Monday, 6 February 2012

THE HINDU: Is it school or jail?

Is it school or jail?


February 5, 2012

Education is now at the mercy of ruthless schools that exploit students unreservedly. The innocent pleasures of childhood are ripped off as young children are dumped in a cage called school in the name of education. Excessive homework, intimidating impositions, bossy teachers, their draconian measures crush the tender children. Abnormal sessions which don't allow children time to even have food are a trend in many schools that boast of their achievements.

Even maths sums, their methods that need to come out spontaneously, are memorised. Like a leach that extracts blood, the management drains the children of physical stamina. Their brain is totally exhausted with nothing left, except the imposed knowledge that is transient. The child's originality and all-round development are being nipped in the bud.

Of course, one can give substantial acclamation to these schools as they are training students to become weight-lifting coolies. If the ephemeral knowledge imposed could not fetch them anything significant in their life, they are at least assured of a labourer's job for their survival.

Almost every child has become child Jesus. Jesus carried the Cross at 30 but now every five-year-old has become a Jesus to bear the cross of books. R.K. Narayan's words in Parliament, commenting the size of the school bag, are apt to recall. He said that "his heart bled whenever he saw young boys and girls going to school laden with books which they could hardly carry. This burden did not improve their minds; it only made them hunchbacks." Heavy backpacks are one of the most distressing and unpleasant aspects of school life for many children.

Play and activity are part and parcel of juvenile life. "What we learn with pleasure we never forget," articulates Alfred. Poignantly, the present generation in the aforementioned schools is hardly cognisant of games, with not even a play hour in a week or even a playground. Homework, impositions, next day tests — the list goes on and enervates them until midnight. They scarcely witness the pleasurable morning or have recreation and games in the evening. Thirteen periods a day with dragged out timings and Sunday special classes debilitate them ultimately. The following lines from Blake's poem, The School Boy, unveil the yearning of the school boy whose Sunday has been stolen by his austere teacher:

"To go to school in a summer morn, o!

It drives all joy away;

The little ones spend the day,

In sighing and dismay."

Convent children are forced to wear uniforms quite unaccommodating to our climate. The socks, shoes, belt and tie exasperate children, depleting their gusto to listen to the lessons.

"Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lightning of a fire," declares W.B. Yeats. To illuminate and refine the mind is the real goal of education, and not the mere collection of data. Lamentably, those schools that enforce information are renowned for their remarkable achievements in the contemporary context. One cannot impute blame solely to these hostile schools. Parents have a major share in this. Any school that imposes and insists on immoderate workload and incarcerates their students for a maximum number of hours is reckoned as an ideal institution. What to do? Our children should get attuned to the competitive world is the conviction of the literate as well as illiterate parents. The excessive stress and untold agony caused by these schools will mar their mental growth. If this situation continues, we should cope with the hard reality that we are creating not the pillars of India but robots that oblige their masters. Had we ever peeped into the unvoiced feelings of these tender buds, their repressed angst would have dismayed us.

Value-based education is the need of the hour as white-collar crime is on the rise day by the day. Right living, modesty, spiritual advancement, code of conduct, sense control, patriotism and non-violence should be considered mandatory aspects of education. Let us ruminate on these and cogitate about sparing children time for pivotal issues like yoga, meditation, ethics, values, etiquette, netiquette and play as part of the academic curriculum which will irrefutably generate an innovative, honest, generous, selfless generation. Our children are no more the birds with broken wings in an aviary. Let us create an academic ambience where children do not find education an encumbrance and go to school without tears.

(The writer is a Professor of English, Sreenivasa Institute of Technology and Management Studies, Chittoor, Andhra Pradesh. Her email ID is



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