That's a fact, not an opinion.
Or so we've all been told.
And so we take that importance as a given.
there are campaigns
to send their children to school.
Everywhere you look,
advertisements of coaching centres
offer you a glimmer of hope for a bright future,
in exchange for a few years of your life.
Anyone I meet,
likes to proudly talk about
the degrees attached to their name,
or feels ashamed
about the lack of them.
Everywhere I read,
are stories of parents
who spend their life working excruciating hours
just so their children
can afford a good education
and have a better life.
Yet, at the same time:
Every other day,
a child commits suicide,
succumbing to the pressure
of exams, of marks,
In almost every classroom,
scores of children sit quietly
with glazed eyes,
silently copying notes from the board.
A family celebrates the top rank of their child
Is another student
With shattered confidence
From the public declaration
That he stands at the bottom.
Almost anyone I talk to
points out that what they studied
really has nothing to do with
their work or life afterwards.
anywhere you look,
there are enough people
with degrees attached to their names,
People who we call
who don't hesitate
I continued to wonder:
what is the point of education?
It’s been six years since I entered the field of education (well, 28 actually, if I were to count my time as a student). I remember when I had joined the Teach for India fellowship, the general response from people around me was pride – pride that I had joined a sector as important as education. What I never said out loud to them, however, was that I wasn’t sure myself if education really is as important as it’s been made out to be.
As someone who had voluntarily chosen to join the education sector, I was expected to believe in its power. When I began my foray into this field through teaching, the thrust for getting all children in the country enrolled into schools was at its peak. I’d constantly come across campaigns talking about the importance of education. I’d pass by families living under flyovers getting their children ready for schools. And the whole time, I’d keep wondering – why?
Why is education so important? How is a lesson on phonics or place value or addition or EVS really going to change this child’s life? Sure, the skill of literacy would open doors to reading more books, but is that it? And numeracy – most kids would pick it up in their daily interactions even without schooling. So really, what was it about learning theorems and rules and formulas and spellings and dates and events and facts and piles and piles of information that would transform a child’s life?
What was the point of education?
I left my two years of teaching with this question reeling in my mind, and enrolled in an MA Education program hoping to find an answer to it. By the end of that program, I wasn’t even sure what we meant by the term ‘education’. Initially, I felt a bit ripped off, having paid for an education looking for some answers, only to be left with many more questions. But as time passed, I realized how important it was to really deconstruct everything that we’ve grown up with, question every single assumption we have, and really just begin from scratch – What. Is. Education.
Seriously, what is education?
- Is it about going to school?
- Is it about learning to read, write, and do maths?
- Is it learning to be obedient and disciplined?
- Is it learning? Period? Does it then need a school?
- Is it about getting jobs? Can I actually do some of these high-end jobs without ever having gone to school?
- Is it a way of preventing children from being forced into labour? Or is it another form of child labour itself, wherein children are forced to spend six hours each day in a confined space and obediently do tasks they have little interest in?
- Is it about learning and remembering information?
- Is it about learning the right ‘moral values’?
- Is it about learning to behave like the so-called upper classes of society?
- Is it about learning the basics of social interaction, and just providing a space for that?
- Is it about learning everything we can to survive as a human? But if that were the case, shouldn’t our priorities be to learn how to grow food, build houses, make clothes, etc.?
I mean, really, think about it. How would you say when somebody is ‘educated’? Every other day, we hear stories of people being berated for not having the right educational qualifications. We look up to people with degrees, and look down at those without. What do we mean when we say someone ‘looks educated’? What are the qualities of someone who looks educated? Or someone who is educated? And is our education system really geared towards those qualities?
The fact is, we've grown up being told that education is important, and were never really encouraged to ask why. So we joined the race. Of going to school. Of sitting at our desk. Of listening quietly. Of memorizing. Of going for tuitions. Of competing in exams. Of getting degrees. Of getting certified (of what, I'm not quite sure).
And yet, somewhere, there remained an underlying feeling that never quite got squashed - why are we doing all this? Is this really what education is all about? And if yes, why is this important?
I don't have answers in this post. But perhaps this is one of those situations where the questions are more important than the answers.