Real school is life itself

Real school is life itself
Highlights

More than three decades ago, eminent novelist RK Narayan in his maiden speech in Rajya Sabha drew the attention of the nation to the dreary life of school children carrying heavy school bags to their classes and said that on account of this unavoidable and unbearable burden

More than three decades ago, eminent novelist RK Narayan in his maiden speech in Rajya Sabha drew the attention of the nation to the ‘’dreary life of school children carrying heavy school bags to their classes’’ and said that on account of this unavoidable and unbearable burden ‘’ children develop a stoop and hang their arms forward like a chimpanzee while walking’’ He also referred to the tediously long hours they spend at home while doing their school work.

The then Ministry of Human Resource appointed a committee under the chairmanship of Prof Yashpal to address the problem and initiate remedial measures. After a laborious study, the Yashpal committee linked the problem of heavy school bags with the concept of knowledge underlying our system. The report made references to the prevalent notion that India needs to catch up with the advanced nations ‘’where an explosion of knowledge occurred. ‘’ This notion was used to rationalise prescription of vast syllabi and heavy school work at home.

The Yashpal report rubbished the ‘’ idea of explosion of knowledge’’ by pointing out the differences between knowledge and information. The report said ‘’ ‘’It is true that 20th century has been a period of massive expansion in the human capacity to find new facts and store them but the concepts and theories that assist in the generation and organisation of information can hardly be said to have multiplied’’ at an explosive rate.’’

Syllabus-framers and textbook writers fail to recognise that learning in childhood is not the same as storing vast amounts of information. Teaching ought to focus on concept formation and theory building, not on forcing children to memorise unrelated facts. However, there is a good deal of rethinking everywhere on the concept and role of education. Some educationists even talk of ‘’ deschooling society. Schools without walls and open education are gaining importance in the Western world.

Some researchers in UK have revealed remarkable trends which may be summarised in a single sentence like ‘’ The age of the class room is over.’ ’It may be interesting to know that when the first elaborate school building was completed by the architects in Auroville and the Mother was approached for a name for the building, the name she chose to give was ‘’’Last School.’’ She held the conviction that ‘’ in the age to come, the school will no longer be confined to the four walls of the class room. She opined that that ‘’’real school is life itself.’’

Of all the guide lines issued by the Human Resource Ministry, I welcome the guideline not to assign any home work to Class 1 and 11 as it makes it unnecessary for the tiny tots to carry heavy school bags. It is also said that ‘’ Pre-school is not a place to teach and learn lessons but one where children grow and develop their capacities and learn to adjust themselves with others in society. Even though it is a school, there is no teacher training, no student learning whether they want it or not. A preschool is necessarily an extension of the home—the teacher is a friend, a playmate, a guide and a mother substitute.’’

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