Literacy is traditionally understood as the ability to read, write, and use arithmetic. As per The Indian Census 20111)census2011.co.in, the literacy rate of India is 74.04% and this is a great accomplishment compared to the dismal 12% we had in 1947. But, literacy is different from education. To be literate does not mean that one is ‘educated’, it means that he/she has the ability to read a text, write and use arithmetic. Education is the process of learning, or the acquisition of knowledge, skills, values, beliefs, and habits2) wikipedia.org . To be educated is a broader and continuous process, one that happens throughout an individual’s life, from the time of birth to death. Literacy is merely a technical term that denotes a qualification claiming one’s ‘value’ as an individual in society.
J.Krishnamurti in his book, Education and the Significance of Life3) Krishnamurti, Jiddu. Education and the Significance of Life. Chennai: HarperOne,1981. said “Conventional education makes independent thinking extremely difficult. Our present education is geared to industrialisation and war, its principal aim being to develop efficiency, and we are caught in this machine of ruthless competition and mutual destruction. It is making us subservient, mechanical and deeply thoughtless. What we now call education is a matter of accumulating information and knowledge from books, which anyone can do who can read. Education is not merely acquiring knowledge, gathering and correlating facts; it is to see the significance of life as a whole.” He believed that there were many flaws in the traditional understanding of education, it overemphasised technique without understanding life, therefore, leaving us incomplete. Despite being written in 1981, it is relevant even today. Schools in India and all over the world still try to inhibit students’ freedom and creativity by enforcing rules and regulations on the students who have to face the consequences if they disobey. The authoritative nature of schools progressively increases in rigidity and establishes a stark hierarchy between the educator and the educated. This alters the learning experience and makes it mechanical. The children do the homework not because they want to but because they are punished if they don’t. The parents also play an important role in the process of education. Children, in school, most often reflect the values and principles taught at home. A growing sense of competitiveness and a need to get a high percentage are infused both by society and family. Students start pushing themselves to the limit not because they have a passion for learning, but mostly because they feel pressured by their parents and peers to receive the highest percentage in the class. Economist, Prabhat Patnaik, warns against the commoditisation of education which he believes “prevents the asking of questions, encourages mediocrity, and destroys creativity.” He elaborates by saying that “The very talk of ‘competition’ already presupposes commoditisation. We are not talking about airlines or hotels; we are talking about education. The ‘quality’ that is supposed to improve through ‘competition’ in such a world where education is converted into a commodity is precisely what constitutes the death-knell of education.”4) thehindu.com
Furthermore, the current system of education is critically outdated. Ken Robinson, an educationalist, in a TED talk called ‘Do schools kill creativity?’5)youtube.com, points out that it was “designed, perceived and structured for a different age; the age during which the industrial revolution happened.” It was driven by an economic incentive that was relevant at the time. Even the way in which schools are designed is similar to that of factories – ringing bells, separate facilities for boys and girls, educated in batches based on age and subjects divided on the basis of specialisations. It viewed students to be raw materials that need to be shaped into finished products that have specific uses in the market. It discouraged individuality and tried to squeeze the functionality out of these children hoping to find a place for them in the industry where they are used as pawns in a chessboard.
It is time to critically evaluate the kind of schooling we want for our children. Why must we live in the past when the needs of today are significantly different? We must find a structure that meets the requirement of the present. In fact, some existing models like Continuous and Comprehensive Evaluation (CCE) already attempt to break barriers by emphasising on a holistic process of learning rather than just rote learning and examinations. Rishi Valley Institute for Educational Resources (RIVER) also “has developed a unique structure for elementary education that consists of a network of Satellite Schools where a community-based curriculum is taught by village youth trained in especially designed multi-level methodologies; where the academic curriculum is graded for individual levels of learning, grounded in up-to-date information, and framed in the local idiom and, finally, where the curriculum is integrated with activities.”6)http://rishivalley.org.It aims to go beyond the textbooks and encourage the students to explore oneself, his/her tradition and roots, widen the knowledge base, increase tolerance for other cultures and protection and preservation of the environment. Some of the primary concerns of our society today is food scarcity, climate change, poverty and gender inequality. Therefore, it is just as important for schools to discuss disaster risk reduction, sustainable consumption, farming and poverty reduction. We must And like J.Krishnamurti said,”To cultivate capacity and efficiency without understanding life, without having a comprehensive perception of the ways of thought and desire, will only make us increasingly ruthless, which is to engender wars and jeopardise our physical security. The exclusive cultivation of technique has produced scientists, mathematicians, bridge builders, space conquerors; but do they understand the total process of life? Can any specialist experience life as a whole?”.We should start learning to be critical thinkers and questioning existing models of learning while simultaneously discovering nuanced solutions to the same.
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