By Sandeep Pandey, Seema Muniz, Gopal Krishna Verma *
Some people are discouraged by the disruption of children’s education due to the threat of Covid and successive lockdowns. While a number of children get used to taking online courses, their counterparts from lower socio-economic backgrounds continue to struggle, either because of their unfamiliarity with technology or because they have to share. one device with their brothers and / or parents. The most unfortunate have been completely excluded from the system, which has resulted in a virtual drop in the enrollment rate.
Despite the unforeseen break in the accepted paradigm of education, the positive trend that has emerged from this chaos is the cancellation of exams, sending a wave of relief among students as well as their parents. (The only disappointments are the parents, who feel deprived of the glory their children bring by passing the exams.)
It is high time that exams were recognized as the biggest scam in education. And this is not in reference to the mass copying, or the purchase of the certificate in the Council exams at the class X and XII levels, or several other malpractices employed to clear the finals. In fact, as a civilized society, we should question the very raison d’être of this unnecessary evil of the dominant system. Why do we need exams? A teacher should be the best judge of a student’s level of comprehension.
An assessment, if any, should be based on assignment and participation rather than one based on written / oral tests. As Albert Einstein once said when elaborating on how a student’s overall performance is a much better indicator of his or her effort and ability: must complete, provide a succinct and better basis for judging the student than any carefully executed examination. “
Moreover, if one is truly interested in children’s academic success, then the need of the hour calls for an education rich in content and relevance, accomplished through quality teaching time. Unfortunately, as the use of tests becomes the norm for assessing students, more and more classroom time is spent helping children prepare for the exam, which can often lead to a shrinking of the curriculum. And, if we are interested in success for all children, we must therefore be aware that the current screening regime does nothing to address social and economic inequalities; it only strengthens them.
Last but not least, the examination represents a cruel process of elimination. Why should a child be excluded from their birthright to receive an education? If the purpose of education is to learn, then the task of a teacher is to make sure that students learn, no matter how much time and effort it may require. For the fact remains that a system of exams introduces competition, which in turn kills the learning spirit. It prioritizes individual achievement over collaborative learning, thereby defeating the very premise of education which emphasizes cooperation rather than competition.
Creating an environment, where each existing member is both a teacher and a student, presents a critical opportunity to continuously learn, not only from each other, but also from every situation. Once such dynamics evolved, even interaction with ordinary people, such as the milkman, the gardener, the farmer, the craftsman, the musician, etc. can turn into a mutually rewarding learning experience and help develop skills that transcend the drab walls of a classroom.
The damage caused by the culture of education built around exams can be seen both on the surface and at the subliminal level.
The damage done by an educational culture built around exams can be seen both on the surface and at the subliminal level. While on the surface it automatically divides children into performers and non-performers from an early age, at the subliminal level its effects can be traumatic to say the least, leading to a complete erosion of self-confidence for some, and a brutalization of personality for others.
Since the modern education model has its roots in the industrial revolution, it tends to treat an individual as a product and educational institutions as brands and together they navigate the existing job market. Interestingly, it is not uncommon for education itself to have become a huge bargain for the wealthy.
Educational establishments, especially training centers which sometimes shoulder the dual responsibility of training and “education”, have become mechanical factories which are supposed to produce a product of defined quality. Commercialization has led to mechanization which has adverse effects on human intellect and emotions.
Once again, Covid has forced us to take a break and rethink how we have shaped our concept of education. Should we really educate en masse? Fortunately, with an unintended by-product of Covid being social distancing, in a school environment it has paved the way for fewer students per class.
This, in turn, should hopefully result in a more empowering teacher / student relationship and put a damper on the mechanized version of teaching we see today. This model would be completely in phase with the one developed by our old gurukuls. It is certain that such a model requires many more qualified and dedicated teachers. But if this is the model that will save us from the threat of Covid, then we should also view it as the model to save us from the disaster called education.
* Sandeep Pandey is General Secretary of the Socialist Party (India), Seema Muniz is a blogger and artist who home schooled her child, Gopal Krishna Verma is a socio-political thinker