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The Relevance of Education
- Darlene Fernandez

Education and the way it is being treated, distributed and forced upon young minds is exasperating! Having written about the ills plaguing the system while working as a reporter for almost ten years, I can only say that what is being packaged as study material fails to educate. I write now as a mom who is trying to give back what I have learnt. I have realized that I have really learnt nothing and I am teaching my son to learn matter all of which he will neither use nor remember.

The prescribed textbooks are loaded with data utterly irrelevant today. Thanks to the advent of satellite television and other jaunts into cyberspace in the single digit age group are already struggling to get out of the system.

My son once said to me regarding his school homework. "Mom lets get it over and done with so I can get down to doing more serious stuff watching the discovery channel"

Today's kids know where and how to get their information from. I heard a parent once complain that despite a flaw in the text book the teacher insisted on having the class learn it. "You have to know your textbook well," is what most teachers will tell you.

My grand father used to always say, "What a sculptor is to a block of marble, education is to the human race." He was exposed then to the traditional system of home schooling, but his words hold true even today. I often wonder what he would have thought of the present system of education. Then, imagination was as important as the notebook, and lessons from real life made up for research.

Today even though PCs and e-books hog all the space in a computer laboratory in schools the child is discouraged from using technology, save for a weekly visit to the laboratory. So, not only is imagination killed but technology becomes redundant even before the child is encouraged to use it. Considering the rapid pace at which new technologies are being churned out, the information superhighway seems to be THE place to be on, and education the only means to get there. But who is going to give our children this opportunity?

Test scores in a written examination is given indecorous weightage. This, while the teachers make it a point to make it difficult for the child to score. If the child knows his matter well he will most certainly lose marks for his handwriting or worse, the teachers decide on  a cut-off mark beyond which no child is able to score. And as if this is not enough, the child is then evaluated and his performance is graded against the rest of colleagues with a rank, a percentage and a comparitive analysis, which serves more to demoralize than encourage.

Parents are often told their wards are being subjected to this kind of evaluation so as to prepare them for the public board examination five to six years down the line. The result is that by the time the child reaches the eight grade he has completely lost most of his zeal to compete. Every child sooner or later becomes a pretentious genius. He would perhaps even fake being a 'scholar' to save himself from having a nervous breakdown due to the fierce competition.

Ironically, while all this is happening, parents are being told to encourage the all round development of their ward, and (this is interesting), to reduce the weight of the chunky school bag. The question is, HOW? To begin with, the average child, in order to compete, has to seek  professional coaching in subjects that they find 'tough'. So when not in school the child has to attend tutions. Then when he returns he has homework... the list is endless.

Laptops and palm tops are already replacing chunky PC monitors and hard disks, but the overloaded schoolbag still reigns supreme on a school kid's back. It could be replaced with a student customised laptop that could be handed down from one batch to another, but that seems remote for now. Schools in the US have already introduced the system, where homework and evaluation is all contained on templates and websheets within. India with its own fantastic rendition of Silicon Valley in Hyderabad should not be too far behind. Why cut trees to make paper if books are replaced with laptops or PCs?

We must remember that the family is still the child's first school and the lessons of kindness, sharing, equality and loyalty we learn there should be carried forth to all our dealings with the outside world. It is only then that education so gained will chisel our feelings and thinking, thereby making us responsible inhabitants of the earth in the coming years.

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