Monday, June 16, 2008

Indian Education System

One of my “archived” childhood memories that was brought back to surface recently – I was in class 10th (high school) that year, which meant that we had to take a lot of extra classes in our vacations (to prepare for the board exams), and which also meant that we had to make a lot of projects and models in our vacations – History, Geography, Science, as well as Computers. This particular memory deals with our Science model.

One of my classmates used to stay in the same colony as me back then. In fact, we shared a common back wall, so we used to simply shout for each other whenever we had something to discuss – and she used to come to her balcony and I used to go to my window, and we would talk as much as we wanted to… and the entire neighborhood could listen in to our conversation for all we cared! Actually, she’s also the person who introduced me to Reiki. (But that doesn’t mean that only people who are out of their minds learn Reiki!)

Anyways, coming back to our Science model, we decided to do it together… and we decided to make the model of the human digestive system. She’s excellent at drawing and painting, so she made the sketch herself, and then together, we filled in the colors. And to show the process of digestion, we decided to use small bulbs (the kind used in Diwali lighting here).

The idea was that one person would explain the flow of digestion to the viewer (the model was to go up in our annual school exhibition), while the other would accordingly move some metallic “thing” (I don’t remember now what we used) behind the thermocol sheet – over the bases of the bulbs – so as to “complete the circuit” so they’d light up. We could have done the lighting in the “automatic” way too – so they’d just light up one-by-one on their own – but we decided to use this manual lighting method so that it could be kept “in-sync” with the “explanation” that the other person would be giving.

We were pretty happy with whatever we did, and our visitors had nothing to complain about either, regarding our model or the presentation. The only setback was that another group in our class also made the same model – human digestive system (on cardboard instead of thermocol) and automated lighting system. In fact, they also used a sort of “regulator” (like the ones you find on air-coolers) to change the speed at which their bulbs lit up (slow, normal, fast, stop)!

But GUESS WHAT! They didn’t make the model on their own! They had professionals do it for them in the market – right from the painting to the electric wiring and stuff! They didn’t do anything in that model themselves! And obviously, it looked like a pros work! And they even had the nerve to accept this to the teacher when asked about it!

When it came to marks, (as expected) our digestive system got a 6 out of 10 and theirs got an 8! This spelt INJUSTICE (in big, bold, black letters) to me! According to my “rule book” (and my friend’s too), they should have been “disqualified” completely for cheating, because they didn’t make it themselves! Instead, they got an 8 and we were given a 6! I mean our model wasn’t sooooo bad that it deserved a 6! It wasn’t shabby or anything, and like I said, the visitors also liked it!

So I went up to the teacher and asked him about it. He said ours was a very good model actually according to class 10th standards, but theirs looked better, so he had to give us less marks. In other words, the work of some pros was used as a parameter to judge our work against, instead of the class 10th standards! If their model had been worth a 10, then we could have got an 8, but since it was only worth 8, he couldn’t give us more than 6, ‘coz he had to keep that much difference between our marks!

And when I asked about the fact that their model was made by professionals and not by them, he said “So what? Nobody said that you couldn’t use professional help!” And that was it! Height of injustice, I know! But, nothing else could be done about it… because the truth really was that nobody had ever explicitly said that we had to make everything ourselves. It was simply understood by us that stuff that was displayed in our school exhibition had to be made by the students of our school.

Anyways… fortunately, for both my friend and me, neither of our parents ever laid any stress on how many marks we got in school. They were always more concerned about whether we did our best or not. Besides, both of us were really good in studies, so we made up for the lost marks in theory… and the incident was only remembered for the amount of fun we had while making that model together – our “brain-storming sessions”, the adventure and excitement that comes with any new experience, the learning, and yes, our in-between “snack-breaks”!

But not all kids are as fortunate as us... especially in today’s times. There is this lady here I’m acquainted with, who has an 11-year old daughter. Till a few months ago, she used to keep asking me if she could borrow some of my handmade stuff – paintings, flowers, pen-holders, embroideries, etc. – to be submitted as her daughter’s work in her school exhibition… and I used to keep refusing! Finally she also simply went to the market and paid some professionals to get the stuff made… instead of encouraging her daughter to use her own creativity!

And back in Guwahati, I saw the same thing happening with my cousin. He even has some professionally written “essay books” bought for him, which are not officially prescribed by the school, but which cover most of the topics that are given to kids in his age group. So all he has to do is simply copy stuff from them to write his essays. I remember when I was in school, I wasn’t even aware that such things existed!

I might have got a few less marks maybe, I don’t really remember, because marks never had much role to play in my education. But, at least I can write stuff on my own today! I can think creatively, and I can put my imagination down on paper! (Just imagine – if I had also been given cheat essay books in class 5, you guys wouldn’t have had to read such lengthy blog posts from me today!)

Anyways, while I was in Guwahati, my cousin got this assignment in his art/craft class, in which he was required to use pencil sharpenings (you know… the flaky residue that you get when you sharpen your pencils… whatever it is called!) to make a scenery/landscape. He couldn’t use anything else in that assignment – not even colors. And he kept asking me to make it for him.

I kept avoiding it for several days ‘coz I wanted him to do it himself, whatever best he could do. But Chachi also kept telling me repeatedly to sit down with him and make it. Eventually I got to know that some of his other classmates had already submitted their assignments, and also realized (to my shock) that NONE of them had made it themselves! In other words, they weren’t really going to be marked on the basis of the class 5th standard, but on the basis of “who finds the best person to make their assignment”!

And so I succumbed, to the current Indian education system, where nobody really cares anymore about nurturing the child’s creativity and working on his overall development. Instead, all they are concerned about is his ability to cram stuff, or as someone once pointed out to me – “churn out entire generations of left-brainers”! As for marks, they are crucial today, because if you don’t get over 98%, you might not be able to get admission in any of the best colleges here!

This is a picture of his assignment… the one that I made for him. He got 24 out of 25 in it (I got to know about it only recently)… the highest in his class… at the expense of a mercilessly-butchered right brain! Some price to pay for a few marks!


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4 comments:

Neelabh said...

Everything is fair in war and education is the longest war a kid fights

Kaddu said...

"education is the longest war a kid fights"

Yeah that's wht it has become nowadays!

Nikita said...

ahh, such is life. but since there's really no point cribbing, one can only try making the best of it :)

besides, there are many who don't get any education at all. we're lucky!

Kaddu said...

Nikita:
So true! I do hope parents would stop pressurizing their kids so much into the "number game" though! I mean, life is just so much more than the marks we scored in school & college!

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