What’s wrong with our school education system?

what's wrong with our school education system“I went to school, but it did not interfere with my education!” – Mark Twain.

The students these days are not as lucky! The school just interferes with every aspect of their education to such an extant that all they can do after 14 years of rigorous schooling is increase their memory ‘capacity’! Are the students some kind of RAM,ROM(or)HARD DISKS?

“As long as education is synonymous with cramming on an organized plan, it will continue to produce mediocrity” – H.E.Gorst in ‘The Curse of Education’.

Its been a while since I left school, but I can say confidently that the majority of the students do just that – Memorizing, Mugging Up and Cramming to get ‘good marks’ in the exams. Notably, this practice is fully encouraged by teachers, parents, ‘tutions’ and the so called educators! In fact, I know of one school in our vicinity that keeps the board exam students till 10 PM in the night and makes them mug up whole text books! Of course, other schools make them do it at ‘tuitions’ and home.

“Education is what is retained in your mind after you finish writing the examinations!”

The wisdom of the above quote is obvious, but we (students, parents, teachers, ‘educators’, etc) are blind to such quotes! How many of us remember what we studied and apply what we have studied? That’s why in my opinion, higher education is a terrible waste. Higher education is everything that comes after 8th Standard.

“Spoon feeding, on the long run teaches nothing but the shape of the spoon”

I don’t have to even tell about ‘tuition classes’, and what they do. The worst part of my ‘educational experience’ came with the State Board Syllabus in 11th and 12th Standard, where we had to memorize every problem in mathematics!! Can you believe that? Till then, I couldn’t even tell which problems were from the text book, and which were not because we never followed the text book for Maths in CBSE. We only memorized the formulas, and found out later that even formulas would just stay in our mind after good amount of practice.

“The principles of logic and meta-physics are true simply because we never allow them to be anything else!” – A.J.Ayer

I don’t want to say that the CBSE system was ‘so better’! Except for Mathematics and English, the ‘educational methodology’ adopted with all the other papers were hopeless, to say the least. Meaning, we had to mug-up. In the tenth standard syllabus, there was a separate ‘two volume’ refresher which we had to memorize, as if memorizing the text books were not enough!

“I discovered early in life that lessons are often to be learnt outside of school, than inside it” – Sohrab.P.Godrej.

I believe that an educational system ought to test the understanding of the subject, and not how much a student is able to reproduce from the text books. During our primary and immediately after, we used to even mug-up questions/answers in English! In fact, when ‘oral questioning’ was done in the class, one student asked the question number so that he can reproduce the right answer!! Heights!!!

But a lot changed with English during my 8th, 9th and 10th Standards. Hats off to NCERT which brought about a new method of learning back then. There were simply no direct questions (from the text books or even otherwise from the syllabus) in the English paper. Of course, we had text book for prose, poetry and grammar but that was more like a guide. If someone had memorized the text book or the questions in it, they would have surely failed. None of it came in the examinations!

Sample this – There was a story of one farmer who later on settled in the city. He had three/four brothers in his native village and they were involved with agriculture there. After their father died, all of them got together in the village to split their wealth. This guy, who was living in the city gives his share of land to his eldest brother, as it was the elder brother who was taking care of it all, till then. The story ends there.

The question asked in the board exam was like this: “If you were that farmer who moved to the city, write a letter to your wife explaining why you gave away your part of the land?”

Do you get the wisdom contained in such a question? To answer that, you had to know what happened in the story (the situation) – so you should have read it once or twice. Next, you need to critically analyze the situation as you had to justify your actions. Third, you were allowed to think out of the box! This was a perfect ‘extrapolative’ question which tested your analytical skills and without your knowledge, your presentation as well as sentence forming skills too! Can anyone answer this question if they had mugged up the story?

The grammar questions were like this: Identify the mistake in the following sentences, etc. This way, ones understanding of grammar is tested and more importantly, there is no need to memorize all the rules of English grammar and reproduce them there to get marks!

Actually I asked my English teacher how one could score marks in such a system. She gave me the best advice – She asked me to read a lot of story books. It was because of that, I started to explore Enid Blyton and other such wonder authors, and learnt the languageΒ  better in a fun but effective way!

“You can buy Education, but not Wisdom”

Contrast this with Social Science. There were stories there as well. Entire history was composed of stories! But the authors of the social science text books had developed a unique talent to represent history in its most dullest form! πŸ™‚ To those authors – Have you people read ‘Rise and Fall of Third Reich’ by William Shirer? It was nothing short of a thriller based on the true account of World War II. Contrast this with your own tasteless representation of some of the most important events of the last century!

What made all this worse was the fact that the social science teacher would mark the portions that we needed to memorize and we just blurted it out on the exams! Later on during my college days, I would develop a lot of interest for history and historical events, and I was fortunate to read many well written books.

“Few teachers realize that the purpose of teaching history is not the memorization of some dates and facts, the student is not interested in knowing the exact date of a battle…. To study history means to search for, and discover the forces that are the causes of those results which appear before our eyes as historical events…. The art of reading and studying consists in remembering the essentials and forgetting what is not essential” – Adolf Hitler in ‘Mein Kampf’.

Is it so difficult to introduce an examination system modeled on the testing pattern introduced by NCERT for English? I have no idea of the current state of education in India as its been 13 years since I was out of school. If any of your kids are in school now, please let know in the comments section if there have been any improvements, and the state of current educational system.

“Your mind is like a parachute, it works only when it is open”

Destination Infinity

If you have time, watch these two brilliant videos – One, on the problems with the educational system and the second on self learning.

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20 Replies to “What’s wrong with our school education system?”

  1. Wonderful post DI.. πŸ™‚ Much needed πŸ™‚

    As you have mentioned that is the kind of education we really need and not the existing one… but its a big change and it needs to be implemented in phase at least it must start soon..

    1. That big change was successfully implemented in English, back then. Just why not other subjects, to stop this mindless cramming? One of the biggest hurdles to such betterment is, believe it or not, the parents! who cannot see their children score even 1 mark less than 100!!

      Destination Infinity

      1. Thats true… they want their kids to score high marks but don’t give the same importance to knowledge and even if they give, they are not content with that πŸ™ πŸ™

  2. Yes, in my country the education is damn crap too.
    I don’t understand what my government thinking when they create the curriculum.

    Allow me to add another point to the articles.

    #Education Commercialism
    This thing can disrupt the concept of learning. I’m afraid Soon the academy (school, university, etc) will lost their focus in education and switch to pursue business. No money, no school, and no smart. Pretty lame.

    1. Actually, back then the commercialization part was more in colleges than schools. Especially the engineering colleges. I will write about it elaborately when I do a post on college education.

      Destination Infinity

  3. Well I quit college…one of the reasons being I couldn’t stand the place, the people and everything in it.

    I hate the education system. I refused to memorize anything in school. In fact if I have to remember nos. formulae etc I try to find logic in them. Yes, this might have cost me marks here and there, but I really didn’t care.

    Fortunately CA is a course which tests knowledge and sees if you have understood things..

    1. Good to see at least one person having enough courage to call a spade, a spade. Marks (at least in the current education system) cannot gauge how much you understand a subject. I thought the move to introduce grades instead of letting students fight over 99.999/ 99.988/ 99.777 was a move in the right direction. I am not sure if that was done.

      I too got to know that CA exams test your understanding of the subject. That’s what I call a true professional course! Contrast that with the kind of engineering education we have in our country!

      Destination Infinity

  4. They keep saying that they are going to have new methods of teaching, but our government moves slower than an elephant! The only way out is to find schools which understand this and try and make the best of it. I put my kids in the montessori system and that helped them a lot. Even later, there are schools which try and bring out the best in the child. The IB (international) system is very good, but unfortunately expensive.

    1. Montessori system is new to me, need to check it out… The reason why I moved to State Board in +1 was for marks, and I have regretted that decision for a long time. I guess we ought to look at the longer term while deciding on things… I too heard that IB was good, but have never spoken to anyone who had studied there…

      Destination Infinity

  5. Brilliant! πŸ™‚ I wish someone like you becomes the education minister….

    One size fits all pattern of our education system is seriously flawed….no two words there…

  6. Nice one! More people should come with support of such ideas. It is very necessary to change education system immediately otherwise India will have no way to compete with the world.

  7. In class 1, there are four books of NCERT, each contains average 150 pages, and each page contains many new word, sentences and concept. Students are trained to learn them carefully and reproduce based upon their memory skills in the exam. Even the system is grade based, but grades are still decided by marks. Marks are cut if student is unable to reproduce the things as it is. This procedure continues in all classes. Our brains are successfully trained in this way. The education system makes us proud by making student a good encyclopedia of all subjects. Our students teach more maths and science in early classes in comparison with the students of developed countries. India is proud of producing so many educated peoples, graduates, engineers and scientist. But India still regrets that scientists are not able to produce world quality research, engineers are not able to produce world quality product to boost our economy. India is still good buyer even our students are equipped with all knowledge in early stages. China and developed countries emphasis on creative thinking instead of pressurizing the student to reproduce the things based on memory skills. A creative youth can generate more ideas for solution of the problem of country rather than a knowledgeable youth who are trained in a way that things written in book are only right and all others are wrong .Our education systems imparts a lot of knowledge without knowing how it going to help our nation.

    How has the memorizing skills and knowledge buildings based education system helped India so far for becoming a developed country by producing innovative students who are able to produce innovative products and ideas for problem solving?

    1. I agree with what you say. I guess I have conveyed something similar in my post too. But now I have developed another line of thought: Is our culture deliberately not allowing us to peruse excellence? Maybe, our collective conscience knows that excellence in good will also lead to excellence in bad (bio warfare, e-waste, cyber war, etc.) and hence it is trying to limit our capabilities? Just an alternate school of thought, I am not trying to justify what’s happening.

      Destination Infinity

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