Monday, September 19, 2005

Quarterly Exam Jitters- Edited

Its been a long time since I have heard the following words

Quarterly Exam - Causes mild palpitation of the heart

Half Yearly Exam- Makes me God fearing and agree in part with my grand mother's philosophy of, "Do your work and leave the rest to God.". If you have been reading this blog, by now, you would know which part of the philosophy that I am most likely follow.

Annual Exam- Causes mild loose motion, severe mental depression and creative thoughts of how to fake sickness and bunk exam (the loose motions sometime aids my case of faking sickness).

I can't believe that my fragile body has endured 12 iterations of these senseless exams, which I can confidently say has in no way made me a better person.I am really sorry dad...all that money...I know its hard...But if its any consolation, I wont make the same mistake. So you can look forward to a generation of Alagappan's who would most probably be smarter than me.

Okay now coming to the point why I remembered these three lovely exams. My cousin sister all of 11 years old, is already knee deep in the Mesapatomian civilization learning about Zigurrats and Hamurabi.I can see her eyes glitter when she reads about cuneiforms and hieroglyphics (yeah right!).I do appreciate the fact that our educational system makes sure that we know a little of everything (I bet Bush's Harvard education wouldn't have helped him in locating Iraq on the world map). But, shouldn't we learn a lot about the things we like, beginning at a very young age.

My cousin is going through her quarterly exam jitters. While she is studying feverishly, her mother has entrusted me to ask her daughter questions at the end of every chapter.Its really feels nice to make a transition to the other side you know, from being asked questions to asking questions. You can discpline the kiddo saying, "You didn't know such a simple thing and reading out from the book".Ah...I got to admit, advantages of being grown up.

Jokes apart,the whole exercise brought in a flood of memories. Some pleasant and some unpleasant (like the day when my dad hid the TV for flunking a test, two whole weeks without Yogi Bear and Tom & Jerry). The contemplative thinker (I can hear DK snigger, "anything thats got to do with thinking and you sounds risky!") that I am, there were a few questions that kept haunting me long after the history lessons.

The Indian Educational system has its pluses. Its content is intensive on Maths and Science during the formative years. This makes every kid think along the lines of being a doctor and an engineer. Couple this to the social stigma of doing something as outlandish as Journalism or English literature, we are guaranteeing a perfect recipe for disaster. An imbalanced society. To be honest, I don't mind the content or the stigma. Even if the entire system is geared towards Math and science, why can't these subjects be taught with relevant practical demonstrations.Education today is not about learning for the joy of learning; discovering something new; producing refined men and women; instilling values, cultural mores & traditions. And, more importantly helping students realize their dreams and ambitions and help them become someone they want to and not someone they are forced to. It is more about the 'bang for the buck'. Sample these conversations that take place in living rooms through out the country.

"Chemical Engineering! You will earn 6000 rs a month. Will that be enough? You should do Computer Science"

"You want to what? Music! Thats it I disown you."

I agree we should be concerned about having 3 meals a day. Most basic necessity which drives men and women to do anything in life. We have progressed light years from the age of "survival of the strongest" to "survival of the smartest". But how are you ever going to be smart when you have a natural aversion to biology. Somehow you succeed in mugging up the text book and score when it matters. You find yourself in a medical college but how smart are you going to be after sitting 5 years on the same chair, day in and day out, dreamily staring at the black board wondering if your life is going to be just as black.(bench thenjadhu dhaan micham...thats what my Physics sir used to say).

Is education in India interactive? I think we can squarely blame the lack of communication skills in our country because kids never have a chance to interact with teachers. I can count the number of times I would have asked questions in my class. Either I didn't understand enough to pose questions or I was extremely confident that the guy sitting next to me would do a better job of explaining than the teacher. Its more of a 'one to many' exercise.One teacher and 40 kids. Abysmally low teacher to student ratio. When the kids are innocent they would listen to whatever the teachers say and copy whatever is written on the board. When they are all grown up they realize the futility of the whole exercise and play pen-game, book cricket, WWF wrestling cards or sleep with their eyes wide awake. Do teachers involve students in any kind of activity that practically validates whatever they are learning from a text book? Does anyone take even an iota of effort to make learning a more enjoyable experience. It has happened once in my whole life. Thanks to Mrs. Kamleshwari, my geography teacher. She thought us about Africa by making us believe that she will be taking us on a field trip in a weeks time.She then asked us to prepare ourselves, take light clothes because Africa is really humid. The small details you know, it made me really want to learn more about the place.Hope she is still around making kids enjoy whatever they study.

All these factors, I think, has robbed the teaching profession of its charm, Whenever my dad recalls his Maths teacher (his name is Raayar Vaadiyar) he always has a smile on his face. Whenever I recall mine (very rarely, mostly its a bad dream caused due to indigestion)I wont remember their names, all I remember is their nick names which I would like to not disclose here, as this blog is certified as a PG-13 blog.We are producing teachers of mediocre standards. Face it, if you are teacher at Annai Mathamal Engineering college then you have taken it as a profession because you weren't able to get a job elsewhere.

We learn because we got to beat the neighbouring kid. Competition is really nice, it drives you to perform better. But the system we have now is unhealthy. Children develop performance anxiety. Parents have perfected the art of expecting their kids to be the next Einstein (I think they attend workshops like "How to be unreasonably over-expectant").

Okay before Karthik makes me realize that it is stupid to generalize. I would like to add a comment, if you really enjoyed/enjoy studying in the Indian educational system, I apologize for not being smart enough for missing out on the delicate intricacies of our educational set up. point. I am happy that my cousin sis has withstood 6 years of it. I have prevailed and so will she.


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7:04 AM  
Blogger Akshay said...

Wish we had the open book exams there too as compared to the stupid memorization exercise. Things would have been better.

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