Change what I’m studying the way I’m studying it

By Pamela Fernandes. Pamela lives in Mumbai, India. She is a family doctor in private practice

If it were up to me I would say the content needs to change.

Education in India has been the same for the last few decades. I see the same content in textbooks today as it was when I studied, a good ten years ago. Politics has changed, science, technology and even banking has changed. So why is the curriculum still the same?

Take maths for example, what good is teaching all high school students trigonometry. Are they all going to be architects and engineers? Instead teaching them to calculate simple versus compound interest, computation of taxation, concepts of conversion, currency exchange, profits and loss margins seems more practical. Because that’s they will need in life.

In physics our children are taught about designs of petrol and diesel engines, motion of simple pendulum and calculations of resistors and capacitors. Why not teach them which engines are more efficient, how electricity is created and made, how to change bulbs or differentiate between wires. Again, practical stuff that will come handy in life.

The same is with biology, we have made advances today to the DNA level, and most biology textbooks are still not updated focusing on teaching them about past achievements in science. Children need to be stimulated and the only way they learn is when they know the information is needed, is useful, is of value. Teaching them the justice system does not help, but educating them about how you go about making a police complaint if your cell phone gets stolen, or whom to call if they see injustice, that’s what is important. Teaching them about politics in civics is meaningless if we don’t teach them the importance of their vote and how to vote for the right people.

In every area of education in India today we rely on rote memory. The teachers or the examiner don’t care if you know how to do mixed cropping in Geography. They want to know if a child can belt out which soil grows is which state and how many cms of rain each state receives. They don’t care if you know that borax can be used to dispel fleas or baking soda can be made into soap, they want to know if you can balance a chemical reaction or know the entire periodic table by heart.

This kind of education is useless, if this is what you call an education in the first place. It has no meaning and does not equip you with any knowledge or skill for life. Education should be such an institution; once you get out of it you are ready for life. As has been said, ‘an educational system isn’t worth a great deal if it teaches young people how to make a living but doesn’t teach them how to make a life.’

Outside of books what else does education teach these days? They don’t teach you how to deal with tragedy or loss or failure. They don’t teach you how to develop strong interpersonal skills or encourage you to take up a hobby. Or hone a talent or gift. Most teachers don’t even have the time to know you by name let alone know if you’re good at something.

Our curriculum is antiquated. It prepares students for a world that has already passed by. Yet we continue teaching the same things to our children. In conclusion I would like to echo the prayer of Rabindranath Tagore, for the sake of the country and its future, ‘where the mind is without fear and the head held high, where knowledge is free, where the world has not been broken up into fragments by narrow domestic walls, where words come out from the depth of truth, where tireless striving stretches its arms towards perfection, where the clear stream of reason has not lost its way, into the dreary desert sand of dead habit, where the mind is led forward by thee into ever-widening thought and action, into that heaven of freedom Father let my country awake.’

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