The good news is that education allows people to live dignified lives. The bad news is that our education system doesn’t seem to be aligned with that purpose. Almost 10 years back, I had written an article on homeschooling and wondered if our daughter will grow up and sing ‘Give me some sunshine, Give me some rain, Give me another chance, I want to grow up once again'!
Nandini is 15 now and I’m pretty confident that she won't.
We dabbled with homeschooling a number of times. When she was two and a half, we sent her to preschool. What we saw within three months — was a child in a shell. The playschool that she went to mandated her to wear a uniform, discouraged her from making patterns, and forced her to get an ‘A’. This made us question the purpose of a school, and we decided to pull her out.
After a couple of years of homeschooling, Nandini joined a reputed school in NCR.
What were we looking for? An environment that invokes her intelligence and sensitivity, and nurtures her talents. What we saw her experiencing, was rote learning and tests, with basketball and dance thrown in once a week in the name of extracurricular.
Discipline was encouraged, bonding with friends was generally not. We chose to overlook it for a few years. However, it became clear to us that schooling was becoming an examination system, not an education system. I recall reading:
Everything that you have in your education is mainly educating you to fit into something. There is no free thinking, there is no inquiry. You just read, mug it up, vomit it on the paper, get 95 percent and go to the next one.
The Lack of Inclusivity in Schools
Recently I was speaking to a mother of an autistic child. She had been forced to pull her son out of a mainstream school as the principal said that they weren’t equipped to ‘manage’ the child. My friend Rudrani, a transgender, often shares frightening stories of her school life, replete with teachers and kids who would mock and abuse her. Another homeschooler parent shared how her son was belittled because he couldn’t score well in subject tests.
I remember a parent-teacher meeting, where the teacher pointed out how my daughter needed to improve her handwriting or projects. But about her talents, they had little to share. I don’t think homeschooling is an answer to all of the above, but it definitely raises questions!
History is full of self-starters who bypassed the classroom.
While everyone from friends to family questioned and disregarded our decision, we were happy to let her chart her own intellectual journey, or rather, her intellectual vitality!
So away from the standardized tests and rigid schedules, her day revolves around reading Durkheim or Max Weber; economic analyses and poverty; literature and Shakespeare; or enrolling in an online class. She also uses a highly personalized and organic approach, using technological and professional resources to engage with (Skype classes with some professors globally and insightful courses through institutes like Oxford and Yale).
Apart from this, she works on various projects through film-making, blogging or campaigns around malnutrition, diversity, and inclusiveness, Up-cycling through ‘Orion Square’ (our foundation on societal consciousness for Youth), she, along with other teens, organized a Mainstreaming Transgender’s campaign and created a short film- ‘Soch’ which is a thought-provoking project on inclusion in urban India. It was selected for screening at a college film festival. Her other short film- ‘The others’ has also made it to top 50 in the social storytelling challenge.
According to Nandini, homeschooling is great — because when she went to school, she didn’t get the right facilitation.
"“Today, I have more time to myself, I can do some free-thinking, create solutions, learn and do things that I actually like. Despite all of this, there are some things I miss like socializing. I miss the interaction with people my age, the annual days, sports days etc.”" - Nandini
She adds, “There are some questions that I get repeatedly asked, 'Is this another form of education, Is it better than school, Do you get more ‘Me’ time? My answer to that is Yes. But is it easy? My answer is No!”
She is worried that the questions that need to be asked but never are: Does it allow free thinking? Does it broaden my perspectives?
Think, Weigh and Decide
Children's education shapes their lives, intellects, and worldviews. When we engage with students through the social impact and life skills projects, we realize that schools are doing very little to nurture inclusion, empathy, critical thinking, global outlook and creativity; to get them ready for a very different future with global warming, nuclear wars, refugee crisis or AI & robotics staring in our faces!
So instead of putting a leash around learning, should we not unleash the potential of our 100 million young minds?
We are willing to die and kill for our past. But why is that we are not changing the system that symbolizes our future? Why is it that we are letting the mind-numbing subject-based competition crush the creativity of millions of students, also driving kids to commit suicide?
Shouldn’t we focus on creating hybrid-learning experiences based on morality and life skills? Or an inclusive and creative, research and innovation-based education and skill platform?
It’s a question that everyone can score a 100% on by giving the right answer, and yet we choose to fail!
(Jyotika is a Human Resource facilitator, diversity champion, blogger, singer and homeschool patron. Jyotika is an alumnus of Jesus & Mary College , Delhi & MBA in Human Resources from XLRI. Her search firm Helix-HR is one of the most sought after executive & diversity search companies. She also runs Orion Square along with her partner-husband Nitin Dhawan. It’s a platform for societal consciousness and life skills for students aligned with UN SDG’s.)
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