Let me this time begin with a few queries; Do we have a creative and imaginative aptitude or do we confine ourselves to the mundane routine less creative activities? Does our teaching nurture creativity in the minds and the souls of children? Do we also think about fairies and wizards and their spells? May be or may not be. Meanwhile, I was reminded of one of the articles written a few years back in which I mentioned about the age appropriate education, by a letter sent by a an educated and concerned parent to the principal of his son`s school. The cause of his concern was the assignment which was given by the teacher of class I and when the child submitted the same to her after spending good time on completing this, the teacher did not find it good enough as per her expectations. She told the child that he should try it again with the help of his mother. The question raised by the father here is very important and serious for all educators and I share the concern of such parents with all of you and all those who are in a position to make a difference in the life of children. Was this assignment given to the children age appropriate? Can the children of the age five six years do such assignments, projects, portfolios, themselves? I really do not know what the assignment was but many a times it is found that the teachers give the work without understanding the capability of the children. Even if the quality of the work was not as per the liking of the teacher, atleast the efforts of the child should have been appreciated in spite of condemning and rejecting it. The teachers should understand that at this stage the children do not have a narrow window like adults but have their own imagination as per the exposure to them. There were two important statements in that letter. One, in which he said that the teacher could have taken the assignment and thrown it in the garbage bin because there are many such assignments, projects and other work of the students which become the part of the garbage every year all over the world. And the other issue was that the students of this age should not be given any assignment or the project because, he says, six hours of school are ‘bad’ enough so that the children enjoy rest of the day. The second statement is very disturbing not because it does not have the substance but because it gives us a food for thought that, has our school system become so bad which does not help children explore and enjoy. Notwithstanding that the NCF 2005 advocates learning by doing and education to be an enjoyable activity rather a burden.
I think we must thank this parent for raising a very important issue which we tend to forget. But the question is, do all parents think this way and if they do not, then what are the reasons for that and who is responsible for this? I raised this point earlier also that there are three stake holders in the field of education. They are the student, at the focal point, teachers and the parents, in addition to the society and the policy makers. They all should be aware of the education pattern and the objectives to be achieved through this. In our country, most of the parents do not get involved so much in the leaning process of the children as they are expected and required to be. Though they may appear to be doing otherwise but not in the way this particular parent or other such parents are. We come across many such cases where the parents help their children or hire the tutors to get the child`s work completed. Not only this, there are shops available in the market which sell the assignments and the projects. The technology is also playing its role in this because there are many website in the name of helping children complete their homework. I am really impressed and fully support the issue raised by this parent that any work given should be such that the child is able to complete itself. The task may have some challenging portion also but the same should be of the level of those children who are asked to perform that. I come back to the point where I mentioned that do all parents think the way this parent thought (and his approach is right). There are a number of parents who come and ask the teachers to give more work to the children so that they do not create problems at home and the parents are not disturbed. Such parents think that if their child does not study more, other children will learn better and their child will be left behind. And this race in the name of tough competition pushes the children into a situation which will never be conducive for the appropriate growth and development of the child.
So this becomes the responsibility of the educators to ensure that the real meaning of the education is understood by them and also by the parents of the children of the school. We as teachers must ensure that the school becomes a happy place for the children and not a stressful routine exercise for them. This is very important for the educators that the proper and long lasting learning takes place in a cheerful and less stressful environment. For this the difference between knowledge and learning must be clear to all. The schools should not be the place to fill the mind of the children with knowledge by an external agency (that is the teacher) but the place for the children that give ample opportunities to them to optimize the potential they already possess. Certainly, judging the creativity of the children in haste is like curbing it forever. If the parents and the teachers realize this then the school will be place for the children that will be liked and enjoyed by them and not the six bad hours in their life.
The other important step can be taken by our policy makers that there should be some full proof method to check that the educational policies are implemented uniformly across the country and the schools may not be left to themselves to be on their own, managing the nitty-gritty’s. This should not be taken as an interference in the autonomy of the schools but a support and guidance in the interest of the children. The controlling agency should not look into the finances only but the quality of learning on day to day basis. The schools should be supervised and not necessarily inspected and if that would be the approach then all will be happy. The case shared here is not in isolation but not many parents realize this and even if they do, not many of them report it to the teachers or the principals. Even such case should be paid due attention and corrective measures should be taken at the earliest. Let me also state this clearly that there are many teachers who want to do things as mentioned in the letter by this parent but most of the time come under pressure and try to give more and very difficult work to the children because of the demands from the parents, but this is also no excuse because the teachers play the most important role in the life of school going children. Remember, our rich culture also valued the creative outlook and our teachings should also be creative, not just administrative. I would like to your valuable comments on this issue.