It was during the journey to Madhya Pradesh, I could enjoy the company of a 4 year old girl Roshni. She belongs to a rural area of Gorakhpur district born to a farmer family. Just like any other girl of that age she explored all the opportunities for fun and excitement with fellow passengers. Gradually I turned my focus on reading a book and others slipped down to silence. She could observe the stillness and grabbed a notebook from her mother’s bag and started scribbling Hindi alphabet and drawing some pictures. No one advised her to do so and it was her own initiative.
Teachers and parents who always attempt ‘creating interest’ in children to learn lessons, acquire knowledge and skills often are unmindful of the fact that children are self motivated and there is an inherent urge in them to learn new things and experience the joy of exploring the unknown. There is pure desire for development which is shaped in their own pace and nature. Disregarding this universal fact, we use coercive strategies and classroom and home give them undesirable moments of tyranny. What could have been realized just by creating conducive atmosphere and supplemented by some kind of stimuli turns to be hegemony of the elders over children to achieve certain results without considering the organic system of childhood.
The situation in most of the rural public schools are different though they produce the same result of their semi urban/urban counterpart of private schools that practice non productive education which impart curriculum with information that are transmitted to children through conventional pedagogy. Different situation does not mean productive atmosphere, on the other hand it is rather free of pressure from parents, teachers, peers and community at large. Most of the rural Government schools are last shelter for vulnerable children who can’t afford private school expense. Public education system has not moved forward from rudimentary facilities of all weather building, black board, chalk and text books with few teachers, in most of the time inadequate to maintain the approved child teacher ratio, to run the show sponsored by the state. In the midst of this deplorable condition few children acquire the status of being literate that enable them to reproduce information (not knowledge) without understanding which is the beginning of rote learning. The other children remain drop out (actually they are pushed out as the eminent educationist Prof. Anil Sadgopal describes due to the discouraging and unproductive classroom experience) or continue attending class without learning anything substantial until they find a compelling situation to earn a living.
It is important to investigate why children who have the instinct to learn, to enjoy the excitement of discovering new things and grow remain stunted in the schools. Every year Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) analysis by Pratham reminds us of the poor learning outcomes in the Government schools which promote the capable parents not to send their children to Government schools. Children at the age of 2 to 4 learn a language fails to learn anything more in the classrooms prove the dismal atmosphere they are made part of. It is important for every educator and responsible citizens of our nation to recognize why our schools fail to encouraging children to develop inquiring minds and ability to find answers to millions of questions through personal and collective investigations.
It is hard to find any objects in the Govt. schools that stimulate the children to learn and attain knowledge through action. Even library and laboratories are luxurious and unimaginable amenities in Government schools. Children in these schools are denied every opportunity to work and gain knowledge which is beyond the conventional chalk and talk pedagogy. There is neither opportunities for them to acquire knowledge nor to be creators of new knowledge. The situation embarks on catastrophic end when the content of curriculum and pedagogy are completely disconnected from their reality. Children in the rural areas do not find a linkage between the lessons given in the prescribed textbook and their realities and finally withdraw themselves from the system. Most of the teachers who are burdened with responsibilities of maintaining records are discontented about their job for various reasons and they do not make any effort to contribute something of their own to improve the miserable state of affairs.
It is obvious that children in every school should be given opportunity to work with equipments and experience knowledge through doing and observing rather than unreceptive storing information to reproduce to prove their competence. The aim of productive classroom should be to build conscious citizens for a truly democratic, egalitarian, secular and enlightened India. Therefore it is essential to create classrooms that foster creativity, innate desire in every child to learn and experience the joy of productive knowledge considering the diverse needs of young minds and socioe-conomic realities.