Making a Difference
Know what education means? It means to ‘bring out the best’. Whose best are we referring to- the students, the teachers or the education department? Naturally, it is the student. Take a typical student who gets up early morning, grumbles as he brushes his teeth, then eats his meagre breakfast in a tearing hurry, one eye on the clock. He grabs that sack of books and rushes off to school so he can reach before a sullen-faced principal intercepts him and give him a late remark in his calendar. What pressure to perform!
In the classroom, he is pressurized to perform for the teacher - give correct answers, submit completed books, get high scores in tests besides performing at debates, elocutions, etc. If he shows interest in sports, he is pressurized to compete against faster athletes, stronger discus throwers and swifter swimmers. All in all, one wonders when our hapless student will ever read a book just for the pleasure of knowing something he is curious about or standing up before an audience to enlighten them on a topic he has researched with great enthusiasm. Stress is the number one factor that works against free thinking. How can a boy, who is told he must write an answer exactly word to word from the text in a language he has no mastery over, be ever expected to use the information he has got, through his research on the Internet, in his papers at the exam? “I write, you rote” seems to be the maxim of our education system, it would seem.
Learning is an experience, not a means to a piece of paper that will ensure a good job or the best marriage partner in life. So the attitude to it should be one of fun and active interaction. Very often, our schools do not reflect this ideal. Look into any classroom across the wide spectrum of our nation and what do you see? A stiff teacher in front of a blackboard, talking to a bunch of students who are either dreaming, playing pranks silently or who are sitting with bored expressions on their faces. The only time you will see any sign of life is when the teacher give them notes to copy. Then there is a feverish race to be first to finish in order to earn that pat on the back or a positive remark in the calendar. The ‘good’ students look with scorn at the teacher when she makes glaringly silly mistakes, the ‘bad’ want her to get down to the note-completion stage and the ‘ugly’ just want to go to the toilet once again.
How I dream of a school with the ideal number of 20 students per class, where a teacher is an educator in the true sense of the word. In my dream school, there will be a helper in each class to aid the teacher, sufficient finances so innovative methods and tools can be used, a progressive management that puts its students first, a PTA that is a salve, not a slave to the system and an Education Department with no political ambitions. The teacher would know each of the students not only by name and face but also by talent. He would interact with their families, visiting them at home and inviting them to his. She would communicate with them via presentations in class and via the net from home. Their phones would be the students’ helpline 24*7.
I once received a ‘forward’ which demonstrated that just one key of the typewriter could make a difference to the meaning of an article. To illustrate, here is one sentence of the entire text-“But somxtimxs typists havx troublx with onx particular kxy”. The message one gets is that each one of us can make a difference in whatever field or profession we are in. Teachers, every student you touch with your love leaves school a little blessed. If you focus on striving for excellence and ‘bringing out the best’, success is bound to follow. Don’t allow the system to beat you. Catch the bull by the horns; make the RTE Act with its CCE mandate work in your favor. For the sake of your students who are also your children. Make that difference while the iron is still hot. Make it happen now!