and thoughts on the eve of 65th independence day
It’s only after one month of the new academic year of 2011-2012 elapsed that I could find the space to reflect about some challenges faced by our school. This space also provided me an opportunity to reflect upon issues related to school education at large! Flowing with the stream of events, without anchorage, has perhaps been responsible to bring about in me an intense urge to express my concerns at this stage! Due to my peculiar state of mind there is likely to be a natural switchover between issues related to our school and the larger questions concerning the society. Of course, the two are inextricably linked. Strange is the nature of causes and effects when spontaneity prevails!
Orchids are long lasting and particularly elegant type of flowers - making them exotic and unusual! They evoke a sense of refinement and innocence in the onlooker.
One month into the new academic year where is our five year old Orchid International School? What are the educational and organisational aspects related to which such understanding is to be gained? There are different approaches, parameters and tools suggested by specialists of school management to evaluate and assess a school. What is the approach of assessment most suited to our school? What is the macro environment in our country today in which such schools function? What are the priorities and aspirations of our society and how do these determine and influence school education? How is the present day macro economics and overall business environment affecting school education and governance? Are schools and their leadership aware, inclined and equipped to understand these matters and issues? Have they the will and wherewithal to understand, develop policies and approaches to remain educational centres of the highest order to carry forward the legacy of our ancient civilisation? Are our national leaders having the space and intention to address such important and crucial matters?
I am sure that for serious people it is important to ask objective and critical questions of different kinds at all the above levels in all domains of our existence. It is imperative that we ask such questions so that the right kind of dynamism and criticality is infused in to our school and into our society. Unless significant questions are asked we could become complacent for no reason whatsoever! We might be trapped in our subjective, self fulfilling impressions or impressions of the few people who may feel free to reach us and provide feedback. The many we don’t get to meet may have not shared the more valuable, critical and useful feedback. To be able to receive or obtain reliable, truthful and critical data and feedback is crucial to our well being - not just for economic or business imperatives but as a way of life. To my mind this is crucial for learning centres! One of the priorities for us during the year will be to ascertain its state and prepare a long term development plan for the next few years.
A learning culture and attitude of learning is the essence of a school and crucial for its sustenance. Obviously, the faculty members form the fountainhead from which a learning community draws. The attitude towards learning exemplified by the faculty members will determine to what extent the school ambiance will have the fragrance of learning. The attitude of the faculty members will be influenced and determined by the priorities of the school management and quality of governance. The challenge for our society is whether the promoters, governors and managers of schools can ensure that the proper and required emphasis is laid on learning and educational processes. The systems, approach, procedures and routines of schools need to evolve and get implemented based on an irrevocable commitment towards safeguarding the learning quality of institutions. The commercial and other considerations creeping into schools and educational institutions are a sad phenomenon in the context of our rich cultural heritage. This is having an increasing toll on school teachers and school managers who are committed to deeper intentions and objectives of learning. Are the number of school teachers and school leaders who are able to stand up for educational values and for true purpose of schools reducing? Is the intensity with which people stand up for values fading?
With the corporate world getting into the field of school education the scenario of schools seems to be changing. The impact of this must be understood by all concerned with care and concern. Otherwise, we may lose some of the essential strengths of our culture and we may even weaken our existing schools. It is required that the corporate world remains responsible to the subtler requirements of education so that the cultural and societal aspects are guarded. Due to commercial considerations and short term benefits promoters should not damage schools and our society. A burning example is the kind of advertisements being aired. Some of the advertisements reduce self-restraint of children. They provide ideas to children to be immoral in the guise of calling it adventurism. The long term impact of some of the goods and services advertised leaves room to question the commitment of such companies to our nation. Are we heading towards the ills of the western society inescapably? Could the heads of corporate institutions sit up and prevent such damage to the gullible and formative minds of the school going and college going children? Is this not a very important aspect of the social responsibility of the corporate world? What is the role of the media in this? Fortunately some of the top companies are presently led by professionals with respectable personal and professional records.
Is it not possible for our government to think about such important matters and address them? We could draw upon the commitment and expertise of corporate leaders to address such issues. A major cause of concern for our school and other schools is the widening gap between the expectations of the parents and the intent of schools. Added to this the frivolous and indulgent attitude and practices being imbibed by children so naturally and easily due to the current of the society makes it quite difficult for schools to take up the endeavour of education seriously. By the time children come to schools, they have reduced ability to engage in the activities of the school. They often seem to come with lesser curiosity and enthusiasm! The ability to remain attentive and participative in the lessons has been hit by the media, TV and other electronic appliances and gadgets. We must wake up to address all these challenges in a multi pronged manner. We need to draw upon our cultural strengths, including reliance upon yoga and pranayama. Unless we act quickly the business interests of medical industry, with disastrous side-effects on our children, cannot be prevented!
Due to the strong impact of advertisements and salesmanship by the media and the appealing malls children are losing their ability to make responsible choices. Parents feel helpless in stressing upon their children even some basic family values and concerns. Children who could not been worked upon “successfully” by their parents reach schools adding to the challenge of teachers. On the one hand partially or fully indulged students reach the classrooms and on the other hand the parents and management do not provide the requisite support. The dilemma is not easy for teachers to resolve. Few can remain steadfast to the intent, objectives and principles of education. Teachers with strong commitment towards “man making education” are unable to stand their ground. Some teachers explicitly and vociferously doubt if it is worth the while to remain guided by such deeper and subtler intentions and objectives of education. Teachers doubt if they should stick to the higher “ideals” of education.
I am happy to be associated all along with teachers who remain steadfast in values and will remain committed to the basics of education. But how many more teachers of such quality are required to regenerate and revive the society? Where do we get them from? Do we have the understanding and will to address these challenges? Let me withdraw to our beautiful school enveloped and held by Mother Nature in its most pristine form! One aspect and implication of the learning attitude as understood by me is to learn from our “mistakes” on an ongoing basis and improve upon whatever we have been doing or whatever we do. I have experienced that if the process of continuous improvement (kaizen) becomes integral to our way of life we become more effective and focused. One remains fresh and free to “see” and accept mistakes and learn from them at ease. A school management must provide the space and scope to make faculty members and students feel free to explore new ideas. Such freedom is experienced if they sense that the school is non-judgemental. Educational processes need to be designed more for participation and less for performance. I feel encouraged that our school is able to “free” our educational space to an extent that faculty members and students make “mistakes” and learn from them. Our school is a platform for errors! Our educational endeavour is dotted with several features, which encourages learning, naturalness and harmony. As our school prepares to solemnise the next political independence day of our country my being gravitates towards the above issues and concerns! The questions are bound to shape our school. I would like to urge parents, teachers, school managers and school promoters and governors to give a thought to the above challenges and generate a wider awareness and debate on them. Out of this awareness might emerge right action! Times require that we change at the micro level - in oneself and at the level of one school. This might lead others to change! Large change comes out of small change! Why did J. Krishnamurti point out that “you are the world?” Maybe here lies the key for schools?!