Many of our classrooms offer one-way communication - from the teachers to the students. Pooja Patel explains the need to change this scenario
Apart from its rich culture, heritage and history, India is known for the flawless education system called the gurukul system. This system was the perfect educational package, inculcating values, knowledge, principles, philosophy and vision and turning every child into a well-rounded personality. The students, or shishyas as they were called, stayed at the guru's (teacher) ashram, dedicating themselves completely to the guru and the education they received from the guru. The students were taught theory along with practical lessons and this active, participatory educational system made them better learners.
Sadly, as time passed, practise of the gurukul system became less common. Now we follow the old western system of education where the learning process has become teacher-centric. Schools have adopted the lecturing method, which makes classroom studies dull and the learning, monotonous. Students' involvement and queries are not entertained due to lack of time and pressure to complete the syllabus. Questions are thus left unanswered. Students' days are packed with class work, homework, extra curricular activities, classes to attain fine skills and more.
The pressure on children is so immense that they are stressed and burnt out even before they enter their teens. With frequent changes in the educational system over the past one year, we asked a few teachers if it is the right time to change the teaching process too.
Vijayalakshmi Nishtala, a teacher from St Gregorios High School says, "If an attitudinal change takes place in teachers, the lessons they give could be made livelier, more interesting and more enjoyable. Teachers can also ensure long-lasting, less stressful information retention if various learning aids are introduced as an interlude during the teaching process. These will make the lessons catchier and reduce the drudgery and monotony of the monologue delivery."
Kosha Shah, mother of a 13-year-old says, "I think the major problem is the number of students in each classroom, which prevents individual communication. Most Indian schools have at least 40 to 45 students in one class and it is impossible for the teacher to hold the attention of so many children for a long period of time. School children are at an age where their minds waver. They need activity to keep themselves occupied. I think students should be divided into small groups and should be given activities like chart preparation and PowerPoint presentations that make their learning experiential. The government should make it compulsory for the syllabus to be taught along with outdoor activities and presentations that give children the chance to speak up. This will also develop children's outlook and make them better presenters of their ideas, which will help them in the long-run."
Perhaps the solution lies in accepting the fact that students are a vital part of the education system and not a liability. A system needs to be created that makes learning an experience. Teachers need to involve students from the start of the lecture rather than wait to finish it and then ask for comments. Class work also needs to move out of the classroom and into the outdoors for the learning to be educative and entertaining. In fact, this is the system that a lot of international schools follow, both in India and overseas.
In fact, when India started to ape the western education system, the West started to follow parts of the old Indian gurukul system. Averil Amaral, a teacher at Montessori Academy of Early Enrichment, Florida, USA, explains the difference between the Indian education system and American education system, "The schools in America are very different from the schools in India. Here the education is centred around the child who needs the education and all the child's needs are met. There is a lot of interaction between teachers and children. Many schools have their own website and each teacher can contact the children and children can contact their teachers at all times. There is a lot of interaction between the parents and teachers too. There is two-way communication, which is an open-door policy for free discussions."
This two-way communication has a lasting impact on children. It has been found that children who received the kind of education described by Averil often had a well-rounded personality, could debate on any topic, were well-versed with global changes and were involved with many more activities than other children could cope with. When the education systems were compared, it became obvious that children didn't need to put in many hours studying beyond school time and had the time to pursue more than one hobby.
This goes to show that long hours spent studying don't necessarily lead to a better education. So maybe it's time for our classrooms to move away from teacher-centric methods and one-way communication to a two-way style.
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