No one talks of educational reforms in Meghalaya, not even the legislators. We are well aware of the multitude of problems plaguing education here.
In fact, what is actually being imparted is simply book knowledge and nothing of substance. The creative urges of students are quashed by unimaginative teachers whose ability to communicate their subjects is suspect.
Teaching is not a one-way process. If what is communicated to the child is not understood; if the child is unable to process and use what is transmitted, in his/her everyday life then education has not happened. Mere memorization of facts and reproducing them during the examinations is certainly not education.
A student should be able to communicate with his/her teachers fluently and crisply from a very early age. That is an important part of the formation and confidence building exercise. At the primary school level children are to be allowed free play of ideas and creativity. The primary school stage is also when students learn to socialize.
This is the time when children learn to share and care, to listen to one another, to explore nature through nature rambling classes in the open air, to recite poems, tell stories, do short extempore speeches, sing, dance, draw, act and paint and so much more in order to give vent to their creative juices.
The classroom is not a space for conformity but one where differences are discussed in a climate of respect and tolerance. Primary school teachers, particularly have a very challenging task because the kids are at their formative stages of their lives. They must therefore be much better trained apart from already possessing the aptitude to teach.
But all these notions are alien to our classrooms where students are burdened by homework and they in turn burden their parents. The joy of learning has all but disappeared. One wonders if those who craft the curriculum for primary, middle and high school students know what the students actually want from the education system. True, primary school students may not be able to articulate what they want but high school students can be asked to evaluate the curriculum.
We might be surprised at what the learners will come up with. Some of them are far more intelligent than their teachers and certainly more techno-savvy. As far as knowledge gathering is concerned they might be knowing much more than their teachers.
Clearly the teachers’ task is not to dispense knowledge but to build the character of students and enable them to understand from a very early age the challenges of social engagement and civic responsibility. Urgent reforms in the education sector should not aim only at the curriculum but the quality of teachers. Mediocre teachers, (and there are many) cannot be expected to produce brilliant students.
Yet this mediocrity is tolerated for decades because teachers are never evaluated. Without evaluation and continued assessment there is no room for improvement. Once mediocrity sets in education quickly goes downhill. Such a teacher’s class cannot be interesting or exciting. It is the grace of the students that they tolerate all this in the name of education. And this is one country where teachers never debate their profession or admit their failures. But can we carry on like this?