Thursday, 15 December 2016

Education: A Tall Order?

Every year, the months of March to June are times when both parents and children undergo an arduous journey of being tested, getting admitted and being bench marked, notwithstanding the interventions of the government education officers and the glee amongst the journalists of the fourth estate.
The news being created for them free of charge means they have to use less grey cells to write meaningful, impacting, transformational articles or editorials. All the good deeds and misdeeds across the nation come out from all parts of the country. There is woeful lack of clarity and purpose all around, be it examinations, results, admissions, discipline, leaking of question papers, the toppers and the failures, the success against all odds and failure due to missing the train to help you reach the examination hall on time… the train being cancelled, the inability to show compassion by educationists and soulful efforts of a rickshaw puller in Patna whose son or daughter makes the grade. If we want to negotiate the minefield of education, it is a veritable mess from the nursery to the highest levels of education. That education is a State subject and the Centre has a HRD ministry. Between the two HRD ministries in New Delhi and the State education ministry there is a wide gap. More and more schools are moving out from the clutches of the State Government to become a CBSE or ICSE followers as now they find that too stifling and many of them, the new ones are becoming International schools. Are the teachers prepared? Is the infrastructure available? Is the community prepared to pay the kind of fees it requires? Almost in all the cases the answer is no. Many have created the infrastructure first and in due course got the affiliation. The school was provided land at a reasonable cost like hospitals so as to benefit the local community. But if the locals cannot afford the education, then the schools import the students from afar to fill the seats as they can afford but the local community cannot. Admissions incidentally in Mumbai and Delhi are only given to students residing within the 5 km radii of the school. The point being made is simple. Keep it simple. The unnecessary tension faced by all is not even worth the effort because few sell quality in the end. Quality is a misused word. What we get instead is a compromise. We compromise is selection of the best manpower, we compromise in the selection of the best supplier, we compromise on selecting the best materials, we compromise with safety, we compromise on admissions, examinations and we compromise with education which is now sold as a commodity. In the end we surround ourselves with mediocrity. The market forces are at play and in a matter of a few years the school will lose its sheen. Compromise is a short term game. The game changer is to constantly surround yourself with the best. Thus what is the magic formula to succeed? Schools impart knowledge and that and that alone should be its focus. Schools will lose out if they assume the term I mentioned earlier. “Knowledge” does not mean books alone; it is imparting all round knowledge for the mind, body and soul. Children are sharp and know when they are being fooled. So transparency, quality, honesty, compassion, understanding and immense subject knowledge of the faculty, well stocked library, intrepid and enquiring laboratories, clean toilets and a humungous playgrounds will define the school. I am aware this costs. Never did I say education comes cheap. Quality outdoor education or camping like quality schools does not come cheap either. Parents must learn to pay and schools should invest in the magic formula. Be it a municipal run school or an ICSE, CBSE, Cambridge, IB or whatever else comes around. People will pay if they know top and uncompromising quality and safety is on the menu.