Children of today face a big problem. It is that the school has transformed from an institution of learning to a factory. Every unit of “raw material” is put through practically identical processes. Standardised quality control mechanisms are used to assess every unit of “work-in-process” at various fixed stages to determine if the “raw material” has been transformed up to an “acceptable” level “appropriate” to each stage.
The “system” itself is largely designed by adults and treats children as miniature versions of adults who need to develop specific, predetermined skills in order to “prepare” to face the challenges of the real world. Learning processes are analysed and designed mechanistically and the onus is on the child to pick up the requisite skills in a process that involves fair amount of rigour and repetition. Timelines are drawn backwards from the final stage (which, quite incidentally, is cast in gold and fixed in concrete), and learning requirements at the earliest stages are determined based largely, or even solely, on how it prepares the child for subsequent stages.
This approach reflects in many aspects of the educational process and even the expectations that parents have of it. For instance, it is commonly believed that children need to start learning specifics of language and mathematics very early, even at the pre-school stage. So most children start learning the alphabet, numbers and even mathematical operations before they reach 1st Standard. A child of 3 is required to hold a pencil in his fingers and trace specific shapes correctly and as directed by the adults around him. Most people believe this is the right way forward and would even defend it by saying “If he doesn’t learn to write letters at the pre-school, how will he cope with school once he gets to 1st Standard?”
Academic rigour is perceived by many to be the most important and necessary attribute of a school’s methodology. Therefore, this rigour permeates the entire educational process starting from the pre-school stage itself. Sports and art are fitted into the process as ancillaries that add a dimension or two to the education, though the core remains academics.
At TATVA, we respectfully disagree with this approach and do not agree with the popular claim that it works (unless one uses an interesting definition of the word “works”). We subscribe to the understanding that every child is a unique human being with a distinct identity of his own. Every child goes through a host of transformations – physical, intellectual, emotional and spiritual – to become an adult who shapes his own life through the choices he makes. He is not a blob of clay to be moulded in the frame made by his educators but a living, thinking, feeling, doing human being who will choose and even design his own frame.
Factory-like processes do not aid the proper development of this human being through the various stages of his development. Rather, they hinder proper development. What the child needs is a nurturing environment with an educational process that spans the years of his education adapting to and working in sync with the developmental stages he passes through from start to finish.
Designing such a system of education forces one to ask many deep and searching questions and find satisfactory answers to each of those. While not easy, this is going to be an essential step in reclaiming education from the factories and restoring it to the children whom it must serve. That is something we truly owe our children.