Education – I ponder and wonder if we are doing the right thing about education.

Let me give you some real-life scenarios.

Scenario 1

I am thrilled by  Khan Academy and wanted to take that to rural schools.

I was motivated by what the great poet Bharathiar said ‘ The joy I experienced,  the world deserves to see it.’

I was debating with one school headmaster about the value of using Khan Academy Videos, flipping the class and equivalent when he halted my mumbo jumbo with an ironic smile.

He told me the following

“My school’s funds come from how much percentage of people clear their tenth standard exam

If that gets below a certain number, I will not be able to get the funds. If I do not get the funds, I cannot go the villages and convince the parents of the children to send them to school.

So his question was ‘Does flipping the class’ help his school achieve a higher percentage of students clearing the exam?”

I did not have an answer for that rider!

I still pursue him through direct and indirect means, but I realised that day he was fighting for a greater cause than mine.

It did not matter to him, if his students understood something or not, it only matters to him, how many of them he can help climb to the next level as defined by the system.

It appeared to me that I am coming from a utopian understanding and a head master brought me down to earth.

He had a crystal clearing understanding of what he had to deliver.

Scenario 2

My son was going from Sixth standard to Seventh standard. School had called the parents of all the students who were in that transition.

I have always believed the school my children studied did one thing best. How to question your parents!. So, I did not go with great expectations.

But that day, the principal delivered an unemotional lecture the summary of which is as follows

Our approach to teaching from this year changes. From this year till the standard ten, we train your kids on facing exams and clearing them. No more. No less. We were experimenting with your kids from Class 1 to 6. Now the experimentation stops. We will turn them into a machine who knows how to clear exams with a high grade. You have a problem with that; we would be more than happy to issue a transfer certificate.

My respect for her went up.

I admired here for the authenticity and the dispassionate in which she delivered the above statements.

She had a crystal clear understanding of what she had to deliver.

Scenario 3

Both my kids have gone to every possible coaching. Except for tennis and golf, I think we have covered pretty much everything. To develop the right side of the brain, I think they have also undergone every possible fine art coaching.

The only art which I admire them is their ability to be persuasive in obtaining they want.

I am not complaining.

However, the only prevailing sentiment they good to hear from everyone including yours truly is ‘Clear your exams with flying colours’. I do get a feeling that they are tired of hearing that from every corner. I think they are getting sick of this ‘Study Well’ (‘Get Good Marks’) attack. They would have erupted by now, if not for the carrot and stick approach that we exercise on them so well.

I also seem to have a clear understanding of what my deliverables are; See through my kids with the highest possible marks.

In all the above three scenarios, the Key Performance Indicators (KPI) of the stakeholder (Headmaster, Principal, Parent) are not much different.

  • Number of Students who cleared the exam
  • Number of Students who cleared the exam with greater than X %
  • What % did my child get

Clearing the exams or clearing the exams with flying colours seems to be the thread tying all these together.

I have nothing against a system, which equipped me to survive and get lucky. Even today, the academic system that I am pondering about, without an element of doubt, enriched my endurance gene. If you ask me to clear any exam and give me sufficient time, I will clear it. Make no mistakes. In some other circumstances, discipline is the other name for it.

However, when we have seen, acknowledged and realised the futility of this, should we stay silent or can we do something?

Are we responsible or not responsible?

Should we care or not?

As professionals, who have immensely benefited from what Internet gave us, should we choose to pass the buck?

As Mark Twain, possibly would have said, for how long we are going to let ‘schooling’ interfere with Education?

Unfortunately, I am not ending these here with this.

I want to present the evidence of what is happening around us in the next week, follow it up with identifying the stakeholders and conclude on if we should make an attempt, howsoever small.

Enjoy Maadi (Have Fun)