This blog is written by guest blogger Ms Vandana Modal Dewan an 'edumother', a mother who believes in change in the education system for our children.
The crying need for Creativity in Education!
- By Vandana Mohal Dewan
As we hurtle towards the end of another year, I see myself staring at an abyss of sorts, everything so murky and unclear. No, it’s not a mid-life crisis; it’s just a mom-life crisis. You see I am a mom second time over and in a few months’ time my little one will enter the portals of primary school. A time to be thrilled, no doubt, but yet all I feel is trepidation in my heart.
It’s got nothing to do with long hours or heavy bags; it’s to do with what she goes through in those long hours with the contents of the heavy bag.
I see her so happy right now sharing with me all these tiny booklets that she gets from Podar Jumbo kids, where the school has bothered to create tiny little stories about each alphabet that they teach. It’s such a joy to read it out with my daughter Maahi, who loves it when she spots something familiar and even more when she reads them out to me….she makes up words for the pictures as she goes along….telling the story pretty much clearly, just on the basis of the visuals.
Obviously with this kind of a creative approach, my daughter today knows more than probably I did at her age. We were taught A for Apple, B for Ball and all we had to do was mug up the letters, then spelling like cat, mat, fat etc. She on the other hand knows the sound of each letter and various words that can be formed with the sound. She recollects how to write the letter. To her these letters are little adventures she goes on!
She isn’t exceptionally bright, or exceptionally slow…she is just a little 4 year old baby who sees the world with amazement soaking up all the things that are there in her experience. She is moody, lot of times she doesn't want to do Homeplay, but that doesn't make her feel that her “princess” Nidhi Teacher or “oh-so-beautiful” Rukhsar Teacher will scold her or say anything that would hurt her feelings. They will always love her, give her cards that say “we missed you” and life will continue, happy and joyful.
Well, not really, it won’t be the same a few months down in Grade1.
Suddenly in Grade1, with a choice of a board -- CBSE, ICSC or CIE – I fear to see an end to the creative approach to education that I see in Jumbo kids. We have tried the first two boards for my son, so now for our daughter, we have chosen CIE. It’s an unknown entity to me, so I am ambivalent about it.
So, is this fear unfounded? Well, I am comparing my son, Arjun’s experience, now in Grade 7, to what I am hoping will not be repeated by Maahi. School is a place Arjun goes to read various chapters, practice some Maths & Science and come back. His learning happens outside school, from the Internet, through the papers and magazines that he reads, through the stories we share at home. School for a lot of reasons is a drag for him. Again not that he is exceptionally bright or its opposite, its just the way education is imparted in schools, which makes it all so very dreary
Look at the books he reads. Horrendously written, full of typos. Pick up the Computer book for this Grade and you’ll see sentences cut & pasted from Wikipedia; glaring typos. Incorrect solutions to Maths problems; inadequate and convoluted explanations for scientific concepts. Unnecessary details thrust in history…history no more is HIS STORY it's a chronology of events. All kids love stories, but do Indian school kids love HISTORY, nope because it’s just so not engaging!
These school books that he reads are so boring that I wouldn't want to read them, if given a choice. Science is a series of learning definitions, not the amazement of how the world works.
The focus in our education system is on finishing the portions, not so much to understand how much the child has comprehended. Every child’s uniqueness is not focused on, or even creativity, it’s only about the syllabus.
Something needs to change drastically. I would say the methodology has to change; the focus has to change. Teach the same things, but teach it in an engaging, creative and fun way. They will remember more. In the words of mystic, philanthropist, author and spiritual teacher Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev, who runs the Isha Foundation "the most responsible way to live is to be playful with life. It is absolutely irresponsible to walk around with a long face. Being playful is being responsible. Only when you are playful, you can be responsive to life."
I pin down the difference of approach to Maahi and Arjun’s education to this, Maahi thinks she is having fun, while actually she is being taught a concept; Arjun and others of his age think they are being taught which is equal to being serious, therefore non-fun! For children Arjun’s age its about cramming facts and vomiting them out on a sheet of paper; for Maahi its about filling up sheets of paper with an imaginary world where A & B can talk and be friends!
Now that I have talked about the actual syllabus, methodology, I now come to the third part of the trinity that plays havoc with the kids' life and, well creativity too! Yes, it’s none other than parents. Someone just needs to check out my Mommy Whatsapp group to see the kind of pressure & involvement each parent, primarily mothers, show. They actually wish each other “All the Best” before the exams, as if it’s their exams not the children. And if you probe further, they are all so frightened as to what their kids will do, what will happen to them, if they don't get good grades and don't make it through those hallowed portals of an IIT! Imagine the kind of pressure we as parents exert on children when we inadvertently let this thought skip our lips! The consequences could be irreversible!
You know it’s perfectly alright, if they [kids] don't get into engineering or medical school, they should just figure out for themselves what they are good at and where their interests lie. There is no need for the parent to add the pressure of “this profession doesn't pay well”. Maybe they may not earn as well as say a Stock Broker, but imagine if they take up a profession they love and their hobby becomes their profession. Wouldn't that be wonderful? As parents our only job is to provide them with a loving, comfortable and secure world; provide an education that gives them life skills, beyond that its what they choose to make of their lives, we just have to learn to take a back seat and life play out its course. Why the insecurity?
What is the solution really? We definitely need an overhauling of our education system, for sure. Maybe you will have some answers, since you are somebody who has conceptualised such a beautiful and creative way of educating little ones. I am hoping you can do something for the older kids too!
I would like to end this piece with this link of Sir Ken Robinson, an author and education advisor who makes a strong case for creating and environment in our education system, which encourages creativity.
I feel, the crying need of our time are more such voices who promote this engaging, even sort of inorganic method of learning, which really is a life long journey, versus the current system of pedagogy which seems to be set in stone!