One of the core elements of a modern education is an outcome-based teaching. A goal-oriented teaching plan that judges the core learning and skills at the end of a lesson plan. That learning graph that will vary from student to student is the wow factor for a teacher, a student and her/his parents. Unfortunately, this beautiful experience remains a missing factor in many classrooms, schools etc. as the wow factor is defined differently and the entire focus remains on the visible and the optics only. It is this shallow and morbid approach to education that has brought a decline in quality education in many private schools.
A child’s work must remain a child’s work and she or he should own it and be proud of it. Many times, I have seen teachers, parents, siblings etc. do the task for them and the child is taught to own something she or he has not done at all. Later, we wonder why the child picks up lying or cheating. Many schools exhibit a teacher’s work or an amended work of the child for the parents to appreciate. Sadly, kids feel nothing about the work they have submitted since it is not their original creation at all.
Parents too, in a race with others, do the bit for their children not realizing that this is leading to zero learning for them. In fact, it makes children more dependent on their parents. This alone sadly defines the state of affairs amongst the most extremely competitive parents and toxic schools. They nurture such a hostile environment where a child is only a pawn for the larger game between the parents and the schools. Not everything is about competitions and no university or job interview will ever know or question how many medals, colours or competitions a child won during school days. What they will measure are the skill of a child and what experiences from early childhood shaped them as adults.
That is why it is very important for parents not to get impressed by beautiful or modern buildings or a hotel lobby look of a school entrance. Instead, they should shift their focus and look for modern science laboratories, well equipped libraries, trained teachers and updated computer labs. Parents should demand that schools should prioritise these rather than the flashy and expensive exterior of a school.
Student performances should depict learning and it should be a journey co-managed by the students themselves. The skill that will surely add value to any student is when she/he become the agent of change themselves. Somehow, the schools want to impress the parent body with expensive performances and glitter and glamour where the child is merely a prop to exhibit. One can’t always blame the school too as for some reasons parents too love it all and very few would question the rationale and logic behind such a façade.
I still recall with horror how a colleague narrated to me about a debate tournament in her school where young children from junior years were rehearsing their debate in front of the teachers. The debate was written by their teachers or parents. They were rehearsed so the kids looked picture perfect for the parents and senior administration for a so called “debating competition”. I wondered why parents never questioned this outdated and pretentious exercise or may be the school was catering to how some parents wanted their kids to look, especially in front of others.
A cluttered classroom exhumes learning and feels lived in. A scribbled copy and not a neat/ perfect copy of a junior section kid looks more real and alive. A child after a full school day can be found in crumpled clothes, untidy hair or dirtied hands and it is perfectly normal. Our efforts to keep the child perfect and like a robot is unhealthy, not normal and puts the focus of the school/ teacher on non-issues instead of real learning. While I believe in perhaps striking a balance, our obsession with the above has become a ritual and has left real education aside.
Children will make a mess when learning, busy classrooms where real education is happening will make a clutter and kids focusing on education alone will not and should not look the same as when they come to school in the morning. All of these should become less of a concern and focus and instead teachers and students should have a free hand to explore, inquire and think freely without being distracted by lesser concerns. They should clean up or learn to put things back after use, but this alone should not blur their experiences or experiments as true learning comes in a free and less inhibited environment. That alone should be the optics as all the rest are mere illusions to present, rejoice and impress falsehood, fakeness and zero learning.
The writer is an educationist and International baccalaureate (IB) consultant