The worst sight that one would want to have just around the monsoon is the sight of more than a dozen school children ‘packed’ within (and about) a rickety auto rickshaw of a Maruti Van. What a criminal abuse of a child’s right to live the most refreshing and pristine season of life!

Obviously, this is neither a new phenomenon nor restricted to the city of Ahmedabad. On the contrary, we seem to be copying all the avoidable traits of bigger cities – such as mad rush for everything, insane competition for even more insane marks in exams and starting very early, formal education and the accompanying preparation for the professional life of later years.

Funnily, what we should be doing instead is to look towards either the  villages or the extreme other end of the spectrum, the really evolved schools in the western countries (and some in India too).

The idea is simple. To let the child remain in touch with nature / natural life while learning ‘c for cramped’ and ‘s for schools’.

Our grandfathers did not really need two tuition classes a day and a 5 feet by 10 feet classrooms to do well in life. And if the recent trends are any indication, neither would our grandchildren need them.

And then, what is this mad rush for ‘proven and mandatory education’ doesn’t seem to be throwing up much results either. Does Ahmedabad have a Nobel laureate? Is Ahmedabad known to be an intellectual city? Is Ahmedabad even known as an education or student’s city? Is Ahmedabad the national (forget international) research hub for any product or service?

Ahmedabad does have fantastic flagposts of education like IIM, MICA etc. But is it known for any giants of education?
Forget excellence, the ugly truth of the moment is that inspite of a million tuition classes across the city, Ahmedabad is NOT known for a culture of education. It is known as a traders’ city; where the only education that counts is the art of making money – preferably through stock market, but ideally through any means!

And yet, the issue here is not of excellence in education or, for that matter, of education itself. The issue here is about allowing a child to enjoy life in all its natural glory while growing up. The issue here is of separating the need of giving formal education to our children and the necessity and joy of self-learning of the child through interaction with nature. The issue here is of giving a child the breathing space during the early years of life.

Plants need open pores in soil to be able to grow up well. Every gardener knows that. Maybe the parents need to learn a bit from them.

The Irony:

One of the bigger ironies of modern India is that during the years when there were not so many postgraduates in the country, the percentage of ‘unemployed’ youth was not as steep as it is at the moment!

Similarly, in India (as in Ahmedabad too), the age when one should be having maximum fun; the age that should be the age of unbridled, natural joy, is often the age that learns to walk under the burden of “duties and expectations of the parents”, “ways of the society” and the “means and methods of the education”.

So, what should ideally be a fun race towards the neighbourhood school is now the journey in a ‘caged vehicle’ in Ahmedabad. Forget the emotional part of it, even the literal space of breathing is absent in such journeys.
So then, quite like most things of our times, as we continue to have more means to devise a more meaningful method of learning, we are getting increasingly ‘jailor-like’ in enforcing education on to our children.

The misfortune of Amdavadi children is that their parents not only carry the herd mentality but also want to live all of their dreams through their children. Or is it the problem of the whole of India? Maybe; but we are presently talking only of Ahmedabad.

The Parental Flux:

One more peculiar thing about education in today’s times is the vulgar commercialisation of the field. As newer things get thrown in with every new academic year – like Laptops being made mandatory in class 11 and 12 – the burden on parents to catch up with the cost of education increases manifold. Consequently, parents go that extra mile to ensure the seemingly best for their children – and in the process, let go their life completely. Unfortunately for the children, the struggle of the parents and their natural expectation of getting at least one page of education out of every 100 rupees spent takes the shape of demands of parents for higher performance.

With every new generation, the age of a child learning the basics of math and language is getting lower and lower. A lot of it is to be attributed to the expectations of and the streak of competition amongst parents. It’s like, “we work all day long to have you in the best of school. The least that you can do is to spend the same time with your education”.
As we said, it is a classic case of children getting sucked into a flux created by their parents.

What parents fail to realise is that childhood is an age that does not obey the logical demands or expectations of adults. Childhood has a heart and wandering soul of its own. And if that heart and soul is tried to be chained down, the effect can be fatal for a balanced growth of the child. A part of the destruct eventually gets directed towards the parents themselves. So, if not for the child’s sake, parents should go slow and allow the child free space for their own sake. It would be one of those instances of selfishness wherein everyone benefits. Symbiotic selfishness, anyone? 🙂

What’s the Purpose?

Passionate educationists in the city and elsewhere fail to understand the motive behind today’s frantic urge for early education. “What is it that the parents are hoping to achieve”, they often wonder aloud.

While no one can ever know the mind of every parent, it would still be safe to assume that in this age of media, parents generally want their child to imbibe everything that is seen around through the various media vehicles.

The exaggerated success and struggle stories alike have convinced parents that having simple education or acquiring a solitary skill would not be enough for the future of their children. The parents now seem convinced that their children would have to be walking Swiss-knives to be able to survive in the big bad world.

But is that true? Would every person of the future generations have to be like a multi-tasking robot to succeed in life?
If we keep aside the basic skills and knowledge about various fields that we gather with age, what does Manmohan Singh know apart from Economics (Don’t tell us that you think he is a politician) or what does APJ Abdul Kalam know apart from science? Similarly, what does Sachin know apart from Cricket (sports)? What does Hrithik know apart from cinema?

As cliched as it may sound, the pursuit of parents may just end up turning their children into jacks and not masters. But then, who is listening? Everyone is busy running.

The Ills of a Detention Center:

Ahmedabad has forced its children to get indoors, attend a lot of after-school classes and give formal education (especially the HSC Board exam) an infinitely more than desired importance.

The same is true for children who go for play schools. After all, as long as the word ‘school’ is attached to the place that you are going, both the caretakers there and the parents at home expect to start counting and talking like a parrot. And that too a programmed one.

Resultantly, the instinct for curiosity, exploration, pro-activity, leadership, adventure and lateral thinking is diminishing in today’s assembly-line students of Ahmedabad. How sad for a city that gave India a visionary like Vikram Sarabhai. Not to mention a certain Mohandas Gandhi.

In fact, even the accessories of education too have started taking its toll. The bags hurt the backs, the stationary hurts the pocket and the equipments (pen, eraser or learning boxes) hurt pride and instill jealousy. Is this what we were aiming at while planning for our children’s education?

The Way Ahead:

Some very notable examples of enterprise in the field of education in Ahmedabad are: Riverside School (near Airport) and Calorx International School (Beyond Thaltej), Eklavya School and Zydus School of Excellence. They present the models that should inspire most of the other schools of Ahmedabad.

It is not about the board (IB, CBSE or GB) affiliation of those schools that matter. The crux of the aforementioned lies in the philosophy behind education. Those schools seem to recognise the truth that  learning is basically the evolution of a human mind and cannot be confused with the ‘inherited and documented knowledge of text books’.

Little wonder then, various types of initiatives for the improvement of the experience and quality of education are regularly undertaken by such schools. Before we proceed here, we would like to throw a disclaimer of sort: We have cited the example only for the purpose of illustrating the various ‘visible’ differences at those schools. Things like absence of the exam system and a ratio of 6 trees per child (!) at the Calorx International School and novel teaching methods and classrooms at Riverside school.

It is that striving for preparing the ground for a wholesome experience of education that we were trying to bring to you by citing those examples.

The subject, in any case, is not about any particular school or any particular type of school. The subject here is the need to have a more evolved method and environment for education in Ahmedabad. One can either study and experience the examples mentioned or devise a unique other method. The idea shall always remain that of providing the child with enough free space for body and soul, to be able to grow naturally. The idea should always entail freeing the child from the burden of education and directing him towards the joy of learning.

What about Open School?

An increasing number of parents across India are actually taking their children out from normal school and enrolling them in open schools, via a government organisation called National Institute of Open Schooling (NIOS).
NIOS is a large network, with 2,000 accredited study centres for academic and vocational education courses at Secondary and Senior Secondary level spread across the country. In Capital Delhi alone, it has over 200 study centres with more than 60,000 students enrolled in it.

This July itself, NIOS has launched an online admission facility for students of secondary and senior secondary level. “With the introduction of online registrations, it is expected that the annual enrolment of NIOS, which is at present about three lakh, will increase by more than a lakh,” NIOS chairman M C Pant had told the media at the launch of the online registration facility.

So there, a child can have all the ‘education’ that it wants through a study center / online learning center (and get a government recognised exam passing certificate too) and yet have all the time, space and passion for learning, out on his own, through interaction with life itself. Ideal?

Of course, unless necessary or extremely desirable, one doesn’t need to completely pull out the child from a regular school – it, after all, has its own magnificent advantages – but one should not forget that the school is there because of your child. Your child can do without school too. Let’s not mix up the order. Let’s not kill the child’s childhood for the sake of a school.


Author. Entrepreneur. Filmmaker. Journalist.

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