Exploring a different gamut of the education gamut, Devsurabhee Yaduvanshi shares her journey of experiential learning
Historically, education in India has been highly personalized, holistic and knowledge-centric. A vital element of this system was the all-round development, a parallel to the renaissance education, which involved education not only in the sciences but also the arts, languages and religious studies. This not only provided students the opportunity to cherish their childhoods with free abandon, but also acquire important life skills and a keen appreciation for all finer aspects of life. One may however ask, what is the need for venturing into so many seemingly unrelated fields in the context of our fast-paced, modern world, which in most cases requires not only specialization, but also super-specialization?
The answer lies in the wisdom of a balanced, all-round development, where individuals inculcate numerous assistive skills but specialise in those that are their core strengths. This is majorly overlooked in current and highly specialized education systems. Although replication of the Gurukul system cannot practically cater to competitive pressures of the modern, professional world, home and/or alternative schooling as close substitutes to providing specialized education holistically through the flexibility of pursuing numerous avenues at once.
This brings to the fore two basic tenets, which I have experienced personally, and they are volition and responsibility. While home schooling, through volition I acquired voluntary interest in setting my own learning targets and the pace at which I would cover the same. This ensured that I explored various syllabi out of interest, which is a stark contrast to the involuntary, rote learning in formal schooling. It also made me more responsible in taking charge of my education single-handedly, and with minimum teacher supervision and guidance. Through my alternative primary education in Mirambika and high school education through home schooling, I realised that human learning in formative years needs to be a continuous and not a part-time process that takes place between fixed timings in a particular day. I still have that basic curiosity that children have, which is suppressed when they are fed with information that they need to retain in order to pass through various stages.
They clearly miss out on the finer aspects of learning from nature and the surroundings, or simply through asking questions. Sadly, and most people would agree, questioning beyond a certain point is not promoted in classrooms, since teachers do not want to deal with extra load of answering probing questions from fertile, young minds. This is directly linked to responsibility, and as a result of the aforementioned, learning becomes limited to what the teacher metes out from the syllabus and what students need to learn to effectively achieve higher marks, and not gain knowledge.
In the context of the Indian education system, competition and high marks serve the purpose of achieving quantity over quality, and gets students from point A to point B, however, at what cost? No doubt formal education has its inherent benefits, but, continuous, all-round, and holistic personality development is certainly not one of them. I had the opportunity of attending a formal school for a total of four days, after which I gave up. Having spent my entire childhood climbing trees, playing, and being innocent, I was never worried about the race of achieving that which is in the very distant future. How many children today climb trees, play in the sand, or sing with abandon anymore? Sadly, the answer is a dismally small and decreasing percentage. I was amazed to discover that most students today have to take tuitions after school from a very young age, in order to cope with their portions; logically, I had experienced my school-timings were effective enough for this purpose.
However, it is understandable that low teacher to student ratios and time constraints in formal schools majorly restrict the dissemination process, which in turn puts the pressure of completing portions on students, who then have to sacrifice their leisure time on tuitions. Home and alternative schooling on the other hand provided me the means of combining structured syllabi with the freedom to develop skills such as Piano, Hindustani and Carnatic Vocal, Kuchipudi, Bharatanatyam, Kathak, Theatre, Painting, etc. Having studied 6-8th grade CBSE, ICSE and Goa State Board syllabus and later Cambridge CIE for 9-12th grades, I had flexible learning options, providing me with the opportunity and desire to explore more than what I would have in a formal school. It equally empowered me to not only think outside the box, but also do away with the box altogether. The feeling of being entirely responsible for my own education was daunting, yet immensely empowering at the same time. This made itself evident when I became a part of a formal university in Dubai at the postgraduate level, for the first time in my life, and performed really well as a team player as well as an individual. Therefore, I feel all humans are unique and require their own pace of learning, in order to blossom and truly internalise the knowledge they receive. The process of discovering my strengths and weaknesses not only prepared me to face the world, but also understand myself and my responsibility towards society as an important stakeholder.
This in my observation, is inherently a basic difference of perception between students who are taught to only receive information as consumers and those who seek answers to questions that boggle them as active participants. However, both these systems come with their set of challenges, which become magnified in the Indian context. Firstly, ever since the implementation of the Right to Education Act (RTE), there has been an ongoing debate about the legality of the home schooling and alternative education systems, as it contravenes with the right to formal education for every child. Secondly, in practice, both systems require higher levels of parental involvement, where mostly both parents are busy working to make ends meet in a highly unsupportive economic environment as that of India, in addition to transition of family structures, from joint to nuclear. Thirdly, although it is catching up majorly in large cities, there is still widespread social stigma attached with educating children at home or in alternative schools, as it is taken as a sign of abnormality or slowness of the student in coping with pressures of the formal education system.
Many a time, my family has had to face numerous probing and uncomfortable questions about my learning capabilities, which is sad. Despite all these challenges, I feel there is an inherent need of adopting a more quality-oriented approach to education in India, as we are a nation of high potential people, who can blossom beautifully if given the right kind of opportunities and personalized education through home or alternative style of schooling. We as a nation produce the maximum number of engineers and doctors, but what percentage is actually happy with their career choice and what would they have achieved, if they had the chance to pursue their passion? This is a question worth considering, as in life, it finally doesn’t matter what you do, but how you do it.
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