Thursday, 24 December 2015

The Embarrassed Winter

As a youth and a child, I have always felt the plight of the underprivileged, the economically disabled souls and haven’t failed to observe how a particular occasion is a joy for someone and at the same time a nightmare for those underprivileged souls. I am not a poet, I never wish to call myself by that title, I am merely an injured observer. In this poem, I have got myself injured by the observations of how a particular season brings joy to certain sections of people along with nightmarish situation to other section of people.

Literature is not created out of a vacuum, true. It was a night of winter, it was a night of downpour when I wrote this piece. While writing this, my thoughts have revolved around the broken huts and the muddy slums, the footpaths overpopulated with failures of the corporate world and the few occasional token of corporate charity. In this poem, it has been presented how a season of winter brings joy to few and misery to many, how there exists a contradiction in the winter, how a beauty amidst misery lies boldly. In this poem lot of metaphors have been used and so it should be read carefully and it should not be taken literally. Even the winter itself can be taken as a metaphor for various such parallel event. Special attention should be paid to understand in what relation the phrase ‘winter & joy’ has been used, how differently the ‘winter’ and ‘joy’ has been treated.

When the paths get covered by dense fog,
when the sun sleeps a bit more,
when the forests wear its new clothes,
when the faded yellow light brings joy,
And, when the yellow rays in the lush green woods splinter,
The nature tells you, it's a new winter.

Winter, like the poverty, is left all alone,
the skin of winter is hammered with the kind stone.
The fresh blood of winter travels in the veins of summer,
spreading joy and giving life like a flowing river.
The warm summer on the skin of joy,
snatched from the poor winter boy,
Signifying the universal diversity of winter & joy.

The joy of Red & white caps,
makes the sorrow nights collapse,
though transiently, but for eternity.
The merry nights, and the friendly Christmas naps,
with the gifts, fulfil the desire of the young chaps,
marked with utter serenity.

And then, the melting of snow with visible paths,
the smile of trees with green grass,
Bids Goodbye to the injured winter.
The winter clears the path for the next traveller,
the diversity of winter & joy prevails even further,
Truth stands upright, the change fails to change the murder.

Saturday, 19 December 2015

More than 12 years in India’s education system; not just an experience

The year 1997, I was born on this amazing planet and in this incredulous country, India. And then, as it happens, the moment we are born our education starts and it ends only on our death bed. My education started when I was in my mother’s womb. The growth started there, I learnt how to survive in that dark but, safe world. And the process of ‘being educated’ started when I didn’t even knew the meaning of ‘education’. Sometimes I wonder, probably, we become educated only at the time when we get to understand the true meaning of ‘education’ and the true way to use our ‘educated mind’.  I didn’t go to any school or Institute to learn the language ‘Bengali’, neither for learning to ‘crawl’, ‘walk’, ‘speak’, ‘bath’. I learnt all these so easily without any schools, books, teachers etc. Now also, I learn, but, in a different way, with the help of teachers, books etc. The question my mind asks is- Do we know how to learn? I remember, once, one of my teachers quoted “First Learn how to learn”. Did I mention Bengali? Yeah, I did. Let’s talk about languages. How easily we learnt our mother tongue in our childhood, then why we face trouble in learning other languages, even when we are taught by our hon’ble teachers? According to my understandings, the way we are taught in our schools or tuition are full of flaws. We learn a language by ‘hearing’, ‘speaking’, ‘thinking’, ‘writing’, ‘reading’, in that language. Now tell me, how many of the Indian schools encourage the students to read, think, write, speak and hear the particular language even on outside their school’s campus and the boundaries of the prescribed syllabus?I remember how it all started, nothing seems worth now, because, I am learning the same concepts taught there, now, in a different way and approach. That concept taught in that particular approach and way is now obsolete. What I have seen is that the majority of competitive exams basically tests how you excelled in the basic concepts. Yes, I am talking about the competitive exams, because, now a day, it is not the marks you get in 10+2 which matters (partially matters- the minimum marks) but, the rank you get on your entrance exam. I think it’s a very innovative approach, every institution/colleges/universities should conduct entrance exam and admit the students on the basis of rank secured by them. Generally, the Competitive Exams, like CAT/NIFT/NDA/CPT/XAT/MAT/CLAT covers these sections (some, if not all) (levels are different) English, Maths, General Knowledge, Logical Reasoning,  Knowledge of the Legal world, Economics, International Affairs etc.Most of the competitive exams, which generally people appear after 10+2, tests these, by that time all the basics should have been cleared but, yet people face troubles and prepare to re-learn the basic concepts. Then what went wrong in learning the basics at the school level? Wasn’t the basic cleared properly? I have tried to identify the following flaws:-      

 i.Lack of practical approach (or skill development)

ii.Obsolete ways of teachings 

iii.Learns new and higher level concepts, when the lower level concepts/extreme basics are not cleared properly

iv.Some students get humiliated when he/she fails to understand an entire subject and beliefs on the teacher who says ‘you are not good at this subject’ or ‘you don’t have brains to understand this subject’. And then the student declares publicly, for instance, ‘I am not good at mathematics’   

v.The theories and the concepts taught are not taught by relating to the current happenings in the world or by showing the implementations on the global stage. For instance, when Govt. of India launched ‘Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojna (PMJDY) what impact will it have on Individual’s wealth/savings’ or when, ‘after the  RBI Governor, Raghuram Govind Rajan, is appointed, why he felt that CRR(Cash Reserve Ratio) should remain 4% ?’ or ‘what impact will GST(Goods and Service Tax)  (Considered as the biggest tax reform) have on India’s Economy ?’ – these all topics can be very easily discussed in a 12th standard class of Economics but, unfortunately, it is never done. 

vi. ‘Lack of Disciplined way of learning/teaching/acquiring education’-
I personally consider the word ‘Discipline’ very significant and when it comes to education, I just can’t ignore it. Indian schools, when a concept/theory is taught, the walls witness murmurs, lack of attention, and lack of questions from the side of the students. We want questions from the students, not mere pillars receiving an education. As Einstein said ‘The most stupid question is the one not asked’. But, yet teachers say ‘Stop asking stupid questions’. When in a library, lack of ‘pin drop’ silence, lack of students’ interest, most of the students come to the library not because they want to read or study/issue books but, because they are having a library period now, and they have to go.

vii.Learns the bulk of stuff, but, fails to understand, how will it help or what use this knowledge have in the latter stage of life? 
For instance, a guy who is determined to be Writer (General), fails to understand how will ‘Log’, ‘Trigonometry’, ‘Vector’, ‘Hyperbola’, ‘Permutation’, ‘Production Possibility Curve’, ‘Balance Sheet’, ‘Working Capital’, ‘Carbon Compounds’, ‘Periodic Tables’ ‘Refraction’, ‘Microorganism’ ‘Binary Fusion’ ‘World War I/II’, ‘George Washington’, ‘Newton’, ‘Adam Smith’, ‘Henry Fayol’, ‘Louis Pasteur’, ‘BR Ambedkar’  help him. I am sure you can explain to him how some are important, if not all.

viii.Lack of specialisation-  It has been seen that a student, for instance, secure 7.2 CGPA in class 10, when he studies all the subjects, without any specialised stream, gets 88.8% in class 12 when he studies a specialised stream, say, commerce. When a student passes out 10+2 he/she is not specialised in any subject. 12 years, a waste. Does it take 12 years to learn basics? Along with the general subjects, a student should be allowed to do a specialised study in any subject, for which he will be given a certificate after successful completion. The subject may be, Creative Writing, Architecture, Paintings, Constitution, and Career Counselling etc. 

ix.Lack of awareness- I think this as a serious blunder. And I find it most on the parents’ part, for which their wards suffer. Once, when I asked my friend, “why you chose Science stream in your 10+2?” he replied because my father told me that there are fewer career opportunities in commerce stream. I was really shocked by my friend’s reply and getting to know how ignorant he was. Maximum students after class 10 take science, assuming that it will provide them with brilliant career opportunities even if everything goes wrong. And then after 10+2 maximum students who took science in 10+2 take admission for B.Com/BA in a college. This sounds    ridiculous. This shows that people are still sophomoric in deciding their career.  
x.Business Motive-   I learnt that schools come under Non-Profit organisations, but, I never realised that. The profit of the school is not recorded as ‘Profit’ but, ‘Surplus’. The schools try to fill their seats; no schools want their seats to be vacant. Please understand, 1 student= Rs.1000 (approx.)x12= Rs 12000. 1 vacant seat means 12000 losses. Now, the schools which produce students of 90% marks are not going to fill their seats anyhow. They will fix their cut-offs high, the creme de la creme students will apply, most of them will get through. Now, in the same school, some students or, at least, one, with around 60-70% marks will get through. How? The teacher, probably the most important one, whom the schools need, will gather support from other teachers and will jointly appeal to the principal to admit that student, chiefly also because he is a home student/student of the same school. But, an outside student with 80% marks will not get through. There are some schools, which will mandate you to purchase uniforms / books from a specific shop, exclusively available, because, at the end of the day, the school will get a commission. Some schools, who want to do the business in a more  profitable manner will sell their books/uniforms in their schools only and will make it mandatory for the students to purchase it from there only. In other languages, they will open many variety shops within the school campus. The students now a day, are no more the ‘students’ for the school but, are ‘clients’ or ‘customers’ who rarely gets their Value For Money (VFM).  

The impact of these problems- The gap between ‘Theory’ and ‘Practical’ increases in the educated minds. The theory fails to get implemented in the real life and it has been seen, gradually, people tend to forget the theory which they learnt in the former stages of life, just because there is no implementation of that theory in their life. The way we are taught, are mostly with the objective of finishing up the syllabus before the deadline, and once the syllabus is finished, 99% responsibility of the teachers seems to get over. Teachers hardly encourage innovative / stupid questions from the side of the students. Most of them love teaching walls and pillars. These create a vacuum in your understandings. Students tend to forget what they have learnt in class 8 when they go to class 9/10, since, there is hardly any system of revision or repetition of the old concepts in the new one. Students feel shy/fear to ask questions as because they often get humiliated when they ask some silly/stupid questions. This demoralises them and often the students lose their lustre in the later stages of his/her life. Students remain in dark about what are happening all around that world. And Current Affairs are generally considered as ‘not their business ’. Even, when a student reads a newspaper, he is mocked and asked- Is it in the syllabus? ’. This discourages the student to continue with it. When a teacher fails to bring the interest of the students in his/her subject, the students feel disinterested and murmurs, disturbance are evident. This is actually a failure on the teachers' part and the teacher should try to rectify it, instead of punishing the students for this. Learning stuff, which the students will not need in his latter stage of life and wants to pursue something completely different, makes the student stressful, hyper-tense, and give suicidal feeling in some cases. Parents, students often end up choosing a foolish and irrational career option, without analysing the strength and weaknesses and most importantly the interest. This fails the student to show his/her true potential. Students at the later stage loose trust on the school authorities and the bonding between the student and the teacher weaken because of this ‘Business Motive’.

Reforms which should be done- Have you seen winds blowing like a wild tiger? It destroys, breaks almost everything, the lights, the poles, the shops which were not repaired for years are just destroyed. Then all the things are rebuilt. Destruction has a positive side. If today the education system is being destroyed by the wind, tomorrow the architect will design it and the mason will build it, after taking the lesson from the past. As I have agreed, and many notable and renowned personalities have suggested, in the 12 years of schooling, there should be a field of specialisation for the students. Skill Development should be one of the priorities, a Practical approach to teaching is necessary. Students should not be taught how many soldiers were killed in the battle but, must be taught, why actually the soldiers were trying to kill each other?    Projects should be given, projects where students will get an opportunity to link theory with practical and present their own ideas with innovative theories of their own creation. Most innovative theories and the most academically rich project should be felicitated with awards from the side of the school. The students should be taught various dimensions to solve problems (or sums), practical and current cases, rational thinking, and most importantly a disciplined way of communication and proper use of language. Parents and students should be given a session of career counselling at class 10 (before choosing specialised stream), by highly professional and unbiased people. I have seen people come to advertise their universities in the name of ‘career counselling’ and so I would like to emphasis on the word ‘unbiased’. And, there should be a body to monitor the activities of the schools in the nation, irrespective of boards, about their business policies, relation with the boards, students feedback cell, how promptly they work on the complaints of the students, the system of teacher/staff recruitment, the teacher turnover ratio, the conduct of the Management Committee/ Trust etc. I personally feel, in every school, there should be a ‘Students’ feedback/complaint cell’ and within a fixed period the issues or complaints raised by the students must be solved. However, disciplined and unnecessary demands of students remain a subject of debate.

P.S- It should be noted that the above Article is based on experience, critical observation, investigation and enquiry. And I accept exceptions do exist but, generally the situation is what stated above, or worse than that in some places.

By Arghya Samaddar