Schools – now and then

I had the opportunity to visit my three year old niece’s school a few months ago. My sister was more excited than my niece to show me around and after I saw the school, I knew why.

I was flabbergasted. This is school? Colorful walls? Dancing? TOYS??? To top it all, children unwilling to leave after school because “its more fun here”!! This was all unheard of when I was in school. I fell head-over-heels in love with this school. To give you an idea, here are a few projects and activities organized in the school.

1. Animal show.

The teacher brings two animals to the class everyday and the children observe, touch and talk to them. Dogs, cats, rabbits, cows, mice, the kids have seen it all. The teacher explains how animals have feelings like us, and hence we should not abuse them. What better way would there be to teach children about sympathy for all living beings!

2. Family tree.

Children are asked to bring photographs of five family members to school. Children craft out flowers from colored paper, and decorate the photographs as they wish. The photographs are then mounted on sticks and placed in a flowerpot. The child then talks about each of the family member.

3. Activity room.

A big room with setup for a mock bank, vegetable market, kitchen, hospital etc. Children can withdraw money from the bank, buy vegetables with it and cook them in the kitchen. The teachers give real life lessons about handling money and talking to customers.

4. Songs for kids

On the first day of school, the teacher sat each kid on her lap, and sang a song with the kid’s name in it! My…how special and welcomed would the kid feel!

All this makes me wonder whether it is really so difficult to have such activities in all schools? Why cannot teachers in all schools take the effort to make school enjoyable, interesting and a true learning experience? Surely this approach is better than “learn this poem by heart” or “write the names of all animals 100 times”, isn’t it?

The problem lies in the kind of teachers we have in most schools. Majority of them have no clue about child psychology. They do not know what makes a child think or what interests a child. All they have seen is the power(?) of rote learning, and the cane. I have heard of some horror school-stories of misunderstood children, but that would take up another post. Secondly, since teaching is such a low paying job in most schools in India, it is difficult to find people  who are interested in teaching and hence would take that extra step to make their lessons effective.Until we get educated and thinking professionals into the teaching field, I do not  see the situation improving.

Do you know of any such learning initiatives or fun projects undertaken by schools? Do post them!

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2 Responses to Schools – now and then

  1. Lee says:

    There’s a whole report on this on the govt websites.. it’s one of the millenium development goals, it’s that serious. The issue is not that teachers are bad – the problem is that good teachers (or even individuals like us) are not getting into teaching (even if it could be on volunteering basis). Every Indian today wants to be an engineer, banker, doctor, blah blah – in short, wants to make money. Where do noble professions get their due?

    Teach For India is one such initiative that people can at least volunteer for. But its upto people themselves to make this world (country) a better place

  2. Manasee says:

    @Lee, very true. The other issue is that parents in small towns still do not understand that the mode of teaching needs to change. My mom is a voluntary teacher in an experimental school, and she has seen parents asking her to “give more lines for homework”, or “don dhapate ghala mhanje sagla yeil (meaning – give the kid two slaps, then he/she will understand everything)” and the likes. Many parents still think that learning projects or field trips are a waste of time. Sad, but true.

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