An opinion on what is true education and learning according to me.
|Years ago, when, as a small innocent child I had started going to school, I was told that a good student always obeyed his teachers and learnt his lessons. I wanted to be a good student and so I devoted myself wholeheartedly towards this purpose. I never made any friends apart from the one’s I had made at school and interacted with them only during school time, which I must say was very little. After school I would come back home and do nothing but study. I wouldn’t stop even when my parents asked me to stop and go to sleep. After all I wanted to be the best. I wanted to be considered the brightest kid in school. I wanted to be the darling of my teachers. The result? Well, year after year I won awards and was applauded for my intelligence, though I had never shown any intelligence apart from writing all the "mugged up" answers on the answer sheet. I used to feel very proud and happy basking in my moments of glory.
But today that pride and happiness is no more. Today I feel sad at letting those wonderful years just pass away through my hands. Today I feel cheated by my elders who, in the name of educating me, filled my mind with biased beliefs and stifled my natural curiosity. I wanted to ask questions, uncomfortable questions, but never did so because good boys were not supposed to ask too many questions, they just obeyed. And so I obeyed.
"The prevention of free enquiry is unavoidable so long as the purpose of education is to produce belief rather than thought, to compel the young innocent minds, to hold positive opinions on doubtful matters rather than to let them see the doubtfulness and be encouraged to independence of mind. Education ought to foster the wish for truth and not the conviction that some particular creed is truth."
- Bertrand Russell
Today I feel glad for having learnt this true meaning of education, the hard way. But there are many young people who haven't. I have seen school teachers coating with their own judgments and beliefs and then dishing it out as “truth”. I have also seen college professors, profess their own theory as “fact”. When once I opposed the act of one such professor, I was rebuked for my “misbehavior”. Here in India, the Guru or the teacher has been compared with God, and so students are supposed to consider the Guru’s word as ultimate. But it is not just in India where the education system is flawed. Because what I am talking about here is a fundamental flaw in our outlook towards education and learning. And so, I am sure this problem persists everywhere in the world.
Let me dwell a little more on this flawed outlook towards education and learning by asking a few questions. Why is anyone's intelligence measured on the basis of marks or grades? Since when did a piece of paper assume more significance than the person himself or herself? Why do we bother so much about ranks? After each and every exam or course we felicitate the "toppers"? The answer that I have got to this question is "to encourage them, to motivate others to perform like them". Does this mean that the others who were not toppers need not be appreciated for their efforts because they were not capable enough to convert their efforts into top scores? What should we really be appreciating, efforts or results? Isn't the real purpose of an educational institution to promote education amongst the maximum number of students? Then why this celebration of the efforts of a handful while neglecting the efforts of the rest? The real success of an educational institution lies not in the number of toppers it produces but the number of wise and independent minds it produces.
Would we ever get such an education? Would that day ever come when we all have independent opinions free from the fetters of biased beliefs? Would we ever let the impressionable young minds form their own independent opinion instead of compelling them to accept what we believe is the truth? After all what is true for us might not be true for them because even truth is not static. It changes from person to person.
Providing this kind of education in the present social and educational structure is extremely difficult. A revolutionary change needs to be brought about not only in the education system but also in our own outlook. But nevertheless it is not an impossible task.