FRESH NURSERY RHYMES PLEASE !

“Jack and Jill

went up the hill

to fetch a pail of water,

Jack fell down

and broke his crown

and Jill came tumbling after”

Now this is one of the most popular nursery rhymes. We learnt it, recited and sang it times innumerable when we were children. Distasteful happenings comprise this rhyme!

Recently when playing with my baby daughter and watching or listening to the popular nursery rhymes along with; I started finding quite a few of the popular nursery rhymes rather objectionable.

It struck me that most of the popular English nursery rhymes have noticeable elements of  physical hurt or violence comprised in them.

Take this Jack and Jill rhyme. This falling down, breaking his crown and the tumbling down the hill is what this nursery rhyme is mainly about. All about physical hurt!

 

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Then this Humpty Dumpty one. Another very popular nursery rhyme.

“Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall

Humpty Dumpty had a great fall

All the king’s horses

And all the king’s men

Couldn’t put Humpty Dumpty together again”

And the visuals now that invariably go along with this rhyme exacerbate things further.  Humpty Dumpty – egg in human clothes – is shown badly broken with the further miserable sight of being unable to be put together despite best efforts.

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The Goose rhyme takes the cake but in malice & violence.

“GOOSEY, goosey, gander,

Where do you wander?

Upstairs and downstairs,

And in my lady’s chamber;

There I met an old man

That would not say his prayers;

I took him by the left leg,

And threw him downstairs”

What a vindictive & violent goose ! What must the child be learning from all this !

No sorry ! It’s the three blind mice which takes the cake.

“Three blind mice, three blind mice,

They all ran after the farmer’s wife,

She cut off their tails with a carving knife;

Did you ever see such a thing in your life

As three blind mice?”

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Then that pussy cat rhyme that talks about the pussycat going to London and FRIGHTENING a little mouse under the chair. And Little Tommy Thin, who in the well, threw the cat IN !

These are just examples.

When you hear nursery rhymes next; notice the elements of physical hurt, violence or even malice or callousness comprised or reflected by quite a few of them.

The earliest education plays a critical role in laying the foundation for the child’s mind and character. The popular nursery rhymes don’t seem to appreciate this. Often reflecting or comprising negative elements or influences of physical hurt, violence or even malice or callousness; they tend to influence behaviour of the baby-fresh minds on negative lines.

Whereas influences on such incipient minds should be all healthy and positive; – where the earliest education through nursery rhymes is concerned. The earliest education should impress upon the better things in life, such as matters of beauty, goodness etc. An instance of such nursery rhyme – while maintaining simplicity as required for young children – can be as follows.

“Bird on the tree,

You look so free !

And fly so high,

To clouds in the sky!

Bird on the tree,

Looking at me !

What songs it sings!

As it flies on its wings !”

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Fresh nursery rhymes are required ! Rhymes which influence with better things in life, rather than otherwise as is the case with quite a few of the ongoing popular nursery rhymes !

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OUR EXPECTATIONS FROM THE PRESENT EDUCATION SYSTEM IN INDIA

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  1. There seem to be two broad ways of discussing expectations from the present Indian education system. One way would be to talk about the expectations that one is LIKELY TO WITNESS given the principal structure and aspects of the present Indian education system and the other would be the expectations that one would LIKE TO WITNESS while working within the broad contours of the present Indian education system.
  1. (a)     We all know the structure, by and large, of the Indian education system. It’s mostly a 10+2+3 system. After class X, one does +2 and then a graduation course of three years. Sometimes the graduation course can be of four years as introduced recently by Delhi University. After graduation, one can do Masters course of two years.

(b)     What’s the chief characteristic of this Indian education  system?

The chief characteristic, if you ask me, is the competitive examination system and the habits and personality it tends to generate and foster among the students concerned.

If a student wants to get admission in a good +2 course; then he or she is required to score as high as he or she possibly can in the final examination class X. Again, if the Indian student after +2 desires to get admission in good colleges; then again he or she has to strive for as high marks as possible in the final +2 examination. Or, if after +2; the student is striving to get admission in some recognised engineering or medical course; the student has to delve deep into the tricks of mastering competitive examinations.

(c)     The Indian student therefore is compelled to be thoroughly exam oriented. Now, as we all know; examinations are of limited time durations – 2 to 3 hours – in which we have to answer a certain given number of questions. So time is limited and of critical importance. You can’t afford to spend too much time “thinking” in the examination hall. The pen is to be working most of the time if all the questions are to be completed. So the trick is to be adequately prepared with the types of questions or problems that one would face in the examination hall. This would mean “mugging up” a broad  range of questions or problems expected to be faced in the examination; enabling thereby the speed and the success required to score as high as possible in a limited period of time.

(d)     The successful students, therefore, in the Indian #education system are those who are good at “mugging up”. Of course, “mugging up” requires intelligence too. Intelligence helps the students select the better range of questions, study material, problems to mug up and helps the quickness of the very process of mugging up. But you can’t do without mugging up if you seek to achieve success in the competitive examinations at different levels of Indian education system. Study by rote, therefore, is the chief characteristic of the Indian education system.

(e)     Students deriving from the present Indian education system therefore would tend to lack the ability to be original thinkers; because thinking is something which doesn’t pay, generally speaking, in the structure and merits of the present Indian education system. The thinking student tends to go through multiple textbooks on any subject matter that he or she finds interesting or puzzling and would tend to get deep, in the process or otherwise, in the subject matter; all of which is highly time-consuming. The competitive examination system which gives a limited span of time to prepare is therefore against the thinking student. On the other hand, the successful Indian student is one who has done well in the various competitive examinations that are present at different levels of our education system.

(f)     So while we can expect the Indian education system to produce a large number of doctors, engineers, chartered accountants, business managers et cetera; a good number of these products of Indian education system shall have difficulty in doing original creative thinking or handling unexpected situations inasmuch as their education system has trained them – by way of skills required to achieve success in various competitive examinations – to rely on prior preparation of the range of expected situations/problems and to avoid in-depth or intense analysis of the subject matter.

No wonder the most respected textbooks in nearly all disciplines – whether it be the discipline of law or physics – are generally by foreign authors and not by those coming out of the Indian education system. Respected textbooks in any subject matter; besides providing information is also required to be analytic with original thoughts; – something in which the products of the Indian education system, as discussed, would generally find difficulty given as they are to habits – for the purposes of achieving success in competitive examinations – of learning by rote and general avoidance of in-depth, intense study.

Narayan Murthy of Infosys echoed somewhat similar thoughts when he said, about a couple of years back, that pass outs from Indian IITs generally do not do all that well at jobs or at institutions of higher learning abroad.

(g)     So while we are LIKELY TO WITNESS, insofar as expectations from our present education system are concerned, a large number of doctors, engineers et cetera on one hand and disappointing numbers of original, creative thinkers on the other hand; we would definitely LIKE TO WITNESS larger numbers of creative, original thinkers or more individualistic personalities to emerge while working within the broad contours of the present education system. Our education system has to give encouragement to the thinking, research oriented student.

How can we do this on a practically feasible scale?

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Personally, I would tend to think that a few changes within the present education system can help suitably encourage the research oriented, in-depth study minded student. The most important thing here would be to have the graduation courses structured towards the same. The graduation course, it would follow then, should be a single discipline course – preferably spread over four years – and structured in a way as to encourage projects, original writings, thinking and research, wherever possible. Higher education as such should be such as to be structured in favour of those who intend to go in for in-depth study and probe of the discipline of their choice.

At school level, extra-curricular activities, projects and like which are structured towards encouraging original efforts and thinking have to be given far greater importance both by way of time devoted to  same as also in computing the final marks obtained by any student.

A critical area – if we have to have more of originally thinking or creative type of student – is the quality of the teachers themselves.  A good teacher can make interesting a seemingly120105_DS_goodTeacher.jpg.CROP.rectangle3-large

dry subject whereas a bad teacher would render sterile subject matters which otherwise stand to be fertile. What we need to do here is to pay greater attention to the medium and the manner in which teachers are appointed or selected.

B.Ed. courses have to become one of the most important courses. Payment, emoluments and other facilities of teachers have to be made as attractive, if not the most attractive, as that of any other profession. Teachers at college level should not be appointed merely on the basis of academic qualifications or achievements. Group discussions and like, personality evaluations through latest scientific techniques should be a key feature of selection of teachers at all levels. A thinking teacher would tend to produce thinking students, as we have all experienced and known as students. Selection of teachers at all levels, therefore, necessarily should include techniques of evaluation of original thinking ability besides willingness and skill to share or communicate the same and teachers should be appointed only when reasonable proficiency is displayed and found in such evaluation.

  1. (a)     Another aspect of the present Indian education system which is quickly becoming a matter of concern is the increasing commercialization of education in India.

The field of education has become an industry; with players coming in to reap profits as their primary aim. Overwhelming percentage of the expansion in the education network is by way of private players. Private schools generally speaking, charge heavily. But then, an increasingly large number of the relatively better systems of education at various levels, in India today, are private institutions. The result is that relatively better centres of education are increasingly getting out of reach of the common man.

So while we are LIKELY to expect the present Indian education system to become increasingly costly and the relatively better centres of Indian education to be increasingly out of reach of the common man; our expectations would LIKE the Indian education system to be such as to be in a position to provide quality education to Indian masses at large. If that is to be achieved; the Indian State has to play a very important DIRECT role in undertaking and providing education; something which is unfortunately being increasingly negated or ignored by the Indian governments.

  1. (a)     Another aspect of the Indian education system that we are LIKELY TO WITNESS, insofar as expectations from the same are concerned, is the “wastage” it creates or produces.going_to_school

(b)     Though the overwhelming aim of most of the entrants, participants or products of Indian education system is to be able to achieve a worthwhile or respected career at the end of their education; a lot many, as is well-known, fail to do so. In that sense, the years spent, the money put in are largely wasted insofar as the primary aim, in overwhelming number of cases, to achieve a worthwhile career as a result of their education is concerned. The Indian education system has to deal with this issue.

(b)     We would LIKE the Indian education system – insofar as our expectations from the same are concerned – to be such as to be as largely rewarding in terms of providing careers as possible. This can be achieved if vocational education, after class X or class XII level, is given the importance that is called for. After class X or class XII, many would prefer to branch off to vocational centres of training and learning provided the same are well-equipped and well-managed. An increasingly complex and diverse economy requires increasingly larger numbers of field specialists, technicians et cetera. Large numbers therefore instead of mechanically opting for graduation courses can now – deriving out of the increasing complexity and demand in the fields of commerce, service and industry – hope to have reasonably rewarding means of employment at the end of suitable vocational courses.

A strengthening of vocational education would also help lessen the weight on the mainstream education, especially higher education; preserving it largely thereby to those seeking in-depth study and research of disciplines of their choice.

  1. To the extent that the education system of a nation determines the quality of its human resources; the nature and manner of the education system is of greatest importance in so far as the development and progress of a nation is concerned. If India is to achieve greatness as a nation; it shall have to give foremost importance to its education system.

KNOWLEDGE ECONOMY AND EDUCATION POLICY


1. It is the ability to use knowledge that makes knowledge effective. Knowledge in itself is largely passive, or as the famous fable where life was put into a dead lion without securing safety demonstrates; self-destructive also.

When we talk therefore of a knowledge economy, what is foremost in shaping education policies to suit such economy is inculcating greater ability to tap and put knowledge to effective use.

In this context, may it be kept in mind that in nearly all the academic disciplines, the foremost and the most authoritative text books and works are still mostly by foreign authors dominated to a large extent by western academicians. The point is that the academic works of Indian academicians, often, lack the depth, the research, the thought input and the analysis that is necessary to elevate the work to an authoritative level.

Even given the huge population and relatively impressive absolute numbers of reasonably academically qualified persons, not much breakthrough is made in India in knowledge disciplines in such manner as may be warranted by such resources of reasonably educated and academically qualified persons.

It illustrates the relative lack of ability in India to put knowledge to effective use, or better still, to constructive, dynamic and creative use.

In shaping education policies therefore in the context of a knowledge economy; according to me, what is more important than imparting knowledge is imparting the ability to use knowledge.

2. Using knowledge, in my opinion, is the ability to think on the knowledge.

So far as the task of thinking on knowledge is concerned, I would define it a little adventurously. To me it entails both analytic and intuitive ability.

Such ability is possible to be imparted only when the young child or the student is made to get interested or involved with the subject matter of knowledge.

In this context, what is therefore vital is to shape the curriculum in such a way as to get the child interested in fields of knowledge rather than be burdened by it as is currently the situation in India where – given the extreme academic load – the young child so often at a very early stage starts looking upon education as a necessary nuisance.

The education policy which I would advise is to keep the burden light in the young and the formative years and stress on largely to get the child interested in knowledge and its pursuit. This would entail lots of “learning by doing”, plenty of visuals, pictorials as well as foundation building.

To me foundation building is of paramount importance. It simply means imparting a suitable value platform or ethics platform to the young child. At the young stage, advisedly till the junior school level; apart from keeping the curriculum light and interesting as suggested above; further – through stories, group activities, pictures, movies or through similar such activities – paramount stress has to be on giving the child a suitable value or ethical platform.

Value or ethics platform is necessary even in the context of the knowledge economy inasmuch as it is a suitable value platform which enables a mind on the basis of values it possesses to get involved in issues and to think deeply upon them. The value platform, through the potential of in depth thinking,  generates therefore greater analysis, and by virtue of greater feel for the matter, even intuitive thought process about the matter.

To give an illustration, a lawyer feeling deeply for civil or fundamental rights, when working on such matter in his professional capacity, out of such feeling would not only be able to analyse the matter on a superior scale by going into greater depths of the subject matter but would also quite likely be in a position to have intuitive feeling about the course of the law on the subject matter.

Inter bound in the process as reflected by the ability to go into greater depths and to analyse on a superior scale and possibly even to generate intuitive feelings; is an interest and an involvement with the subject matter which creates potentials of creativity and constructiveness in the subject matter.

 

3. Guided by the above, the education policy in the context of a knowledge economy should be such as to strive for inculcation of interest in knowledge and its pursuit in the formative years till the junior school level should be such as to keep the burden of academics or knowledge to be imparted light and secondly, the stress would be on generating a value or ethics platform to serve as foundation, amongst others, for utilisation of knowledge.

Proceeding on the above line of thinking, from junior school level to secondary school level; the stress still should be kept on interest building and involvement in knowledge pursuit rather than on quantum of knowledge to be imparted as is the current state in India. However, at this stage from junior school level to secondary level; the knowledge base should be broadened so as to impart a reasonably necessary level of knowledge in the broad walks of life.

According to me, higher studies should be confined to those having a genuine interest and accordingly willing to go into demanding depths of the knowledge disciplines. Therefore, after about secondary school level; the spread of vocational education should be plentiful so as to enable those lacking interest in higher studies to diversify in various walks of life and in fact, through such vocational education, learning to be self-supporting at an early stage of life rather than mechanically listing for higher education & failing generally to achieve substantial results and burdening thereby the unemployment lists.

Nonetheless, these portions – who branch out into vocational education after secondary level of education – have the platform, the basis and the ability whereby through the ability to have values on a more sound footing and platform, can get involved with issues of knowledge and go into greater depths of it and put it to a more creative and constructive use. All this would be abetted and aided by the information technology available whereby availability of knowledge is not as such a problem but it’s use and performance which matters.

As to those who opt to pursue higher studies, tremendous potential is available in them to utilise their fields of knowledge to substantial higher and greater creativity on the basis of the interest, the involvement and the value platform possessed.

This, in short, would be the broad framework of the education policy I would advise which is based on generating ability to utilise knowledge rather than just quantum of knowledge as is the current state in India; where, by generating such ability to utilise knowledge; not only would knowledge be put to greater and higher constructive creativity, but inevitably in the process, the horizons and limits of knowledge itself would be widened much more meaningfully.