Image used for representational purpose only. (Express Illustrations)
Image used for representational purpose only. (Express Illustrations)

Indian education system damaging human bonds, diminishing local values 

It is needless to spell out how social or dharmic beliefs and practices propitiate these dissections.

The education system in India is driven by two prominent features: to urge individuals to surpass others and study what a few selective individuals or a collective of these individuals prescribe as syllabus.

Both are doing enormous damage to human relationships and diminishing local values. The Indian social fabric delights in classifications and grading and degrading humankind. It is needless to spell out how social or dharmic beliefs and practices propitiate these dissections. The most erudite in the country will refuse to believe that the present education system is doing exactly this and will also strongly oppose any change to it.

Engaging the students in the pursuit of individual excellence, trains them to distance themselves from others and disassociate from others. The learning classroom environment is certainly not cultivating associated ideas. Kinetics of the world and the life of humankind cannot be anything other than cohabitation in collective coexistence. However, students are made to learn individually and also tested individually. The only exceptions are group games and group project works.

Let us change. How?
Students in each class from first standard to PhD should be formed into working groups of five to six. Each group should be a random mixture of diverse backgrounds -- social, behavioural and intellectual. Everyday separate sessions should be set apart for these groups to assemble amongst themselves and essay specific tasks. Each of these groups should be made to take up classes each day. Similarly, all types of assessment, examinations or written tests should be taken up collectively by these groups.

This proposition will sound preposterous for the mandarins of merit. However, we should keep in mind that since ancient days Vedas were learnt collectively and all Vedic functions are performed collectively. This is not something new but rather is happening now too.

In games, collective assessment and awards are given. Project work in schools and colleges are assigned to groups and awards given equally to all members of the group. The same can be tried for any written exam. If the experts will feel shy of this change, let at least one paper be offered for group essay initially. Sharing of knowledge is neither a fraud nor a sin.

The pedagogy is smeared with skewed contents in the syllabus of all subjects. Scholars aware of global information and some select readings at the national level but totally bereft of information of state, district and panchayat-level information are celebrated as academic experts and engaged to frame syllabi. As a result, the waters of the Ganga become more crucial than the waters of the Cauvery and the waters of the Cooum or Adyar are junked entirely from the national/state syllabus. No native-level micro existences find a place in academics at all. Paniput is assumed to be of more historical value than Thagadur.

Every nook and corner of the nation and every class of people should find a place in the pedagogic content. Science and technical subjects too need to be applied to micro-zones. No one laureate or a deemed expert coterie can capture all and sundry. At the same time, realisation should dawn that expertise also resides in micro-minds.

The best way to formulate a syllabus in a multi-ethnic community, across a diverse geophysical landscape is to accommodate multiple levels of knowledge. Every subject should give equal weightage to information from the global, national, state, district and panchayat contexts.

For example, an English student in Maanoor Panchayat of Tirunelveli District in Tamil Nadu should have the opportunity to study poet John Milton in the global context, Dr BR Ambedkar’s writings from the national perspective, Meena Kandasamy from the State, Xavier’s writings to capture Tirunelveli district contributions and Iruli’s poems of Maanoor Panchayat.

Content should thus be authored by committees at each level. The student will thereby develop a universal character without losing the value for the earth under her foot. The learned does not become a unicorn.

The writer is, former additional chief  secretary, a retd IAS officer

Footnote is a weekly column that discusses issues relating to Tamil Nadu

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