After having worked on several different social causes, I have realized that every road to bringing a profound social change some way or the other leads to education.
So here I am.
I myself have been taught the traditional way. And even though it worked out in my favour in a lot of ways, it still all backfired in the end. As a school student, I made textbooks my world and dedicated myself fully in excelling the exams. And surely I did – one should expect that with so much time investment – I was appreciated and even called a ‘best student’. It was much later when I graduated from school, came to college that I realized that despite treading along the ‘righteous’ path something had gone terribly wrong. With all the marks and accolades, why did I feel so insecure and dissatisfied? Marks were a part of my identity and when I found my grades slipping in college exams suddenly my identity was lost. I was no longer good at one thing that I used to be good at. Did that mean that I wasn’t learning anything? That I was worthless? How was it that the education which was supposed to empower me had just left me weak. Something was missing. In fact, a lot of things were missing.
World has taken giant leaps when it comes to technology. We live in an age where everything is connected, everything is recorded, and knowledge is just a click away. But the educational pedagogy in most Indian schools haven’t kept up with this change. NEP could be an attempt to change that but the government alone can’t revolutionize education, the backbones of this industry – the teachers need to be “revolutionized” first.
How do we bring this revolution in ourselves? First step is to identify what education really means. The conventional educational pedagogy is a teacher centric system where they play the role of (mostly underpaid & disrespected) knowledge givers who put an enormous amount of importance on marks and grades so that students could make it into one of the big shot colleges. This is not a valid success criterion. Preparing for big shot colleges doesn’t guarantee that the students are trained for the life challenges – taking care of their physical and mental health, knowing what they want in life, knowing what they don’t want in life, and knowing who they really are. But empowering teachers, although a very straightforward & a seemingly obvious step – is not that obvious and nor that simple. What does an “empowered” teacher really look like? Ironically, it may mean taking power away from teachers, it might mean that they become mere facilitators and observers.
Mere facilitators and observers?
Yeah ‘mere’ probably because there is nothing much to learn in ‘observing and facilitating’, although there’s a lot to unlearn – from being a propagator of knowledge, to a channelizer, and often a co-learner, shifting gears from active to passive, from knowing everything to knowing nothing, there are tonnes and tonnes of outdated manual instructions for educators that we need to offload. The shift changes from the tomes and textbooks to little things, a little less to what and a little more to how. Sometimes it’s difficult to judge where the real learning is happening because we have grown up with such notions of teaching and learning which are no longer valid, from that old tradition to shifting to this new paradigm, unlearning is harder than learning.
But we aim to do it anyway. This is what we dream of at MLC. It’s not exactly as simple. MLC is still an experiment with the aim to provide more independence in learning, more freedom for what one really wants to pursue. Quite expectedly, it doesn’t exactly run parallel to the conventional system but we are clear about what we are trying to achieve – redefining education in a manner that it is ready for and sensitive towards the future. And as far as revolutionizing education goes, perhaps it begins with a much smaller phenomenon – a revolution within self. We are no revolutionaries though, we are all but humble observers, gardeners watching and learning as the plants grow.