Share your gaze. Education needs your attention ASAP.
If you think the Delhi air is dangerous for us, then the decay in the public education system is worse. It is just that it’s invisible to us. One chokes our lungs, the other is choking our minds. And our response to both stays the same — short-sighted, quick fix solutions. What is surprising is that we do not have organisations and government agencies operating in a ninja-mode to repair and prepare the education system as they are doing for the air pollution around us. But then we only act when we have a visible crisis and education still struggles to be a perceived direct crisis while we blame the lack of education for almost every problem in the country.
While the Delhi government is planning to ban all private vehicles for a few days if AQI hits the roof, they are almost okay with the mushrooming of fly by night affordable private schools which provide anything but quality education, most of them are worse than the government school in the vicinity but the society’s growing fascination with private schools and the overall gloomy picture of government schools paint these affordable private schools with a brush of perceived quality.
My intentions are here is not to ask the government to take their focus off the air pollution surrounding us. I am only hoping for all of us, the entire nation, to be as disturbed with the education quality in India as much as we are about the air pollution, if not more.
Rabindranath Tagore started the co-educational school inside Shantiniketan in 1901 because he could sense that traditional schools at that time were nothing but a dead routine and lifeless. He regarded schools as mills of rote learning with no freedom for creativity. Schooling almost had no influence on his life. According to him, the primary objective of education was to enable the preservation of the perfect symphony between one’s life and the world outside, he could not see the schools doing this at all. Things haven’t really changed since then and this was more than 110 years ago.
A simple Google search about the quality of education in India will consistently spew out standardised learning, lack of proper infrastructure, lack of high-quality teachers, outdated curriculum, insufficient staff inside government schools and no space for children to explore their passion as some of the key reasons behind the abysmal state of education in India. Yet, we have not been able to change the education system in India for the better.
Today we have several organisations who are doing some incredible work to change all of this, organisations who believe in the system and are working with the system to ensure that we provide our children with an education that will empower them to build a better tomorrow. But we do not have a strong push from the bigger society around us. We are not talking about the state of education as much as we should.
With the 2019 elections just around the corner, we need to ensure that our political parties and administrative ecosystem focus on education as a key element of development, and that can only happen when we are all talking about it and asking the right questions.
How do we ensure that a government school is a space that is accessible and aspirational for all sections of society just like government colleges and even government jobs? How do we support the government in ensuring that this change is possible? How do we enable philanthropy to support education? The first step is to start talking about the state of our government schools, even if your children do not go to one, even if you do not have children, even if you do not have enough information about them, you need to start talking.
I am not asking you to shift your gaze from the other problems that loom the country, I am just asking you to share it.