“Every child deserves an excellent education.” -Vision of Teach For India
As I was writing my application for Teach For India Fellowship 2017, I began to ponder what this phrase excellent education really stands for. It reminded me of all those times when I cribbed about everything that, I felt, is wrong with our education system.
Born in an Indian Air Force family, I completed my twelve years of schooling in Kendriya Vidyalayas. These years spanned across four different Kendriya Vidyalayas situated in – Hasimara (West Bengal), Jamnagar (Gujarat), Gwaliar (Madhya Pradesh) and Hindon (Uttar Pradesh). Over the course of years, I met people from different schools and boards – Army Schools, Sainik School, Private Schools, I.C.S.E. board, State boards (though yet to meet someone from International Baccalaureate 🙂 ). One thing that I found common among majority of us was our apprehensions about the practical relevance of our education system.
The National Curriculum Framework, 2005 puts tremendous emphasis on the need to bridge the gap between what children are taught in school and their world outside the school that they live in. As mentioned by the curriculum writers in many of the N.C.E.R.T. textbooks, the biggest challenge faced by them is to understand who is the child they are addressing. In a nation as diverse as India, the answer can be any of this – a child in big cities of the metro, or the schools in the slums, a small town child, one in the village-shala or one in the remote mountains and many more. On similar grounds, it won’t be hyperbolic to say that its not easy to define what an excellent education would look like. Since it can mean different things for children growing in different sections of society. Yet in this post, I have tried my best to envisage what an excellent education would look like in my utopian ideology; keeping in mind the differences that diversity brings in.
The purpose of education is to create individuals who can take care of themselves physically, mentally, emotionally and financially and also take care of each other as well as of the other species and our planet Earth. An excellent education would empower individuals to lead their life to happiness – wherever it lies for them.
Education should serve as a tool to cultivate values which help individuals to seek a happy life in the world they live in. There are four values that I find essential in seeking a fulfilling life.
Curiosity – You must have noticed how kids often keep bombarding the adults around them with their questions? Curiosity is one of the differentiating trait in children and adults. As we grow old, we stop questioning, hence, in turn, stop learning and find life around us quite monotonous. We should nurture curiosity. We might not always have the answers to all the questions asked. But that should not be a reason to discourage questions. In fact, we need to teach that its okay to be ignorant of something as long as we are willing to seek out. Kristen Hadeed explains the role curiosity plays in our lives quite vividly in this Ted Talk.
Leadership – Leadership is not only about guiding others. But its about being able to make choices in your life with the best of your abilities and then taking accountability for the consequences. Thus, every individual can lead his/her own life. As adults we often find ourselves hesitant to take decisions in our lives even if we are unhappy with the current state of affairs. Leadership is for everyone.
Resilience – We need to raise individuals comfortable in failing and trying again. Learning is a complex and repetitive process. We don’t get the right solutions for every problem in the first attempt. We need to master the ability to try, fail, learn and bounce back to try again in order to achieve whatever we want to. More often than not, our biggest fear to not try our ideas and hence, not reach our full potential is the fear of failure.
Interdependence – Compassion is what we need to teach since the beginning. We have been given this wonderful opportunity to experience life on this fascinating planet Earth. And what makes us even more fortunate is that we, as human beings, are far more intelligent than other species inhabiting the planet. We need to develop the conscience to think how our actions affect not only us but the other species and the Earth. Its more likely for a civil engineer to take into account sustainability if he/she has grown aware of the importance of our ecosystem. Also we need to remember always that we are here to grow together and share love and happiness. We need to learn to help others around us as well as be comfortable in asking for help when we need it.
These values play a crucial role throughout our lives. But it takes time to program our minds to these values and the sooner we plant these seeds, the better position we are in to make the best of our lives. We can come up with different ways to include these values in our education but that’s another topic.
This is my understanding of excellent education. I would love to hear any suggestions, insights from your experience on what an excellent education would look like.
P.S.: I got selected for the Teach For India Fellowship 2017. To know about the details of the selection process/experience, read this.