I studied in one of the most expensive schools of Delhi. All through my school life, I saw my parents struggle to pay my fee on time. Not only did they sacrifice their leisure to get me an education, they also made sure that I got everything that proper schooling might ever require. Be it money to buy books, pens and notebooks; or to afford outings, picnics, fests, annual days and birthday parties; or even extra tuitions, swimming classes, robotics and dance classes – they never let me feel the scarcity which lurked in our middle class household.

Now that I meet a lot of people, I realize that there is nothing unique in this unique story of mine. This is in fact, the story of every middle class Indian household. Education is seen as the only means of ensuring a successful life. Parents spend their life savings, toil extra hours and even sacrifice holidays and television shows to ensure that their children study hard and fare well in school. But, what do our schools provide in return?

Does your child’s school teach them the art of relating to people and understanding what the other person wants? This is undoubtedly the most important aspect of any successful business conversation. Does their school teach them acting spontaneously under pressure? Life isn’t always predictable you know! Does their school teach them the importance of learning from experience rather than memorizing all the right answers? Are there any right answers in life? Can your children introspect their day and understand what could have been done differently? Does their school teach them the importance of taking risks and failing in life, or is it always about succeeding, winning and getting more marks? Most importantly, does their school teach them to listen to their hearts and understand their desires, or is it just about following rules and winning the game set for them?

Our country has always held knowledge in high esteem – “Balihari Guru Aapki, Govind Diyo bataye” (I bow to you my teacher, before I bow to God, because you are the one who told me about God). History brings with itself years of experience, Mathematics sharpens the mind, Science helps raise curiosity, Geography entices us to explore, and Languages aid in communication. However, the essence of these subjects must not be lost in the race to get more marks to prove a child’s worth. Are their calculus sums and geography maps really educating the children to lead a happy life? Or have we started confusing financial success for happiness? Why is it important to get straight A’s in all subjects? Why is not important to succeed in fulfilling the basic human traits of loving our own parents, taking care of our planet and ensuring our own health?

A child who has walked through a slum knows humility better than a child who has memorized essays on Nelson Mandela. A child who has seen his mother make butter knows centrifugal force better than any book could describe. It is these small experiences that form a child’s education. Is your child experiencing the world around him? Are schools centers of learning, that enhance a child’s experience of the world or do they construct a gigantic system of 70 books that a child must rote by heart just to delay their arrival into the real world? Its high time we answer these questions and start bringing about a change in the way we perceive education. Education is a part of living not a means for living in this world.

To begin with, schools could encourage ‘teaching by experience’ as against book learning. This system has been piloted in a number of schools across the country and is slowly maturing. Companies like iDiscoveri even provide books that recommend classroom activities for each topic, for each subject and for each class. Parallel systems of education like the Waldorf (Steiner) Education are gaining popularity. The Steiner system of education focuses entirely on experiential learning.

It is important to generate awareness amongst parents as well. Parents should focus on the all round development of their young ones. I would personally recommend keeping aside some time in their schedule to watch shows on Discovery Channel, for playing outdoor games and for engaging in different activities like gardening, painting, drawing, dancing, sewing, pottery and even cleaning. Inculcating a reading habit in children could also go a long way in contributing to their future. Reading opens up the mind to new ideas and thoughts. Encourage the child to read books apart from his textbook.

Ensuring these small changes in our schools and homes could go a long way in ensuring that our children are strong, creative and happy individuals; who will bring about inclusive growth in our society, eradicate poverty and unemployment, cure cancer and AIDS, reduce environmental degradation and make this world a better place.

Mansi Baranwal

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