It was a kindergarten class and the children had just finished listening to the story rabbit and the tortoise. The hare was substituted but the story remained the same. I chanced upon them when they were about to discuss the lesson they learnt from the story. One could see the excited hands and what followed was nothing short of a revelation.
“He should drink milk to win the race”, said one (I suppose the rabbit’s meal does lack milk). Another said ,”Take permission before resting.” He was gently reminded that it was a race. The third had a brilliant solution, “If tired, call an auto rickshaw.” That would certainly solve the problem easily.
Waited for a while to see whether anyone would stumble on the traditional moral of slow and steady wins the race but I suppose we were not going to get it that day . It was amazing to see how the children saw the same story so differently. This was creative thinking at its finest.
Maybe this was the creativity that Sunder Pichai , the Indian born Google CEO was referring to while interacting with students at SRCC in December 2015. He said ,“I think the Indian education should allow a system of creativity, project-based, experiential learning. We should teach students to take risks and not penalise them”. Profound words indeed for it is this very out of the box thinking that put us on the moon.
Let’s face it, our basic education system is built on walking the tried and tested path of explanation, rote memorisation and marks that indicate our intelligence. Well, he also shared that his Class XII percentage was not high enough to get him admitted in this college but that’s alright for he is heading Google now. As for SRCC, it was in news for setting the cutoff margin for new admissions at 100 percent.
No wonder the selection of subjects in Class XI, an annual ritual every Indian student has to undergo across the country is a big deal in almost every household. Opinions are weighed (neighbor ,the distant uncle ,the career column) and job prospects are evaluated. No risk approach and so sciences are still the number one choice .
I wonder how many take the decision based on either bragging rights (science has that intellectual coolness) or buckling under parental aspirations ( future doctors in the house). We are still pursuing our great engineering or medical dream irrespective of whether we really see ourselves engineering away happily.
The sweat shops for students or coaching factories as we know them have cropped all over the city and promise the elusive berth in engineering and medical colleges through their patented approach of four hours, thrice weekly lectures and mock test after school by experienced / renowned/ ex IITian teachers. It may vary but the whiff of success is there.
Then there is the promise of greater rewards;catch them young ,at a discounted price of course, enroll in the training program while still in Class VIII. We compare the crash courses ,the tutorial success rates,morning and evening batches while school vans double up for evening shifts to ferry these students back home safely at night .
Aha! The joy of learning while focusing on not failing .
Today a professional degree is worth its weight in gold yet every now and then one hears of jobs that never existed a decade ago. For instance the younger members in the family are obsessed with a Swedish gamer, Pewdiepie (that’s his name ), who posts videos of himself playing computer games on YouTube . I see him sitting on a chair, shouting obscenities or silly stuff, having a super time playing, while I do nothing (seriously I’m not even the score keeper ). I suppose I am in a minority for there are millions of people following him who watch him play and he makes tons of money from it.
Unbelievable isn’t it ?
When I read about children living abroad taking gap year to explore their options after school or travel and I am perplexed.
How do they do it ?
Gap year in India is taken only to prepare for the next set of entrance exams for that elusive career.
Come December, the floodgates for admission notices for colleges and courses open and there is a scramble to apply for a few or to be safe, how about all.
Hello ! We are talking about something this person will be doing all his life every day and he has to decide it at 17 while struggling with the school exams and preparing for the grand prom( that’s another story). Weed the colleges (based on number of advertisements in various publications and the ‘me too syndrome’), choose whether it is marine or mechanical or civil or chemical ( frankly speaking no clue but here we go) and spend the summer taking all these tests, praying he has good news to share with family, friends and Facebook .
It is a telling tale when you ask a student how is he and he responds ,”I’m in Class XII.” Stressed perhaps but then may the odds be in your favour!