The oft-repeated quote “if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid” that is attributed to Albert Einstein and a few others, reflects the crater that exists not just between aptitude and curriculum but also the sheer lack of basic life skills with which students are churned out of schools today.
Aided by their parents or grandparents or that know-it-all Uncle, students tend to make broad career choices by their teens, which is Class 8, if not earlier. So, for those who are sure that they don’t want to pursue Engineering or Architecture or Medicine, why should subjects like Mathematics or Physics & Chemistry be shoved down their throats, beyond a certain standard?
Do those who selected humanities and are lawyers or journalists or teachers or in the advertising or hospitality industry, use calculus or trigonometry or algebra in their professional work? The ability to add, subtract, divide and multiply and elementary geometry will suffice. An introductory module on Accountancy, Banking & Tips to prevent Cyber Crime will be far more useful than complex math problems for the Arts stream.
How do laboratory sessions for Physics & Chemistry help? Experiments on specific gravity or titration with chemicals have no relevance in the modern day. Wouldn’t it make sense if these subjects are replaced with Basic Plumbing or Electrical Work like fixing a leaky faucet or a fuse or handling fittings? How about mixing edible ingredients in the kitchen instead of mixing sulphuric acid in the laboratory? Why not offer elective courses like Cooking so when these kids have to go abroad and need to survive on their own, whipping up a meal will not seem too daunting? It can come in handy back home by giving super moms a much-needed break and also serve as a gender bender.
As for Biology, there are chapters on the reproductive system. Fair enough. Why not Sex Education? Why not deal with norms on interacting with the opposite sex, especially for non-co-educational schools? Why not Self Defence Classes instead of the monotonous drill and PT periods that often get sacrificed for Math Special Classes? Why not First Aid? Why not Legal Awareness, way beyond the smattering of ‘Civics’, with select constitutional and penal provisions, a few important statutes and contracts?
Let filing of applications under the Right To Information Act or even Public Interest Litigation be taught as short electives through Guest Lectures. Let Volunteering be a compulsory subject with short internships with credible NGOs. Let Moral Science be counted in the overall ranking, not as a mere qualifying paper. Let Public Speaking, Group Discussions and Interviewing Techniques be imparted to teenagers. Let Entrepreneurship be introduced in schools with an in-house annual fair to market their products.
Our education system has failed on a few counts. The New Education Policy envisages an overhaul. Vocational Education with a faint resemblance to the blue print mooted in this column figures in a paragraph with a 2025 timeline. Revamp the syllabus and make it relevant to everyday life. Break out of the rut of homework and that ‘marks-ist’ approach with cycle tests and quarterly examinations. Weave in 360 degree assessments with students also assessing teachers. Now that’s an experiment that will not blow up in your face.