Monday, June 27, 2011

To be knowledgeable...

A few nights ago my father showed me this. It is about people who have done great enough things for us to have heard about them, but for some reason we do not. It reminds me about what Rabindranath said about such things "Bipula e prithibir kototuku jani" (how little I know of this great wide world). While I was reading it, a thought kept nagging me at the back of my mind. I keep hearing from many mothers that the pressure of studies has gone up in leaps and bounds these days. Children these days have to study a lot more than their parents did. A mother, whose daughter has gone up to class one this year requested me to get the exercise books of any girl who had gone up to class two this year. She said that if she did not get the exercise books of any senior to help her, the little girl will not be able to cope with the 'work load' of the 'senior' class. After this conversation, I was too stunned to speak for a long time, but now that I look back on it, I realize that this mother is not at all exceptionally crazy. In fact, she was just one of the million other mothers around her who want their children to be 'educated'.

Indeed, when it comes to examination results, our generation does seem to be doing much better. There are so many more seven-pointers these days than there used to be at the time of our parents. Numerous students these days get a one point in English. Even students who did not get more than sixty five in school examinations can hope for at least a two point in ICSE. But when it comes to real knowledge, tested by quizzes and IQ tests, the results are pathetic. 

Even so-called 'brilliant' students who regularly come first in class cannot remember what they had learnt two years ago. Students of classes nine and ten cannot spell and do simple mathematical calculations in their heads without making a large number of mistakes. What a student of class four knew during the time of our parents a student of class eight may or may not know now. High school-goers cannot say their tables and their parts of speech correctly. Most students do not know any history other than the minuscule part that they have been instructed to learn by their schools, and that too only to get the marks. 

The only thing that is important is the number of 'excellent's in the report card. It is the only measure that would mark a student as 'studious' or 'well-informed'. It does not matter how the marks are obtained; whether anything is learnt or not. Cheating has become a daily affair. Everyone cheats from everyone else. And the parents don't seem to mind either, as long as cheating brings the desired marks. So much for the honesty of the students.

The idea of learning in the true sense of the word has become an obscure idea only to be pursued by the craziest of people. All that most people want from educational institutions are a few degrees that would help them to get some 'good' jobs. For girls, the situation is even worse. Studying in an 'English medium convent school' would increase a girl's demand in the marriage market. That is all that schools and colleges are worth; that is what most parents have drilled into the heads of their children nowadays.

Both parents and their children would get a nasty shock if it were to be declared just now that a lot of questions would come in the board examinations that would be from outside the few prescribed textbooks and would test the student's actual knowledge and awareness about the goings-on in the world around them.  Be that as it may, this might be the only way to make them really learn anything rather than just blindly mug up a few books and throw them up in the examination paper only to forget everything completely in the next instant. 

The list in that website was one about really little-known people, but I can confidently say that had I shown any of my classmates (or their parents, for that matter) a list of Hitler's most notorious officers or even the highest paid women in the world or any other such popular lists, they would have been as astonished and as uninterested as they would be with this list. This is the 'educational progress' that has been taking place everywhere. I am tempted to say that our ancestors (who were not so 'educationally progressive') were much better off intellectually and much more knowledgeable than we would be any time soon. Who knows, for them this list might even have been pretty well-known... indeed, my father said he recognized five of those people.