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An Indian Education-Part I

November 27, 2010

My cousin’s daughter is starting school this year.
So, like any well-to-do young parent, my cousin chose one of the new, upcoming and much talked about school in Trivandrum. For starters, the kid went to kindergarten in this school; also much talked about, although both were different entities.

However, what I cannot possibly fathom is the donation that they are imposing. I mean, how can one justify an unquestioned Rs 60,000 at the start of first standard? Fees, I hear are extra. So are the cost for books, and the umpteen other activities the school professes on its website. Also there is no document that normalizes the donation, in simpler terms this means, be ready to shell out donations as and when the school requires you to. How does a parent really decide which school his or her kids go to? My cousin’s kid grows up with grandparents who criticize everything modern and un-Hindu like. Yet when it comes for the kid’s education, the school considered is based ONLY upon where the richer and influential ones send their kids to.

I am sure that the growth of the school was based primarily on Technopark and the freshly minted foreign currency from onsite assignments. A few sent their children there and the rest just followed. “Oh Mr Great manager’s boy goes to this school. So it must be good. Let us get our child there too.” This mentality is not my imagination at all. I have many dear friends whose kids go to the said school. And then people like my cousin, with hard core Hindutwa wadi in laws still send their children to mini skirt wearing classrooms because of the word called prestige.
What better way to define prestige than scent it from the voice of the young father whose child studies in a better school? Or the mother whose girl can read the Hamlet when she was 5 years and 7 months?

The school is no extra special than any other. It follows the same ICSE curriculum and lists a few other certificates in its website. It says holistic learning, but isn’t that the most abused word in the Indian education sector? The parents who are proud of their kids sporting the said school tag argue that it gives them loads of extra work. Like reading a paper everyday and talking about that article. Insightful, I say. My school 10 years ago asked to do the same thing at a price of Rs 120 per three months. I cannot understand how giving homework is different from other schools. Also my frustration is by no means satiated by the fact that promoting reading by asking parents to enroll children in the library and discuss books is worthy of the donation. How does that justify the school’s contribution?

I don’t have children yet and I am unsure of where I would want them to study when they grow up, but I PROTEST the very existence of such commercial fleecing stations that call for donations without any explanation, and parents who pay them without question.

My cousin has not researched a single school for the curriculum, or extra curricular activities or promotion of values or the classrooms or the general environment of a school. Shouldn’t all these things at least be considered? How can the value of the quality of education be measured by the donation being asked for?

On the other hand, what is education after all in India? It is STILL nothing but an instrument for getting marks and grabbing on to a plum job; a job that pays well enough to send your kid to expensive schools whether the job makes you happy or not. How long are we going to continue going round in this circle? Even now there are only a choice few who follow what their heart says, the rest just follow along the beaten path, round and round and round.

How long would it take for parents to understand what education they would like to give their children and how to look for them in schools? And how long since we have schools that will be able to recognize a child’s talents and promote them?

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5 Comments leave one →
  1. November 27, 2010 6:12 pm

    Ai, there’s so much talk of education – which is sadly a business here. I mean, besides that rare 5 or 6, you don’t fine good teachers. And I’m not just talking about school level education.

    ‘Holistic learning’ is just another way of saying ‘we ask a lot of dough to put your kids in our school.’

    I could go on about this, but everyone knows that Indian education is okay, at its best. Sure, it’s voluminous as compared to typical western counterparts, but are we taught to understand the world? No, we’re just taught to become mark-producing machines.

  2. November 28, 2010 1:08 am

    Hello Leya
    You have raised a very valid point.
    It is business everywhere and education is one of the most lucrative one as is evident from the number of engineering colleges coming up every nook and corner charging exorbitant fees.

    I agree with what you expressed about the aim of the current day education. I was also brought up in trivandrum and is a product of the one of the completely mark oriented schools in the city where the punishment matches with that of the jail inmates. Parents are not complaining since their wards score very high marks in SSLC examinations, but seldom do they know that they are destroying a career where the kid will have real potential. 18 years after I completed my schooling the current situation is that barring two of the school dropouts all are either software engineers or doctors. The two school drop outs are now doing a job in arts field and is slowly creating a name of themselves. Had they not been sent out of the school they too would be doing the monotonous job like all others.

    Learning from this experience I sent my kid to a school whose principal has even written a book on how to raise a children and in that book he stresses that the objective of school education as wholesome development of kid rather than pure academics. But I found that whatever written in the book is not practiced, when I found a teacher explaining to me in one of the meetings that only those students who gets more than 90% marks in all the papers will be allowed to take part in cultural activities of the school. I felt it really hard to understand and found that it absolutely impossible to convince the teacher on how she is killing the natural talents at a younger age. Even more difficult was to convince my kid who by now is thinking that only those who get above 90% are achievers while others are losers. This is happening in what is supposed as one of the best schools in Trivandrum (not in terms of fees though). There are many many positives about the school, but this one thing left a real bad impression, but I am left without any other options, hence maintaining status quo.

    Your post really provoked my thinking. Do post more about the system and think about what can be done to bring about a change. A change is needed not only in the basic schooling but in the professional education too, coz the so called professional education is also now turning up into a memory retention exercise with no root understanding of the fundamental concepts.

    Thanks and regards
    Subu.PS Another blogger from Trivandrum

  3. November 28, 2010 4:47 pm

    Hmm.. Thoughtful one..

    Indian Education system is something which has been discussed a lot over the blogosphere. Not just basic education but even about higher level education.

    Some among them.
    http://milky.manishsinha.net/2009/06/07/indian-technical-education-system-needs-an-overhaul/

    To be frank, the schools which we had, the one we went together and my old school, were not so different in the kind of culture they followed. They were, just like others, mere mark based discriminative institutions.

    There were always those few teachers who had shown us the right path. I have realized long back marks has little to do with education. Hats off to those special teachers..

    And finally about the fees. The average fees in 90’s was 200 per month in a private school.. a dollar was 17 rupees in 1990!! So, the rate of increase in an ordinary private school is normal, I guess!! 🙂

    Vivek.

  4. November 28, 2010 5:44 pm

    Thank you all for sharing your thoughts.

    @Fuzzy Logic- With you on the holistic part. Also mark producing machines are what we are taught to do. More marks are related to all the celebrations at homes and lower marks go hand in hand with mockery and a thought that you are dumb. I was both during my school and college days. And I can relate to it so well! My mom still tells me about the marks that I lost in so-and-so standard, but what those marks symbolizes is still unclear to me.

    @Subu- I am glad you told us your own experience. I always keep wondering where I would like my children to learn and what to learn. I always come up with unclear answers. Like you mentioned, whatever be the cause of starting the school, whether the Principal wrote a book on different teaching or not, for our school everything ultimately stops at marks and cut offs and marking systems from the 1900 s.
    And, about the technical education, I could write on for ages. The colleges that sprout in the nook and cranny are an embarrassment to professional education itself. We could actually pay for them if they were good, but most of them are spoon feeding stations where only modules of what comes for exams are taught, and made to be written in answer sheets. There s no good to such a system, but as much as it is easy to say, who would be willing to start over and think about a real proper reform?

    @Vivek- How does your logic explain donations? – You might argue that donations for a normal private school was 10,000 10 years ago, but raising it 10 times need to be justified by some difference, some innovation (like we IT people say). For the same syllabus, for the same teaching methods, for classrooms that are similar, how can one justify this donation? That too for a child starting first standard? It is equal to what the government has decided for an year of study in a private engineering college. A tad higher, if you look at the cost. How does one justify first standard education to be like that? And my real question is, why would parents be ready to pay without finding at least a convincing answer from the school authorities? In my opinion, your exponential dollar calculation is crap- if you are, then you must consider recession and job crisis and almost no increments in most organisations and then calculate again.
    About our education- agreed 🙂 completely. All one has to do to forget marks are to look at how smart the people turned out in our class and make a proportionality index with the marks!

  5. November 28, 2010 9:12 pm

    I’ll try to answer each of the questions posed….

    About my fees comparison is crap: I don’t exactly know what the schools charge students these days.. I assume it is around 1000-1200 per month in the likes of Sarv. Vidya. In that case I would say the fees is nominal. Coz the value of 1200 in 2010 is way less than 200 in 1990!! You dont get anything which cost 200 in 1990 for 1200 now, of course except change for rs. 200.

    About parents paying donations: It is simple.. One will be wise in spending his money if he EARNS it.. You really think software engineers are worth what the earn!! In that matter, not just s/w engineers, aren’t most of them get more than what they deserve!!??

    Donation and justification: Well, I am so against it… But anyways, for the sake of arguing.
    Schools have computer labs.. projectors.. Auditorium, which is bigger than most of the colleges.
    + Exponential rise in the real estate and building costs, which is what most schools argues why the demand donations.. I remember paying 1000 bucks back in 90’s for this new auditorium for the school (this was not a part of donation). My dad got pissed off then and came and talk to the principal, questioning it.. I felt so ashamed of it then and thought my dad was a miser. But anyways I had to pay 1000 bucks.. It was reduced for me, since my dad had problems paying the complete amount.

    ——————

    Now.. I don’t think the way the system works is right! And I have no clue where I will send my child (once I get married and ….. and had a child).

    Vivek.

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