also happens when we over-commit on deliverables and on our failure to duly meet those targets, then fervently seek all sorts of adjustments and re-adjustments from the other person !!

Worst of all : since many things can be adjusted as “chalta hai” (even when they are not at all okay!), in the process, sometimes we don’t even learn some of our basic rights !! Politeness and generosity are fine but not at such a cost !

Hence, as sensible elders, I believe it is very important on our part to teach children a right BALANCE between tolerance /acceptance and rebel /objection, particularly in any Indian society.

Irrespective of our global status or rank, let’s together address this attitudinal issue and write a new chapter for us… Primarily, it shall serve us good within.

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