It is the 1800s. There is no internet, or telephone or telegraph. Information can only be delivered via ships. And, it needs to be handwritten, because the typewriter has not been invented, yet. To ensure that the receiver reads and processes the information correctly, it has to be not only legible but also consistent. People with beautiful handwriting skills are employed for the task. They start following a norm and it’s called ‘Cursive Writing’. So, everybody starts following the norm. It becomes important, almost an essential skill.
Fast forward to the late 2000s. Computers and the internet have revolutionized communication. Handwritten notes are as rare as England winning a cricket world cup (well, not that rare). Messages and e-mails are typed on keyboards. Legibility, enough for the material to be understood, is the only requirement from school students, in terms of the handwriting.
Why are schools still teaching us ‘Cursive Writing’ then? Are there jobs that require us to do that? Or is it a predictor of future success? Do we know of people famous for their artistic handwriting? NO. NO. And NO.
It is because the education system is still stuck in the past; the point in time when it was introduced for aiding industrialization and churning out replaceable, consistent workers who could do pre-ordained tasks well.
The problem in still continuing with it now, is that the world has undergone a sea change. We are looking at a future where we have no idea of the kind of transition that might happen in a period of 10 years. But, still we teach our students according to the rules laid out 70 years ago.
Although, most of us concur that every child is unique and that all of them possess a myriad and diverse range of skills; when it comes down to testing them, we do it with the exact same parameters for everybody, irrespective of their leanings.
The result is that highly brilliant, innovative and intelligent kids grow up to believe that they are not those things, because their teachers and parents ridicule them for not scoring good marks.
Teaching children to ‘behave’, to comply, to fit in
Do not figure out stuff on your own. Follow the curriculum. Do not ask questions I don’t have the answer to. Do not research the subject matter on your own. Be more like that topper guy. Follow the herd.
Why? Well, because it makes my job easier. I can evaluate you on set parameters.
The result is that we end up with a generation of young people who are unable to think for themselves and take decisions on their own.
What? You don’t remember when the Battle of Buxer was fought!! (OR Making kids Memorize Stuff)
Seriously. What is the logic behind making kids memorize dates and other stuff. If it’s anything that can be reasearched (aka Googled), it should not be memorized. The context and the concept takes a back seat when you bombard kids with numbers and data and dates.
When we go out in the real world, almost 95% of the work we do is some or the other form of collaboration. Yet, we make our students work on their own 75% of the time. Why? Why not let them work along with their peers and let them learn co-operation and delegation etc in the process.
Giving kids all the answers
We have grown up as adults to like questions which have straightforward answers. But, we also realize that most real-world problems don’t have a plain black and white one-size-fits-all solution. Still we ask our kids only those questions which have a single answer. And, then we punish them, if they come up with something novel and innovative.
A little girl was sitting on the back of the classroom in a drawing lesson. The teacher knew that the girl hardly ever paid attention, but in this particular lesson she did. So, she went to the kid and asked, “What are you drawing?” The girl replied that she was drawing a picture of God. And, the teacher said, “But nobody knows what God looks like!” The girl said, “They’ll in a minute.”
The younger ones will still have a go, for they are not yet frightened of being wrong. But, as they progress through grades, their risk-taking abilities die and they end up becoming just another proverbial cog in the wheel.
Making learning happen via Listening and Watching only
“I hear and I forget. I see and I remember. I do and I understand.” – Confucius
Still, hands-on project-based learning is a miniscule part of the school curriculum. Children internalize stuff by actually touching, feeling and, seeing things in action; not by hearing to some teacher, rambling on about its intricacies.
What other obsolete things are Schools still doing? Please comment with your views. Also, feel free to propose solutions for overhauling the system.