What is Schooling For?
“The Highest education is that which does not merely give us information but makes our life in harmony with all existence.”
Tagore’s quote compels us to rethink the current education system that historically has catered to the industrial revolution and its needs for an obedient workforce; a group of people trained to obey orders and act subserviently with little space to join the dots and see the whole picture. However, many believe we are at the early stages of a new ecological era and therefore, need to ask the fundamental question, what should schooling really be for? A question, which is very often not thought about or even, given importance to by most parents, educators, policy makers and curriculum designers.
Most often than not stakeholders seem to bow down to the dominant paradigm of schooling. And the facilitators/ educators have too many goals to fulfill: classes, preparation for classes, corrections, completing syllabus, making exam papers and of course, managing the children. So, where is the time and mind space to question norms about schooling?
In the urban context, the trend today is to send children to the so-called “international schools” where the focus continues to be on achievement and success of a certain kind. The larger socio – ecological issues and planetary concerns do not even feature in the schooling learning process. In rural areas as well, the focus seems to largely be on numeracy and literacy with very little importance given to knowledge of the local ecosystems.
Most schools continue to follow in the direction chartered out by Macaulay, who played a major role in the proliferation of English and western concepts to education in India. This in turn led to the systematic wiping out and devaluing of traditional and ancient Indian knowledge systems, and the sciences. Gandhi and Tagore, two of the many pioneers in the field of education talked about learning with the head, heart and the hand, being in touch with nature and learning from nature.
Learning must be rooted in the context in which education takes place, so schooling too in the present context has to be localized; the curriculum has to be based on knowledge systems of the place where it is being learnt. And as Tagore says, education has to enable students to learn to live in harmony with all existence.
We bring to you in this edition, a stimulating perspective on education by students of ninth and tenth standards, of Prakriya Green Wisdom School, Bangalore. For once, we get to listen to people (students) who are directly affected by what happens in schools and not by someone sitting in a distant office, designing the school’s curriculum.
An excerpt from ‘Walking on Water’ by Derrick Jensen, author, ecophilosopher and radical environmentalist. He writes about what learning and education ought to be about contextual, personal and current.