SOME THOUGHTS ON EDUCATION
Academic and social practices at Outreach must reflect current research and effective outcomes in education. The nature of learning has developed into an important science, and path-defining studies have changed the way educators look at classrooms, students and teachers. Many of these have simply borne out and redefined the basic tenets of good education that Madame Maria Montessori extrapolated after many years of painstaking research and experimentation with learning styles 75 years ago. Howard Gardener and Daniel Goleman’s publications on multiple intelligences and emotional intelligence respectively, as crucial as the earlier findings of Rousseau, Piaget, de Bono and other earlier educationists, have changed and re-defined the way in which effective educators look at children and learning environments.
There are dynamic new forces in modern education such as the International Democratic Education movement that have components that should be incorporated in a good school system, or at least considered and discussed by teaching staff. Keeping up with, and being committed to, new and different learning strategies and directions is more important now than ever. In effect, it has ceased to be a matter of choice because of our rapidly changing environments, both micro and global. The increasing accessibility of the worldwide web with its incredible learning opportunities, globalization, and changing social and emotional parameters (such as gender roles) are some reasons why this is so. At the same time, parental comfort levels are important and sudden new-fangled approaches never work without adequate preparation of the parents, teachers and other members of the school community. Our own cultural milieu must be considered at all times. The Principal must be sensitive to all these factors, and maintain a practical and workable balance.
The fact that many children still go through school dogged by reluctance, fear and anxiety, and the increasing number of school and exam related student suicides, is a bleak reminder that our national educational practices need change at many levels. Physical and psychological intimation continues in our system. There is a general skepticism about “Creativity” or “Innovative” teaching methodologies- which respect the child- in the context of our education funnel/tunnel because it ends up at the extremely competitive exams, the results of which define and direct the child’s choices. However it is entirely possible to incorporate defined syllabus and curriculum into a system which is child-friendly. In fact the Board results from “alternative” schools are another reminder that child- centered education is effective both superficially (i.e., marks and percentages) as well as in deeper, long-term ways (self-esteem, confidence, all-round growth).
Our academic culture is dominated by the textbook, a colonial “contribution” that wiped out one of the oldest and best learning traditions in the world. Sir Charles Woods’ Dispatch of 1854 and other similar initiatives have created a study climate where the textbook, and not the learner, is at the centre of the classroom. Every now and then there is a glimmer of hope; from the Hunter Commission (1882), which bemoaned the fact that “books, and not subjects, are prescribed,” to Gandhiji’s Nai Talim and the Yashpal Committee Report of the 1990's.
Classrooms are generally recall-oriented and lifeless. Physical movement and mental agility are actually curbed, and the teacher is a clerk and administrator, involved more in tasks like registers and reports than in interacting with the children. When J.Krishnamurthy said that modern education was a threat to world peace, he meant more than political situations like the Pakistan-India dead-end. His point was that our education system negates the spiritual and moral values that further a wholesome (and peaceful) society.
The curriculum, classroom objectives and learning/teaching styles at Outreach will reflect the following important educational perspectives:
- What a child really learns cannot be taught (i.e., the teacher must facilitate and further self-learning).
- Interaction among children is an essential and effective way to learn (i.e., student interaction and group work are not optional but critical).
- The social and academic comfort and development of a child is crucial.
- Organizing and undertaking teacher training, evaluation and support is the most important role of the Principal.
- Choices and options in work/topics/projects is an important student motivator.
- Children must be challenged but not pressured.
- Multiple and varied opportunities to excel must be provided.
- Children must be encouraged to compete within themselves (i.e, with their own capabilities and talents) rather than merely with others.
- Discipline and authority are beautiful, not negative, words if properly implemented and understood.
- Open and effective communication with the child’s parents bridges the gap between the school and the home.
(These are the Principal's personal thoughts)