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Decolonizing our schooling

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Often, schools use the excuse of their affiliation to a particular exam board, as a reason for carbon copying the same mediocre text books and syllabus as everyone else. Our education system was first tuned to generate instruments to run the British regime in India and now it generates robots to mindlessly serve the current masters. Macaulay’s education model is a reality even today.

The conveyor belt creating a supply of colonized minds with little originality kicks into action right from Class 1. This flies in the face of the fact that in CBSE and ICSE the last two letters stand for “Secondary Education” and schools are free to experiment with their own independent pedagogy till Class 8. One does not have to spend all 12 years of school preparing for the Grade 12 examination.

What happens in our classrooms is often being dictated by publishers printing glossy books with more pages and content than required, only to make a quick buck. Now we have Computer books for toddlers in Class 1, 2 and 3 – which faithfully convert each set of UI/UX commands in standard Windows software, into a chapter full of bullet points. The computer, which makes rote learning quite unnecessary, is now a topic of rote itself.

Highlighting the cases of schools breaking free from the trend
There is the Isha foundation school, setup by Sadhguru, which doesn’t follow the regular school structure from class 1 to 7. They group kids: one group has kids of age 6-10. They are taught in a Montessori method and are taught English, Sanskrit, Basic Science, Environmental Science, Mathematics. The next group is age 10-13. They move to a more structured syllabus. There is a lot of focus on independent learning. The classrooms aren’t really classrooms- they resemble rooms in a home and have plenty of books and learning aids and kits. They have regular assessments and evaluations but no typical exams.

Then there is Rishi Valley school which encourages a lot of meditation, a lifestyle of austerity- and doesn’t allow electronic gadgets on campus. They teach according to their own pedagogy- except for the board classes. They are taught to observe the world versus other boarding schools which are obsessed by creating leaders who dictate to others. There there is Heritage School in Gurgaon which follows its own liberal curriculum, encouraging students to explore India independently rather than through the lens of text books. All of these are top performing schools.

These are models to be explored to set up new narratives to counter the excessively Delhi-dominated discourse which currently ails the country.

Our next generation should help do an academic dissection of our past
A major problem with the “Right discourse” in India is that much of it is quite obviously silly: discussing planes and flying chariots and nuclear bombs from ancient times without a shred of evidence.

A better approach will be to discuss real and documented accomplishments which abound in fields like calculus where pioneering work was done in Kerala. Madhava of Sangamagrama made pioneering contributions to the study of calculus, trigonometry, geometry, and algebra, infinite series. There are also some reports that the Pythagorean Theorem has a rather unique and interesting proof in Vedic mathematics. There is well documented progress made in surgery and metallurgy by our ancestors. This is the kind of content which needs to be taught and introduced. We need to use alternate models to educate kids in English, well versed with modern science and social science, to study ancient Indian languages and text to uncover more of what our ancestors actually did and to highlight genuine accomplishments where the veracity is confirmed.

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