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02: An experiment

Group 02 Readings

Background

Gijubhai Badheka (1885-1939), Gujarat's famous educationist and teacher emphasized the child's need for an atmosphere of independence and self-reliance. He gave this idea an institutional basis by establishing his Bal Mandir in 1920, and in his writings he identified the different facets of the idea. Gijubhai’s Divasvapna is the imaginary story of a teacher who rejects the orthodox culture of education.

Extract 07
From Divasvapna by Gijubhai Badheka

The next day was a Sunday. I went to the Education Officer.

"Mr. Laxmiram," he said. "The headmaster reports that you have been telling stories to the class all the while."

"It is true. Story-telling is the current programme."

"But then when are you going to begin your experiment? How would you be able to complete the prescribed course of studies?"

"The experiment is already on, Sir! It is my personal experience that the story is a wonderful magic pill that helps to establish rapport between the pupils and the teachers. Those very boys who were not prepared to listen to me on the first day and who had unnerved me with shouts and catcalls, have become quiet since I started telling them a story. They now have a sort of affection for me. They listen to me and sit as I ask them to. I don’t have to shout at them to keep them quiet. And they don't leave the school even after it is over!"

"All right, I get your point. Now when do you propose to begin your new methods of teaching?"

"Well, Sir! This itself is the new method of teaching. I am teaching them orderly behaviour through story sessions. They are being motivated. I am exposing them to literature and linguistic skills. This will be followed by the teaching of other subjects."

"See that you do not spend the whole year just telling stories," said the Education Officer.

***

After dinner that evening, I went to see the Education Officer.

"I want to start a library in my class. Can. I get a grant for it?" I said.

"How can you get a special grant for it? Your experiment is, in a way, a matter between you and me. The school is to be run within the provisions made in the budget. You must manage your requirements within the small amount that may be the share of your class from the budgeted amount."

"What do I do then?"

"Drop the idea for the moment."

"I have another plan," I said. "I can take recourse to it if you approve. Every pupil has to buy text-books - text-books for language, notes on these text-books, a text-book for history and so on."

"Well?"

"I suggest that the pupils be asked not to buy the text-books. Instead, we collect from them an amount equal to the cost of these textbooks; and from the amount so collected we buy good interesting books. This would help to build up a library.”

"And how would you teach without text-books?"

"I have thought about it. I depend on my method of teaching in this respect. I shall be able to convince you better about this when I put it into practice."

"That may be so. It is your experiment and you are responsible for the results. But I must warn you. You must ensure that the pupils do not suffer in the end. I am with you, no doubt, but am a little apprehensive about the outcome."

"Please let me try. Sir!" I said. "God willing, our effort will bear fruit."

"Alright. But what will you do with your library at the end of the year? You will distribute the books among the boys, won't you?”

"Yes. In a way the books would belong to the whole class and the class must get them back. But I think I can persuade the parents not to insist on taking the books away, but leave them for the class library. It will then be the nucleus for a permanent class library. Every year more and more books will be added to the library."

"Who knows whether the parents will accept such an arrangement? The idea is good, however. Give it a try. But all said and done, I am not yet clear in my mind as to how you will teach without text-books!"

"I have my plans, Sir."

***
Stories, games, library, model reading, attention to personal hygiene and orderliness of pupils -- all this took up about two months of my time. I took stock of my work. I reviewed the work done. I felt I had taken only the very first few steps. I had not done anything about the prescribed syllabus in language, arithmetic, history, science, etc. Some of the lessons had been covered in other classes. I would have to complete everything by the end of the year. That was the precondition for this experiment. “Let me see what I have achieved so far," I thought to myself. The story telling is going on well and it has motivated the pupils and a sort of order has been established. However, Champaklal and Ramanlal do not like stories; Ramji and Shankar find them too easy! Raghu and Madhu wink and make signs to each other all the while. They are inattentive and mischievous. Something will have to be done about it. As for games, it is true that the boys have come closer to me because of games and regard me as one of themselves. They are not as afraid of me as they used to be. They listen to model reading very attentively after the games period. But the shouting and disorder while playing have abated only a little, I am trying very hard but there is still a long way to go.

There are only a few books in the library. I have not yet been able to convince parents about having a library rather than textbooks. I had believed that giving a talk and a little explanation to parents would suffice. But the parents here know only one thing: 'teach the boys' they say. They don't have time even to listen to anything else and they don't understand either. Never mind; it is bound to come about if I persist, tomorrow if not today. I have enough time yet. This experiment was certainly not going to be easy! As our imagination broadens, our understanding grows, so do our ideals soar and the seriousness and complexity of the task increases. Many questions troubled my mind. It seemed to me that my achievement in respect of personal hygiene wasn't anything worthy of note. I hadn't been able to do anything about caps and the clothes were clean for a day or two initially and then it was back to square one? Their nails are as unkempt as ever! I would have to follow this up. There was no other go. New habits are to be infused in society and this called for repeated efforts.

And it is not only the boys that I have to worry about. The Education Officer has also now become rather impatient. He has his own problems. He has to contend with his superiors and opponents. He wants to share the glory and therefore wants results, but he wants them quickly! He has his limitations in helping me.

My colleagues, the teachers, have no faith in me. They look down upon me as an out and out, impractical person. Maybe, I am rather. Besides, I have no experience. But I have no faith in their beliefs and their methods of teaching. Those annoy me. I am sure mine is the right approach. My boys don’t run away from me. They love me, respect me and obey me, whereas the boys of other classes run away from their teachers. I have seen them mimicking their teachers behind their backs. Not a single boy approaches his teacher with a smile or with affection. They sit in their classes silent, sullen and immobile and they indulge in mischief and quarrels when they go out of their classes. I have given reasonable freedom to my boys in this respect. They have some outlet for their restlessness in the class itself. So they do not create much trouble outside. The other teachers say that I am spoiling the boys by over-indulgence; they complain that I tell the boys stories only and don’t teach them; that I make them miss their classes by taking them out for games. All right, we shall see. These games and stories are, to my mind, half their education.

I will have to bear in mind that my task is going to be difficult, and I should not lose sight of this!

 

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