Author: John Britto Parisutham (2011)
Education is the prime area to concentrate for a liberated life of humankind. Each one of us has some opinion or other about the present education system. Many find faults about it. Some try to be creative in their own might within the system. A few want an overall change in the system. Most of us do not know what are the real problems and the exact causes for them. It is still worse about the alternative: the ideal education system. We are not aware of it. Even if somebody comes out with some suggestions, we say that the present status quo is so strong that change is impossible. This article tries to locate the present educational issues, find the causes, and introduce an alternative system for a liberated and harmonious life.
Present Educational Issues
I asked a primary school teacher to tell me what would she do if she becomes the Minister for Education to solve the problems in the present education system. The teacher replied:
” Sir, The teachers do not get enough time now to teach the present syllabus. So I will increase the school time for at least one or two hours more. I will also see that they would get more salary than what they get now. I will make a rule that parents should spend time with their children in their homework. I will also order that parents should give birth to only smart children and not like the dull-headed ones that the majority we have now. Headmasters should organise motivational speeches once in a month for teachers to monitor the classes properly. I will sack the lazy teachers from their job. I will also see that the textbooks do not change very often. The teachers should not go often out for seminars and training leaving their classes. These are the practical solutions to the problems in the present education system. ”
Is She right? Does she speak the real problems of the present education system?
First, let us listen to this conversation to understand the real plight of children at our school.
The street Dog and the School going Child
” Hello! How’re you?” – the question was from a street dog to the school going child. “I am bored and tired…by the by how are you?” the child asked the street dog. ” I am fine. I enjoy. I play a lot” laughed the dog. ” Playing?’ What do you mean by playing?” questioned the child. ” You don’t know?… Oh.. What a pity?…Just play around. Don’t you do that with your friends? At school?” enquired the dog surprisingly. ” No. We are serious there. There is no time for playing.” the child said discouragingly. “Ok.. my dear child you said that you are tired.. now go and take rest” the dog pitied the child. ” REST? what do you mean by rest?” the child was curious. ” Oh… by rest I mean.. have you not seen dogs taking rest without doing anything?..” the dog waved its tail as it looked at the child’s eyes. ” Yeah.. I have seen that. but for children who go to school rest is a luxury. we have no time for rest.” the child said innocently. “But then what do you do in your leisure time? You see we dogs wander around and you?” the dog was concerned towards the child. ” LEISURE time…we have no time for that. You see we are studying…” the child explained to the dog very carefully. The dog looked at the child and said, ” My dear.. I feel very sad for you.. I am happy that I have born as a dog and not as a human person and go to school.”
The dogs are happier than our school going children. The dogs play, rest and take time for leisure. But our children are given high targets to achieve in their academic life. They are made to fight among themselves with a spirit of cutthroat competition. Each child is expected to come first in the class. At last, they loose their “SELF” and grow as they are ‘expected’ to grow with timidity and cowardliness.
What is wrong with our present education system that makes our children like this? Let us read a student’s to his headmaster, which raises many questions about the present education system.
A student’s letter to his Head Master
Dear and Respected Sir! Love and Greetings from a student of 6th Std. I hear that you are good and ‘change loving’. I want to write to you a few things very plainly. My parents want me to get 7 A’s and thus bring fame to my family and my school. My teachers try their best. I want to ask you a few questions. ( I know very well that students are not supposed to ask questions. It is a sole right of teachers.)
Is education a way to understand the secrets of nature and live amicably with it or a product to be bought in the supermarket called SCHOOL to score high marks and get a good job? Why is that the knowledge transmitted in the school are in no way connected to the real life but to suit the needs of the business sector, the industry and the Government who want to hold and sustain power? Dear Sir, Do you know that all Children who start in the primary school do not reach the higher levels. Many get dropped in between. Some children from poor families choose technical education. Only the students from an upper middle class and rich class go for a higher education. Why, dear headmaster, is the disparity and why not the education could be made available equally for everyone irrespective of social and cultural origin?
Dear Sir, Why should the syllabus, the textbook, time for learning, the place, the methodology, the exam pattern be decided by only adults and never by the students. Why is that education is given only in the peer group context and never in the mixed group context, whereas in real life we need to cope up with people who are different in age group, if what you say is correct that education is to prepare children for life? Why is that, dear sir, the school is projected to a world of silence? Why is that our skill of expression controlled?
Is it because the industries, the offices, the government administration and the service sectors like hospitals need ‘sized’ human beings who would be punctual, disciplined, docile and obedient that the SCHOOL produce their ‘product’ punctual, disciplined, docile and obedient? You see the forest, dear sir, it is multi-cropping that is natural and sustainable. It is the selfish motive of profit making that encourages mono-cropping. Do you not realise that every child is unique? has her own individuality? Is there any opportunity for the child to express her own individuality? Individualism is promoted. Competition is encouraged. But don’t you realise that letting the children grow, as they are in the multi-cropping as in the forest is natural and sustainable?
Are you not aware that the concept of uniformity, treating all ‘ unique’ children in the same way, with the same syllabus, in the same pace and evaluate in the same method kills the creativity of individual person? IS not the ultimate aim of education to ‘free’ a person from ‘FEAR’? Dear Sir, but, in reality, the students are punished and kept fearful by different mechanisms. Is it right? Why is this war against innocent children by grown up adults? Do you not pity our teachers who are poor species that need to obey their authorities, be afraid of the parents, get demotivated by non-committed colleagues, fight with the set curriculum and get tortured by the ‘dull-headed’ students?
Is it fair to expect the same result from every child when the living conditions, the place of residence, the neighbourhood, housing conditions, attitudes, values, speech habits, differences in life experiences outside the school, differences in parents attitudes to school differ for each child? Don’t you think that we come out of school learning individualism and competition, mistrusting others, learning feelings of inferiority, of submission of respect for the existing order, have fear of conflict and instil dependence?
I hear that Globalization is taking place in all walks of life. Will the Schools ( production companies) produce students with best possible education ( consumer goods ) as saleable in the global market as were producing for the national market? is this the future? Dear Sir, Can we have a system of education which will also respect the uniqueness of individual child, respect the indigenous culture, respect the mother nature and be based on human values of love, peace, harmony, justice and equality?
Dear Sir, we have lost our childhood but should we allow our children to lose theirs? Let us jointly change the situation. Bye Take care, Yours truly, A hopeful Child.
But is our situation so bad? Have we not done anything positive by our education to our society? What is the impact of our education in the lives of people in the present society? Let us listen to this conversation.
Two teachers at the staff room.
The staff room was silent. The new teacher was preparing her lesson plan. The elderly teacher was reading a book. She looked at the new teacher and asked a quite deep question:
” Teacher! Don’t you see that the economic exploitation that drains away the hard earned money of the poor people making them paupers are done by the so called ‘learned people’? Doesn’t this mean that these exploiters have studied in our schools and we teachers are part of this crime?” an elderly teacher asked the newcomer. ” No. we are not responsible for that.” the younger teacher asserted. ” Don’t you think that our leaders who have involved in the corruption, cheating and the political oppression were once our students? Are we not those who have failed in teaching them good values of leadership with sacrifice, commitment and vision for equal and just society?” the elderly teacher continued her question. “No. We are not responsible for that corruption. We teach them good values. But they select the wrong path. What can we do?” the youngster stressed her point. “Today you see that fundamentalist values rule the religious and social leaders of the world. They create fights among social and religious communities for their own benefits. Were they not our ex-students? Should we not be accused of not teaching them communal harmony values?” ” I do not know. Tell me why should they promote hatred feelings among communities that have a different language, colour and culture?” ” Don’t you feel that they should have been given correct directions in our schools?” ” This never came to my mind. I never thought this kind of connection between the educational sphere and the socio-religious spheres.” ” We witness a lot of violence and sex in media. They make a profit out of it at the cost of sacred culture. If we have taught them the real values of humanity like, love, peace, equality, sisterhood and such in our schools when they were young, will these ‘ educated ‘ elite use violence and sex in media?” ” I tend to see the connection now. If there is a connection between our education and life today, WE are the reason for the deterioration of human values and its reflection in the world of the economic, political and socio-cultural realities. If there is no connection between our education and life today, what is the use of such education which has no impact in our life?” The younger teacher asked. “It is a good question.” The elderly teacher affirmed. The elderly teacher and the newcomer were wondering about the role of education. The bell rang for the next period.
Yes. It is right when the younger teacher wonders if the educationists are also one of the stakeholders for the evils that we see in the society today. Education is supposed to do the function of preparing oneself for LIFE. If we accept that the life in the society is miserable for many people and that a few in power enjoy and prosper, who has to blame for this unequal and unjust disparity? When you witness corruption, money power, muscle power and cheating as an everyday affair of politics, which has to blame for the atrocities on powerless civil society?
The religion and the media are supposed to bring “harmony” in the lives of people who have natural differences in colour, language and race. But today we witness that the sacred religion and media are used to bring “chaos” among communities. Who has to blame for this unjust change of function helping only a handful of people who enjoy power?
Is our education and the outside life so connected? Have we not produced ‘ WELL EDUCATED’ People to protect the interests of our community? Let us listen to this conversation.
Papaya Tree and Television
One day everyone in a family went out for dinner. A branch of a papaya tree near the window of the hall talked with the television. Let us listen to this conversation: ” Hello! TV… How are you?” asked the tree. ” I am fine Papaya, thank you. and by the by How are you?” whispered TV. ” I am fine too. But is it not boring all the day sitting there at the corner of the hall playing to the tune of the remote control?” ” No. I am educating the people to buy the goods in the market. I am educating them what dress would suit them. I am entertaining them with sports, cinema and documentaries. I am informing them of the latest and current news of the world. I am amusing children with cartoons and stories.” said TV proudly. “But, don’t you realise that you also give wrong information about consumerist goods and make them more materialistic?” enquired Papaya Tree. “How can you blame me? The people who have produced the goods and those who advertise are ‘well educated’ people. They know what is good for the people and what is not. Isn’t it?” asked TV. “Now, listen…you bring evil things from other cultures and make people forget the richness of our indigenous way of producing food, cooking, dressing, building environment-friendly houses, nature-based medicines, telling stories and the world view.” ” Why do you blame me? Those who promote outside culture are ‘well educated’ people. Don’t be suspicious about their intelligence.” reiterated TV. ” The food products and medicines that you advertise contain non-consumable elements. It is not good for building up a healthy society.” the tree was sad. ” Do you think that those who do this are not aware of these? They are ‘well educated’ and will be concerned about those issues.” said TV.
Their conversation was interrupted by the sound of a car. The family entered the house with plastic bags full of things. As they entered the house, they switched on the TV. There was an advertisement about a new product made out of ‘natural food’ from papaya.
Let us reflect on the conversation between the papaya tree and TV. Is it not true that those who produce goods, advertise them and sell them are educated in our schools? Were they not taught about preserving nature, keep the environment clean and healthy, have fair trade, be sincere in sharing information? Were they not taught about preserving our indigenous culture?
If we see that the producers and businessmen cheat consumers, it is because of the present education system that failed to provide the value of justice. If we witness that the politicians cheat citizens, it is because of the present education system that failed to provide the values of equality and democracy. If we experience that the social leaders and the religious leaders cheat the members of the society and the religion, it is because of the present education system that failed to provide the values of communal harmony and peace.
If we see that the leaders of media exploit the viewers, readers and listeners, it is because of the present education system that failed to provide the values of sincerity, natural aesthetics and respect for cultures. If we see that not all these leaders show concern about preservation and promotion of an indigenous way of life and culture, it is because of the present education system that failed to provide the value of dignity and sustainability.
If we see that our children grow timid, never ask questions against injustice and be happy to raise their families serving the power and might who exploit the majority mass of the world, it is because of the present education system that failed to provide the values of ‘Dignity of Life’.
It is clear now that the present education system with its present content and methodology do not make a child into a human who could give respect to oneself, to others, to the bigger society with different cultures and to mother nature but on the other hand it makes the child who is timid with himself, cheat others, fight with other communities and exploit nature.
Historical Analysis of the pitfalls of the present education system
What is the reason for the handicap of this present education system? The answer is very simple.
The present education system has not come out of our culture. It is a borrowed system from British culture. At the end of the 18th and 19th century, industrial revolution took place that changed their society from agri-based feudalistic system to industry based capitalistic system. There was a need of disciplined workers who have the skill of job and who have the skill of reading, writing and counting.
They were given uniforms to have an identity with the factory. They would be punctual to the working place. They would not talk anything against the administration but timid in nature. So, they created an education system with these values and attitudes of discipline, uniformity, punctuality, obedient and timid and with the skills of reading, writing, counting and a fair general knowledge. British introduced the same education system in their colony countries to serve the ‘powerful and mighty’.
Anyone who has common sense could understand why the dog is happier than our children are. Could understand the questions of the elderly teacher. Could understand the questions of a school student to his Head Master. Could understand what papaya tree feels about us.
Towards a new system of education
The havoc done by the present education system is a planned affair. It is a historical fact that powerful people use the education system to create students who suit their vested interests. It has to be changed. All human beings should get equal rights to be a liberated and harmonious person to lead a dignified life through educational opportunities. It is possible only by a new system of education.
The purpose of Education is to get enlightened about oneself, the society, nature and the universe and lead a harmonious life among these. The Education should give us the skill, knowledge, values and attitudes to live along with the diverse nature and the communities. When we analyse the social reality, It is evident that our education system produces dehumanised timid persons and the mighty that exploit them.
This has to be changed. Is it not? As educationists, we should bring an education system based on the values of Love, Equality, Harmony, Peace and Sustainability. An ultimate change within us only could bring an ultimate change in the present education system that would result in liberated individuals, harmonised communities and sustainable nature.
The change should start somewhere sometime by somebody. If not now, when? If not me, Who? If not here, where?
What should be our new system of education?
The discovery-based education is the combination of experience in action, coding in reflection, joy in expression in a given context of culture resulting in documentation and change for betterment. This education should be provided to ALL human beings without disparity and monitored with the principle of Equality and Democracy. The education should be child-centred where children get a due place for decision making. It should be based on a sustainable way of living amicably with NATURE. Learning should be FUN. The education should be based on human values of love, peace, equality, justice and harmony. Our syllabus, textbooks, teachers, students, methodology, the role of parents, administration, exam pattern, training, policies and such of our new education system should be based on the principle of Discovery based education as suggested above. This can be understood by a diagram of Circle and Triangle. I have named it UYIR MEI education education. 'Uyir' in Tamil language is life (Energy). 'Mei' in Tamil language is body (Matter). The content and methodology of education system should be the combination of energy and matter. Like a seed, which has matter and energy, thus providing life.
ELEMENTS OF UYIR MEI
The following are the five elements in UYIR MEI Theory:
Baseline (BL), left line (LL), Right line (RL), Discovery Point (DP) and the context (CT). We will study in detail all the elements for the thorough understanding of the theory.
Baseline – Experience in Action The students should involve in individual or group activities that give them an experience. The learning about rivers and mountains could be outside the textbook. It is more concrete and sensorial. Nowadays the students are prisoned in the classroom for more than 95% of learning time. Learning about the society and nature should be done outside the classroom that means the world is the classroom.
Baseline stands for `action’. It represents the `Body’. The human behaviour is understood to have been directed by the left brain and the right brain namely the thinking brain and the feeling brain. Since UYIR MEI is basically a theory of education, one needs to benchmark the reality to note the change. `Reality’ of the matter in concern is represented in Baseline. As `Experience’ is an important factor in education the baseline stands for experience. Any experience has both the characters of thought and feeling. Taking psychological terms `ego’ is represented in the baseline, as it is a compromise between the `id’ and `superego’. `Psychomotor’ activities, in the field of education, which needs to be developed in the primary age, could be equalled to baseline. These activities are basically the human behaviours, to be learnt to use effectively by the children, by various methods. That is one of the primary motives of education. The Baseline also stands for any physical activity done to get equipped with different `skills’. `Participation’, `Coming together’, `Life-based’, `community’ are a few keywords concerning the baseline.
Left line – Coding in Reflection Left line stands for left brain, which is a thinking brain. The concrete experiences are not enough. The student should use their neocortex the thinking brain in conceptualising the concrete actions. The students should ask “why?” The reflection gives the skill of logic. The students should critically reflect on the data on physical experience. But what happens today is that students are made to memorise data and statistics and reproduce them in exams to get higher marks and that is in no way connected to the sustainable life of humankind.
The left line represents abstract concepts. The language, for example will be expressed in the left line. The ideas and theories that are the final impact of thinking will come in the left line. The rational explanation and the logical reflection will be understood in the left line. The left line is the knowledge line. Intelligence is represented here, so can be called cognitive line. Any form of `analysis’ needs to be noted in left line. Science and Mathematics appear in this line, as they are pure abstract theories. Any ideological explanation from day to day explanation to higher level political or religious ideology should be represented in left line. The `super-ego’ which is a guide for social and individual behaviour comes in the left line.
Right line – Joy in Expression Right line is the feeling line. All the emotions are represented in the right line. It is the expression through abstract language or visual media like songs, stories, games, posters, theatre or electronic media that students enjoy and learn better. The emotional centre of the brain called ‘Amygdala’ the right side of the brain takes care of feeling and imagination. The expression completes the learning circle. Today the sports and arts are kept as extracurricular activities. Students are not allowed to be free to express. Their reproduction is stereotyped in way of exams and to suit the needs of the society where the gap between rich and poor are widening day by day.
The images gain importance. The capacity for visualisation and all kinds of expression have to be noted in the right line. Imagination and creativity, the basis for creation and expression come in the right line. The affective side of anything is represented in the right line. `ID’ is the human instinct that is emotionally driven without much `thought’. The `ID’ state of mind is represented in the right line. Since any kind of motivation has an attachment with emotions, it also will come in the right line.
Cultural Context The circle denotes the context. Students are given a specific name, colour, race, religion, and geography and live in a historical time. The learning should happen to suit the needs of the context. ie. culture. The students should be aware of ‘own’ culture and be motivated to preserve it and to develop it. The culture is the combination of visible elements like food pattern, costumes, house styles, religious and social rituals and culturally specific behaviours and the invisible elements like the values and attitudes that give reasonable meaning and emotional attachment to those behaviours.
A person can be fully human when the person does not lose his or her cultural identity and the same time respect and accept other cultures. In the Globalisation context where a mixture of cultures have become the affair of the day respecting one’s own culture and other cultures have become the real issue that educationists should deal with. The circle stands for the given situation, circumstances, environment or the atmosphere.
Especially the space and time of the action, idea or emotion gain importance. The human behaviour, thought and feeling very much depend on the place and the time of its execution. The occasion and the mood also are represented in the circle. The nature of `context circle’ is that it embraces all the three lines namely; baseline, left line and the right line. It means that all the three are equally affected by the context.
Discovery Point – For Better Change The centre point of the circle and the triangle is the discovery point. Education is a process of change. From this to that. This process of change should be for betterment. What is the scale for betterment? If a change brings sustainable happiness and satisfaction for all the humankind equally then it is called a change for betterment. Today the education does not bring happiness to all.
There is a great disparity. The syllabus, the methodology, the management, the teachers, the students and the education process should aim at a change for betterment. It denotes the outcome or the result of any action, thought or expression in a given context. Since everything keeps changing, the result may be a good one or bad one. The change may be positive or negative. It might be something progressive or destructive. But there is a change always.
The change is represented and documented in the discovery point. The discovery point is perfect when it comes at the centre of the circle and the triangle. But the `point’ usually finds its place anywhere inside the circle based on its higher inclination towards one or more elements of UYIR MEI. For example, if the change has more base on `knowledge’, then the discovery point will move towards the left line and never be at the centre.
Applying UYIR MEI in Education System UYIR MEI Teacher
The teacher should be a person who is open minded and is ready to learn always. She should be able to ‘think’ beyond the given data. She should not be uprooted from the reality and life of the people in the world. She should involve in the day to day activities of common people and work for betterment. It means that she should be aware of the problems of the people.
A Teacher should the be a person who thinks visually. She should know the skill of converting the abstract concept into interesting visuals that stimulate the five senses of students. A teacher is a person who knows the tradition, heritage and culture of a community and passes on to next generation very carefully.
So She should have a respect for her own culture and be able to respect other cultures. Other cultures should not blindly overwhelm her. In general, She should be an intellectual and emotional adventurer who participates in the learning process of her students and be ready for discovery. She is happy to be called a co-learner or a facilitator of learning. She is, first of all, a method expert and then the subject expert. She teaches the student HOW to learn the subject and not the subject itself. She should be a manager of the learning situation.
UYIR MEI Student
UYIR MEI Methodology
UYIR MEI Parents
UYIR MEI Administration
UYIR MEI Exam Pattern
Conclusion We have to give at least the experience of street dogs to our children. Let our children write better letters to our headmasters. Let our teachers be happy and concerned about the right education that they provide producing not the consumer goods but harmonious human beings. Let papaya tree grow natural and our television be the mouthpiece of TRUTH. Let us unite together to fight against the evils the of the present education system. Let us create a New World by providing a new system of education. That education is nothing but the right mixture of action, reflection and expression in the indigenous life context, giving discovery for a sustainable and equal life of humankind.