This follows from the previous article, To Better India I, where I listed top three actions items for
The future of
Every kid should be in the school
It’s the duty of this state and its people to ensure that every kid in
Do not give alms to a begging child. You are not helping the kid; you are only perpetuating his misery. The kids on the streets are usually employed by one adult who collects the daily income from them.
Education as tool of empowerment
Education and education alone can bring emancipation to multitudes of
Schools need to be funded, need to be equipped with teachers, filled with necessary infrastructure to carry out meaningful education; they need to have necessary amenities to make this education a wholesome and healthy experience.
Scholarships, incentives, reservations, are necessary in addition to the basic facilities to ensure that the lower classes and underrepresented get incentives to study, learn, and acquire necessary education to pursue something worthwhile in their lives.
Instill right values
When developing this nation, we have to ask ourselves, ‘how are we creating the future generations?’ The need is to instill our young generations with the right values. I am not talking about the much touted Indian traditional values. I am talking about the universal values- such as responsible citizenry, importance of adult franchise, access to justice, equal opportunity, separation of state and religion, social responsibility, gender equality, importance of liberty, our freedoms, and most important of all, our duties. While Math, Sciences, Languages, Art, and History are equally important, we need to stress on creating a responsible citizenry, who are not bigoted, who welcome different opinions, encourage debate, do not stifle creativity, and respect freedom of expression.
We need to teach our kids to respect and tolerate people of various cultures, classes and religions. We need to teach the importance of paying taxes, keeping environment clean, preserving the nature, and building better civic amenities.
The most important aspect is to allow debate, give room for reason, to reject the notions that curb original thought- such as objects of sanctity and objects of blasphemy. We need to inculcate in them the tools of reason and logic so that they can wage their own fights against superstition, blind belief and fanaticism, which seem to hold our nation’s psyche in its clutches.
Encourage originality and creativity
We should encourage the kids to be creative, to be original, and to value their individualism while recognizing the importance of the social fabric of the family and society.
Right now, creativity is not given priority. Instead conformance is. Disciplining the kids is of course important. But till what age shall we discipline them? I see parents imposing a strict code of conduct on their kids past their adolescence. Even college going kids fear their parents and teachers, and are expected to conform, not deviate. College principals and teachers completely curb all individual expressions during that crucial age which is deemed important in the growth of an individual transitioning from a kid to an adult. I know of institutions where a boy talking to a girl in a college campus is deemed highly inappropriate invoking the wrath of conservative and ultra-orthodox faculty who treat such a chat as outright sexual indulgence. Treating our kids like kids forever, never allowing them to grow up, or experiment, or create, or to find their own paths, is not going to make them responsible and accountable citizenry. Responsibility comes from knowing that one has the ability to influence and impact, and that ability to influence has its roots in freedom of expression.
Our versions of creativity are also pretty standardized, like painting a flower by filling in colors within the already defined borders, or going to a sitar or musical instrument lessons where rules are followed in strict regimen. ‘Originality? What’s originality?’ Nobody knows that in
We are not encouraged to create and then enjoy that creation. We don’t experience the sheer joy one gets when he builds a car, a plane, a phone, or a small gadget. We don’t know what it means to see our ideas translate into reality.
Unless the newer generations are raised appreciating originality and creativity, we will continue to see the systemic deficiencies, celebration of mediocrity, apotheosis of avarice, and tolerance of plagiarism.
Promote rational thinking
Rational thinking to combat prejudices is an essential element in this education. The younger generations should be able to embrace newer ideas without having to feel guilty of deviating from the sacred values. There is a greater need to teach our kids to conduct debate rationally and logically.
Promotion of Science is the key. Instead of wallowing and basking in the glory of our ancient past which is riddled in conundrums and wise sayings, we should allow our kids to experiment, analyze, deduce, apply logic, and thus appreciate the world around him. The kids should ask questions, lots of them. And the answers have to be rational ones even if they are incomplete.
Science, its promotion and its celebration is extremely important to promote rational thinking. It will empower the Indian masses to dispel the cloud of superstition and blind belief, and to combat centuries of discrimination rooted in religious and sacred practices.
Teaching caste issues
Most urban upper caste kids of
To avoid such unpleasant encounters, all school going kids in
Teaching religion issues
Talking or discussing religion is another anathema to most Indians. The mere reference to such a discussion is seen as inculcating separatist and communalist views. The kids will eventually learn their own religion and existence of other religions sooner or later. We should be careful on how that learning is going to be. If it is going to come from bigoted sou
That education should involve origin of religions, the diversity of religions, the conflicts of the past and the disastrous consequences of bigotry and prejudices, the importance of tolerance, etc.
Most probably, we will see an India in future which is more respectful of other religions unlike the kind of educated Indians we seem to produce now that are completely contemptuous of the people of other religions.
Make them think big
We are one of the most myopic cultures on the planet. Our vision is short-sighted. We don’t know what is long-term planning. All our decisions and actions are based in achieving short-term and greedy goals. Our roads are built that way, our homes are built that way, our policies are made that way, and even our parenting is also myopic, and so is our teaching in schools.
We are always looking for immediate and short-term quick fixes. We never sit around to solve a problem completely. Our kids are never taught to look at the world with a long-term attitude. Where scores in each exam are more important than following a career of your own choice, the kids are trained to make small gains in small steps instead of taking a longer, harder and riskier route to something grander. I see this phenomenon in Indian industry too. (More about this later).
In a society where each single failure, however insignificant, is seen as a direct ticket to eternal shame and damnation, the kids learn to become extremely averse to taking up activities where a failure might occur. They become less curious and less adventurous. They stick to conventional ways of scoring over others to become Xerox copier-machines working for foreign creators.
Kids should be taught to concentrate on long-term and grander aims instead of hoping for quicker and smaller gains. They should be allowed to make mistakes, take risks, and learn from the failures. That way we will make inventors, creators, artists, visionaries and better leaders.
I believe investing in a better future is the wisest thing we can do right now, and that involves investing in creating better younger generations. For that, we have to ensure we do not inherit our kids with our prejudices and bigotry but instead equip them with skills, values and attitudes of the right kind, so that they make their own future, hopefully, a better one.
I do not limit this responsibility of Primary Education to state alone, or to teachers alone. I include everyone into this, the people of