Feb 2014 – Teaching to make mistakes!

Having worked in the corporate world for over a decade I am constantly found lamenting about the lack of creativity and originality in the people who work with us. I long to see a young soul who has the ability to think differently and the ability to come up with new thoughts. I realize that one the biggest reason for that is our schooling. For 16 to 18 years we condition our children and train them to do what is right, infact all their lives are spent in pursuit of doing the right things. We reward them and acknowledge them when they are right. The problem is the manner in which we treat them when we make mistakes. Right from a very early age we families instill in children the fear of making mistakes and failure. This is further strengthened once they reach school and from then on it is a constant and consistent dosage of fear that is fed to them and they all grow up with a mortal fear of making mistakes.

“Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new”- These words of Albert Einstein are so true. The only ones that seem to make mistakes in our society are the rebels who choose to look the other way when the whole world around shows them the ‘Right’ path.

One of the safest places for a child to make mistakes should have been the school environment, unfortunately schools literally function like courts doling out different levels of corrective measures and punitive actions for any mistake children do.

Interestingly teachers of the co-scholastic subjects seem to score a lot better with regards to the mistakes that children make. Be it the PT masters or the sports instructors or the hobby facilitators or art guides, they all seem to understand the importance of making mistakes in learning the skills and nuances of their field. The predominant problem lies with the subject teachers and their single minded obsession to ensure that all children get it ‘Right’.

“The greatest mistake you can make in life is to be continually fearing you will make one” – Elbert Hubbard

One of the biggest lessons that we could teach in schools is to give the courage to our children to make mistakes. This will give them the confidence to explore themselves, the world around them and lead them to a path of fresh thinking and innovation. The world we live in today has so many social, environmental, political, economic problems for which the present generation has no solutions. The future generation has the onus of finding solutions to the problems we are creating today, if we do not equip them with the confidence to try new things and make new mistakes it will be a very grey future.

As heads of schools if we do not have the ability to encourage our teachers to make mistakes, we will never create learning institutions that teach the magic of making mistakes to our future generations.

Jan 2014 – Killing a great educational idea!

One of the best ways to kill any great educational idea is to introduce it as part of the school system. If that statement sounds very harsh think again.

A friend of mine who runs a yoga institute in Kerala recently mentioned that he is very keen to change the attitude of students towards Yoga in schools. He was aware of the fact that several schools had Yoga as part of their curriculum and children learnt yoga regularly. He had as part of his endeavor visited a lot of schools and saw first hand how children are ‘forced’ to do yoga. According to him practicing yoga is possibly one of the most enriching experiences one can get. Yet children who learned yoga in schools ‘hated’ yoga.

When I was in school one of the most boring subject used to be Moral Science. We had some Brother coming into school and narrating stories which we could not relate to and normally concluded the class with ‘gyan’ that we boys mocked at. We made it a point that we went out of our way to disturb the class. Today decades later when I look back at school, how I wish we paid more attention to these classes. What is desperately missing in our society is basic human values that seem to have eluded us. Education was meant to make us more ‘humane’, yet if we look around we realize that we are far from ‘being human’. Somehow the manner in which we taught moral and values in schools and in our homes did not go down well with us, maybe that is one of the reasons believe I could have been a better human than I am today.

SUPW was a joke and when I look in school I still find it a joke for most children. Teenage boys learning to do marble painting and tie n die, always wondered how that could be socially useful. The abbreviation itself Socially Useful Productive Work is so powerful, yet we somehow see schools for generations having done injustice to the time spent in the name of SUPW.

Civics is another subject that is taught in a manner that after 6 years of learning the subject most of the educated class in India do not go out and vote. Infact election after election are testimony to the fact that the more educated you are the chances of you participating in our democracy is lesser. This situation begs me to ask a question, what did we learn in civics?

Some of the best aspects of school were student social movements like scouts, guides, NCC, NSS. Anyone who has ever been a part of any of these movements would vouch for the fact that it shaped us as students and made us more disciplined, committed and socially aware. Somehow all of these socially relevant programs are not popular anymore.

It’s the arrival of another new year in our calendars; there is a lot to celebrate for our achievements in the past year. As you look ahead into the year ahead, take a moment to ponder over what are you trying to achieve in your school and what is the outcome. Remember you have a responsibility to create a better society, not just get satisfied by exam results.

In the coming year lets resolve to make every aspect of our schools focused on creating a better society. EduMedia wishes you and your institution a Happy New Year 2014!!!

Dec 2013 – Philosophy on Education

I had the privilege of listening to Dr. Edgar Morin an eminent French Sociologist and Philosopher and understanding his thoughts on children, education etc. at the WISE Summit Doha 2013. His thoughts were very profound and each point he made made me think and ponder over several days. I have chosen not to add my perspective in this article and I am reiterating the following points he made during his talk that outline his philosophy on education

–       Learning to Live should be brought back on agenda. Education should teach children how to live life, not how to get a job or satisfy the needs of an economy

–       Teach them to Live with others and love others. This need is even more so today as the world comes together physically and socially

–       Encourage the innate Impulse in children to survive

–       Education that is a civilizing not just education of civilizations

–       The focus of education should be to Understand what knowledge is about not just impart knowledge

–       Education should enable children to understand differences and uniqueness in the world around them

–       Education is incomplete if we do not teach children the uncertainties of life

–       Human beings are never taught – Who humans are? What are we? We teach them about everything in this world but not about their own selves

–       We tend to teach the biological, psychological and sociological point of views as three separate streams. Life does not isolate in that manner they coexist. Somehow education does not teach them together

–       We teach in a silo way, integration in learning is required. The future of education is going to be more of synergy between subjects and streams rather than mastery of isolated topics.

–       We need to highlight the threats that Humanity is facing. Environmental, Social, Health, etc. We don’t have tools to address those issues, unless we educate them about these threats they will not grow up to find solutions for the world

–       Teaching human understanding in primary school. Learning to be human at Secondary school

–       While shaping personalities we need to accept that – Adolescent is a plastic age, Childhood is clay

–       Youth has hopes, aspirations what they need is light in the end of the tunnel. Education should steered them into the right direction

–       Change happens in a classroom not in the Ministries or Policy makers cabins

Nov 2013 – Those were the days!

I had the privilege of addressing a group of 450 plus principals at the annual All India Association of Catholic Schools held at Montfort Yercaud recently. Being a thoroughbred Christian school product, I was very keen to put across my observations on the diminishing status of Christian schools in the country. I did a quick mock survey with a few friends and posted a few questions on FB to get responses on the subject.

In all fairness Indian education owes a great deal to the structure, methodology and systemic approach brought in by the European schools. For almost two centuries Christian schools or Convents as we call them remained benchmarks of education standards in India. Somehow the prominence of Christian schools has diminished in the past 2 decades.

My research revealed that the one word the described Christian Education best was ‘Discipline’ and the one word that never came up in all of the responses was ‘Innovation’. If we look closely these two words throw up a lot of light on why these schools are not doing as well as they were doing.

Today’s society and especially modern parents have a very different outlook towards Discipline. They are constantly challenging the systems revolving around strict discipline in schools. They believe that giving freedom to children is the best way to bring them up. My assumption is that this change in attitude and expectations from society has made the Christian Schools relook at the way they manage schools and are trying to be more accommodative with respect to the changing times. This is a period of transition and they are moving away from their roots and trying to adapt a new systemic approach. The problem is that the rate at which the change is happening is so slow that new age schools have over taken them in terms of marketing and perception thereby leaving the Christian Schools lagging behind.

‘Innovation’ not surprisingly is not associated with Christian Schools. If we go a few decades earlier you would realize that Christian schools were at the cutting edge of modern education. Their curriculum, their methodology, their systems were all way ahead of their times. A great example is the foresight with which they build infrastructure is something that modern schools are not advertising as their strengths. Another great achievement of Christian Schools has been their Affordability. They managed to provide excellent quality at a very nominal price, thereby making an entire generation of middle class Indians gain access to quality education.

Somehow in this fast changing world they have lost steam, they are no longer the beacons of education, as we knew them. Indian education has benefitted tremendously from Christian Schools in the past, I am confident that if they realize their true potential and take necessary steps they can make a significant contribution to the future of this country.