For centuries School Education has been granted the status of utmost good, the most benevolent task for humanity – to educate its children to continue the world. It is undeniable that children do grow to become the future of society, of humanity and of the planet. However, what are the parameters that we are setting for ourselves and for this education? What lens are we willing to use to measure the worthiness of the placement of the modern education system at the pinnacle of human good?
Modern schooling is a simple product, a tool even, of the industrial revolution in Europe. Created with the rather simple purpose of training children with a common set of skills, industrial behavior and an aspiration to work in factories, schools were nothing but breeding grounds for future factory-workers. In its appetite to create a willful and submissive workforce, it would suppress human curiosity, passion and natural selection of a variety of roles and skills. This medieval tale continues into the 21st century.
An outdated and unnecessary product, the school model finds modern words to wrap the same old fabric of industrial dictation to teaching. It now begins to use glorious words like “child centred education” and yet willingly refuses to consult the child. It uses “21st century skills” and yet focuses on 18th century values of preparing for a job for 20 years until one lands his bottom on a warm corporate seat. It professes a goal for enriched learning that enables children to grow into responsible adults, and yet manages to not allow any experience of choices during this educational process. It wants children to change the world, and yet makes them imagine a small cog in the large machinery we call society.
Ultimately, what is a school teaching?
Subjects? Science, math, history? No. These are already better learned outside the school.
Skills? Countless reports testify the opposite. Schools do not skill.
Humanity? Collaboration? No. Schools teach competition and mistrust, and a mindset that you can grow while others lose or suffer.
Schools teach children how to write exams. How to follow the instructions. How to hide their answers so that others may not benefit from their knowledge.
Schools make children believe that it is okay for them to suffer today and for the next 20 years, so that they may finally live freely and happily. In the process, only teaching them unhappiness and servitude.
So why do we still hang on to this relic system, completely disconnected from modern expectations of sustainability, collaboration and empathy?
The answer is FEAR. Our fear of letting go of this mammoth system that has existed ever since we opened our eyes, reinforced by the same education system. After all, we were students too.
About the author
Abhijit is the creator of Project DEFY, that enables underserved communities to create an education for themselves, through self-learning spaces called Nooks. He believes that education should be brought back into the hands of the learners and the onus to choose what, when and how they learn should be a decision left to them.