A video on teaching

In the initial years of teaching, my class used to be chaotic like the class in this video…It took me a few days to realize that I needed to make the class relevant to the students so as to make the subject interesting. Students were then quick to learn…

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“What Ails Our Schools?”

This is a synopsis of my book, “What Ails Our Schools?

The large number of Indians who have excelled academically the world over is evidence to the importance assigned to education in India. It is a miniscule fraction of Indians who are doing well in the international arena. The reasons are not far to seek. This book seeks to provide an inward look into our educational system.

The importance given by the State to education in general and schools in particular, varies from time to time. Nowadays one hears more harmony in the views of the State but the examination system is now being subjected to some strange experiments. Ultimately it is the students who suffer.

Teaching as a profession is not a coveted one. Few students of today want to be teachers tomorrow. Teachers do not receive much support from seniors, management, and society at large. The support that they get at home is conspicuous by its absence. Often one comes across women taking up teaching as the last option.

The book discusses the challenges posed and faced by schools, teachers and principals. The role to be played by the management and the parents is addressed. The challenges posed by students figure in many contexts. The students are never blamed for anything. The book keeps the students in the focus.

There are schools which are run by a closed society for the benefit of the wards of its members. Such schools are labelled as “captive schools.” In such schools the members of the management are not necessarily experienced educationists. The scourge of favouritism which afflicts all spheres of the society, dogs such institutions. Because of the fabric of the teaching staff trade unions often vitiate the atmosphere. The practice of “give and take” between teachers and their wards borders on malpractice.

The principal and senior teachers have a duty to support junior teachers and nurture the good ones but in some schools the good teachers are crushed by the seniors by professional jealousy. Principals wantonly look the other way. Innovations introduced by teachers are denounced. Principals are often afraid of the more vociferous among the staff and would willingly sacrifice the good teacher so as not to displease the others. Lack of professionalism is seen everywhere. However, the students are invariably more discerning and they see it all. It is not good for the health of the institution. Teachers face many problems because of the varied responsibilities assigned to them. Paper correction has to be done with extreme care as the future of the student depends on it. There is much scope for improvement in the system.

Principals on their part face many problems. Teachers have a tendency to form groups among themselves. They are not given to punctuality. The same culture extends to students. The management often treats the Principal with less than the respect due one with so much responsibility. They may even encourage the supervisors either deliberately or unwittingly. The absence of the right kind of support to the Principal has negative effects on education. It is the student again who bears the brunt.

The principal has to be creative and encourage the creative teachers. Parents have a responsibility in interacting sensibly with the school. Students should not be pressured to perform. The management should provide the necessary support to all. Education should not be restricted to an academic exercise.

Examples drawn from the experience of the author and her colleagues demonstrate these facts.

The book is not a compilation of challenges only. Every time a challenge is discussed, a possible solution is also suggested in the book.

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Centre for learning-CFL

CFL is a small school situated in the outskirts of Bangalore. An hour’s drive from the city on Magadi Road, one can find this school, which is spread across 23 acres of land.

A few committed teachers and a small group of students constituted CFL in 1990. A small flat is where the school started operating. After 20 odd years the premises had grown but the class strength remains at five.

CFL is a small school that offers alternative education to children of a few parents who trust the school’s dedicated teachers entirely.

There are many plusses of the school:

a)     Each student is known by his/her name and not by the roll number.

b)     There are no tests and exams that stress children.

c)     Teachers are completely in-charge of the children whom the children address by their first names.

d)     An atmosphere of freedom, be it speech or movement is offered to the children.

e)     Rigor of academics is consciously combined with non-academic pursuits.

f)      No child is found bored or uninterested in what the school offers. They are free from the tension which is normally created by tests and exams. Children do learn by doing project work, drawing, craft, land work etc.Education at CFL nurtures latent capabilities and inculcates love for learning. The aim of establishing such a school is to bring out the versatility of children who are capable of seeing the whole picture.

g)     Parents are proud to be a part of the school. They get involved in cooking for the entire school or in teaching. The school is semi-residential as the children get to spend two to three times a week with their parents. Parents are freed from stress because of the excellent care and attention their children get by the school. They are contented with the fact that children are not pushed into meaningless home work, tests and rote learning.

h)     Teachers’ commitment levels are very high. They do their best since they know that no one tells them what to do. There is no hierarchy and the flat structure makes each one of them take full responsibility for what they do with educating the children.

i)      There seems to be a perfect harmony and everyone exists peacefully in the premises-supporting, helping and conducting themselves in a most dignified manner.

j)      Entertaining and helping visitors understand the philosophy and principles is part of the school culture. Teachers do that with immense grace.

k)     It is for the children to emulate their teachers-extreme patience, calm demeanour. Total involvement in every job-cooking, cleaning, singing or reading is evident for any visitor to see.

On the whole CFL has been an excellent small school for parents who are looking for holistic education for their children. The mainstream schools are on the contrary hammering the children into marks-scoring machines. Those children who do not score well are doomed and rejected as observed by some cases of suicide or drug addictions. Mainstream schools cater to only few bright and the confident students where as CFL caters to every child and brings out the best in every child.

All for the elusive “perfect” education for their child… Is it possible to have both—academic skills as well as a free and happy childhood? The answer is YES and at CFL.

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