Misguided Pedagogy

I’ve always wondered how much of what we learnt at school we need in our daily lives. And what part of what we learnt at school remains with us forever. Is it what our teachers spent hours reading out of our textbooks? Or is it what we mugged up for our annual exams and blurted on the paper? Or is it the bits and pieces of life gyan that your friends and sometimes teachers pass on to you?

You often hear people criticizing the education system in this country of ours. But this criticism has been restrained to merely calling out the ruling party’s shortcomings rather than an actual concern over the manner in which we as a society have been and continue to bring up the future generation. What exactly are we doing wrong here? Every child in his formative years is TAUGHT to decide between a career in either engineering or medicine. The year is 2016 and yet, it takes even the educated sections of society to look beyond these (and a few other limited options) when it comes to deciding what their child does for a living. We often forget that the choice ultimately must rest with the child – it is he who has to pursue it for the rest of his/her life. This topic is an often debated one, and almost always, people, especially parents, admit that children should be allowed to pursue a career of their choice. But when the time comes, for your child to make the all-important step, you step in and make decisions. Hypocrisy much? Being students who just (probably) made these life changing decisions less than a year ago, I think we are best placed to talk about what and why things go wrong.

A lot of countries other than our own, offer the opportunity to students to pick and choose the subjects of their liking rather than from a handful of predesigned combinations which almost always, needn’t be the right mix for each student – one that caters to their needs or gives them the right launch to the career of their choice. But wait, whose choice? And is there really a choice if you are to choose between two heads (with their diverse sub divisions, no offence)?

If every person on the planet pursued a handful of jobs, how can we build a sustainable world? Where will all the creativity and art go? It cannot be asserted that any field of work does not involve the creative mind – it does, but at the same time, imagine a world without artists, singers, poets and dancers? Wanting a secure future for your ward is an understandable concern, but the means you seek to achieve the same is of utmost importance, isn’t it? In the process of ensuring that you child has a bright prospects ahead of him, most parents and teachers forget the other talents in the child that undergo a slow death. The child himself may not realize this initially, but eventually when he does, the heartbreak and sense of loss is irreparable. Does the end that the assignments given to us seek to achieve ever materialize? Certainly not. Copy-paste of the internet is the way to go when you have a deadline; not much to learn about that, is there.

Another major indicator of the failure of education system has to most definitely be the system of marking for attendance (Both authors have very strong thoughts about this – do check their attendance records for proof). Having to threaten students with a bar on writing exams to ensure that the professors don’t end up teaching an empty classroom is pitiful.

What happened to the age-old gurukul system that we had with students residing with their gurus and learning all about life under their guidance? We often boast about the Indian culture and its traditions, we remind the younger generations to hold on to it, but why do we, ourselves not do the same? In a haste to ape the West, we turned a blind eye to the fact that they were constantly bettering themselves, to develop a more accommodating system to ensure that they bring out the best in their youth.

What about the innumerable student suicides that fill our newspapers? They grab media attention for a couple of days but eventually things are back to square one. Be it the 31 suicides over a year in Kota – arguably the go-to place to ‘secure’ your future, the very place that manufactures a far from significant number of children who have lost all hope in life culminating in either suicide or sever clinical depression. Ironic, don’t you think? The looming dream of IIT over the heads of every middle-class family of India, the distasteful reaction to a child pursuing a career in social sciences, the ever so meted out second degree treatment to Arts and other courses are all testimony to the attitude of the people on this regard.

Every child of 12 or 13 in India today grows up in an atmosphere that teaches him to limit his thought process to lucrative paychecks and job security, but isn’t it high time we let them know that there is so much in life beyond their career choice? That their grades are not reflective of their abilities nor a measure of education? That they may not always make the right decisions but never fail to learn from their mistakes? That even the sky is, quite literally, not the limit?

Maybe it’s high time we look into what’s wrong and fix it if we are to realize our former president Dr. A.P.J Abdul Kalam’s dream of India being a super power by 2020. What say?

The Queen(‘s) Love

They say every person, family, place, country has a story; And at times I can’t stop thinking how blessed we are to be born in this era, in this body, in this certain family, in this place.

We are immensely attached to the place we are born, emotionally. The nostalgia that gets to you when you revisit the place which was once your abode is inexplicable. It is astounding how humans can remember so many detail of things we like love, something they are eternally grateful to.

All three of us were raised by Queens; Our mother and The Queen of Arabian Sea.

Having been part of the city since birth we take immense pride from where we come from. What makes us so madly and blindly in love with the place? Because we are traditional yet modern; we have a history and we make history.
Legend has it that a strip of land emerged from the sea when Parashuraman threw an axe into the Arabian Sea and hence Kerala was born and in it, Kochi. The place boasts of a hoard of cultures – the Portuguese, Dutch and English influences (particularly the stellar architecture they have left us), especially in Fort Kochi, are evident. And better still, people still continue to celebrate each of these cultures in full zeal.

Having had the privilege to travel to quite a lot of places, I dare say that there is nothing like spending the evenings at Kochi. The Fort Kochi Beach , the Willington Island, Cherai Beach, the walk way at Marine drive and sipping tea from a thattu kada; evenings in Kochi are pure bliss. Kochi also spoils you for choice at everything and anything – food being the best example. From The Gateway (previously the Taj and yeah, we have two of those) to Pai Dosa, from pizza huts to shappu food, from cafes to thatu kadas and dhabas. This ensures there is always an argument on where to have food from.

Our diversity is our forte. The place witnesses people from every other state, caste, religion and sexual preference leading lives in harmony. We also make it a point to celebrate all festivities from the pooram at Ernakulathappan temple to novena at Kaloor palli (church) to ifthaars to community lunch at the local gurudwara: being a Kochiite means you are not just exposed to one religion but to the best of each one, which in turn teaches you to respect them.

Amidst our celebration, the rest of the world started calling us a metropolitan city. Our IT parks, extensive modernization, the world-class (solar-powered) airport, malls and cruise ships making halts at Cochin, put us on the international map. If that wasn’t enough, we host India’s first and only biennale, the Kochi-Muziris – the world just can’t ignore us.

But guess what we, and every other person who lands up here, can’t ignore?
The Cochin Carnival, the fact that Wellington island was one the first manmade islands in India and one of the earliest few places to have rail, water, road and air connectivity, the Navy week show, the view of the city from Vallarpadom terminal, the jangar rides, the local transport experience, the nadan food. What more can one ask for?
A city that loved us expecting nothing in return. A city whose residents have lent us a hand in times of need. A place that is home not just to us but people we love reside. For us the Queen is love. And like every Kochiite would know, Ernakulam for us, is just a city, but Kochi is a feeling.

Looking back, the three things that have had the most influence on us are family, school and our home town. As we look ahead into other matters to share our experiences and thoughts on, we want you to know, that these are and will continue to be the strongest impressions on our souls and we are eternally influenced by them – knowingly or unknowingly.

The Metamorphosis

“Remember where you come from and where you are going and why you created the mess you got yourself into in the first place.” – Richard Barch

I was in school the first time I heard this quote. We , the then 11th grade, were desperately searching for a sentence that could lead the teams to the last clue. Why desperate? Well, it was way past midnight and this was for the first event scheduled for our Cultural fest, to be held at sunrise.

After almost a year since then, standing in front of the mic to give a farewell speech, this quote kept playing in my head; on repeat mode. I instead, chose to say another short one (you aren’t to keep the audience waiting right? Send them laughing is supposed to be the golden rule); but my mind was elsewhere. The flashback film had already begun.

I honestly can’t remember the first day of school. The excitement of enrolling into a new place and the pain of being separated from your parents as a first standard kid; I remember very little or none of it, maybe because I had been to this building, the so called school many a time before and many faces were already familiar to me.

Humans, they say, are molded by what we see and experience. And young minds, they say, store these impressions quickly. School, therefore, has played a crucial role in what we are, and has shaped our beliefs and thoughts. This isn’t surprising – after all we spend 7 hours a day at school. (By 11th grade you will be there from sunrise to sunset but I can’t remember complaining!)

Looking back, it feels like a different era altogether. From going to our first inter school cultural fest with chettans and chechis (chettan means brother and chechi, sister in Malayalam) to being regulars at every one of them, to radio shows, tournaments, sports days, Magnum Opus (Our cultural fest) , the responsibilities of being badge holders, to the very last day of school – each and every day at school was an experience to learn from and an anecdote to remember.

For someone who attended bare minimum classes, (there is always something happening in school that you can participate in, just be determined not to sit in class – Tips from Alumni #1) I never thought I would miss it when it’s over, but I realize sometimes the heart and the head does runaway to that place that was introduced to us as ‘second home’ and later became ‘home’.

Our school was right at the heart of the city, which meant space was always an issue. But that was never a restriction – we’ve played every possible game in it. Quick lunch break games, PE periods and in fact every other period (yes, bunk and go to the ground at the back if there is already a class having PE period or play basketball and run for your life when teachers stare! Tip #2) have all been memories to cherish for a lifetime.

Even after all the pranks, mischief and mess you create the teachers will still have your back. They were always way more than just teachers, they were mentors, family, companions and what not. Friends will always be there with you when you are getting punished. Seniors will tell you to enjoy it while it lasts. In short, over your time there, teachers become your fathers and mothers, your friends become an integral part of your life, and the non-teaching staff is there to take care of you at every point of time.

For us, school has been not just a place where we were taught our curriculum. It was a lot beyond that; NCERT textbooks were just a grain in the godown called school life. It was the place where we were taught not only to dream but to chase it. A place where “Follow your heart and passion” were not just words in air but something that was genuinely encouraged. Where patriotism was imbibed and working for the nation’s growth was encouraged, where every culture and festival was celebrated, a place where diversity was cheered and opinions were free to be expressed, a place where constructive criticism was exchanged, a place where respect for rules and authority was cultivated, a place that taught us that injustice should be questioned. A place where “Noble thoughts come to us from every side” was the mantra chanted everyday.

This school has not just been a place we spent our morning hours. It has been the place we made best friends and not-so-very-good friends, people who have influenced our lives infinitely and have made us strive for perfection. It is where we set and met role models; people we would die to be like yet have taught us that being oneself is what makes them so unique. It is where we were taught not to set definite goals, but to challenge our abilities and achieve the unthinkable.

A week ago when a super senior (atleast 8 years older) walked up and said hi, I was partly happy and shocked because I never expected the person to remember me. And what was even more shocking was that the person remembered much more details than I ever expected (like family and friends). That was the bond every individual associated with school had to one another.

Being in this school has definitely made us realise that it was never supposed to be about learning, it still isn’t. It has and always will be about experiences – priceless ones- that you shall get nowhere else and I can safely say that this school has taught us that “Experience is not what happens to you, it is what you do with what happens to you”.

Walking out of school was like hitting a brick wall. The only option was to leap over it. As much as they tell you to look ahead you simply cannot stop looking back. When it’s over, all you can do is remember it, feel nostalgic. No amount of words can describe it, it will always fall short.

All we can say is we shall forever be grateful to everyone who was part of this wonderful journey. A journey whose reflections will unknowingly creep into whatever we do, including this one.