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Studying Extracts 05-08

Some factors that generally come in the way of spontaneous learning are

    1. a rigid timetable
    2. a prescribed textbook
    3. a strict discipline code

In fact, the four examples presented so far: Extracts 03, 04, 07 and 08 all demonstrate the happy results of doing away with these restrictive factors.

    1. Students take on the ownership of their studies and voluntarily and completely involve themselves in the study or activity.
    2. Teachers and students jointly and fully get involved in the learning process with teachers acting more as facilitators in the true spirit of what Sri Aurobindo said “The first principle of teaching is that nothing can be taught”.
    3. Textbooks and time-slotting abandoned to provide more space and time for explorations and discoveries.
    4. Children allowed to grow up naturally without any “do this, don’t do that” kind of restrictions, which are born out of traditions, rather than any constructive line of thinking.

Studying Extract 05
From Sri Aurobindo on Education by Manoj Das
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Examining the Extract

Every child is a lover of interesting narrative, a hero-worshipper and a patriot.
Every child is an inquirer, an investigator, analyser, a merciless anatomist.
Every child has an insatiable intellectual curiosity and turn for metaphysical enquiry.
Every child has the gift of imitation and a touch of imaginative power.

These eight or so traits are sufficient to start off any child on the learning path! Nothing else is needed. Capitalizing on these traits, the first work of the teacher is to interest the child in life, work and knowledge, to develop his instruments of knowledge with the utmost thoroughness, to give him mastery of the medium he must use. This simply translates to equipping the child with a language to express and the tools (ability to search, analyse, think …) to construct knowledge. Teaching by snippets cannot achieve this.

Afterwards, the rapidity with which he will learn will make up for any delay in taking up regular studies.

The plea here is not to rush in the primary classes. Not paying heed to this plea will bring us face-to-face with what we see in most of our high schools – students resorting to excessive memorizing.

Examining Ourselves

Why do we need a timetable?

Some of us have no choice. The time table is thrust on us. As paid employees, we can do little but to follow it. We weave in our way through classes, teaching by snippets, exhausting ourselves by the end of the day, remembering a few nice moments in the classes and finally believing that we have earned our days’ wages.

But … . But can we do something about this? Do we want to do something about this?

Some of us have been led to believe children cannot concentrate for long. That is the reason we have 40 minutes periods. Even within the 40 minutes, activities have to change ever so often. That is also the reason subjects change, once in 40 minutes!

But … . Do we really believe this? Have we not encountered children happily learning something for long durations? Have we perhaps conditioned children first to get distracted ever so often and then unquestioningly accepted the validity of this statement?

If classes go on for hours, won’t we, teachers, get tired?

Studying Extract 06
From Gandhi on Education
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Examining the Extract

Some important messages from Gandhiji:

Mere book knowledge does not interest the child so as to hold his attention fully. The brain gets weary of mere words, and the child’s mind begins to wander. The hand does the things it ought not to do, the eye sees the things it ought not to see, the ear hears the things it ought not to hear, and they do not do, see, or hear, respectively, what they ought to.

A teacher who teaches from text-books does not impart originality to his pupils. He himself becomes a slave of text-books and has no opportunity or occasion to be original.

A teacher who establishes rapport with the taught, becomes one with them, learns more from them than he teaches them.

Examining Ourselves

On a routine basis, textbooks do not completely dictate what happens in the classroom. In comparison however, textbooks are much less restrictive than the timetable. Nevertheless, textbooks have come to stay and wield considerable influence over what happens in classrooms.

What are textbooks?

Ideally, textbooks represent the curriculum and the syllabus. Ideally, the curriculum represents the ‘State’s’ and hence the people’s aspirations for its children. In reality, it represents the State’s control over education.

Working back, a textbook is supposed to be a resource support to help realize the goals of the syllabus, which in turn is designed to realize the goals of the curriculum.

So what is wrong?

Textbooks in our country are written for students. They cannot be as exhaustive as desired because of the costs involved. Textbooks show poor continuity and connectivity across classes. Teachers with no other resource are thus handicapped. They can neither do justice to the subject nor to the children.

But why stick to textbooks?

Perhaps, it is one easy way of defining work in the classroom. Authorities can check its completion. Parents use it as a measure of school’s work. Consequently, when the textbook is taught, no questions can be asked.

In opting for this easy way out, have we given up our freedom, our rights to be the ‘master’ of the subject being taught? Have we lost credibility and status – children know they can read the textbooks for themselves, so why should they care about what we have to say?

By showing the textbooks their due place, and regaining control, we have nothing to lose but make, as Gandhiji deduced, learning interesting, joyous and more meaningful.

Studying Extract 07
From Divasvapna by Gijubhai Badheka
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Examining the Extract

The operative part in this extract is;

My colleagues, the teachers, have no faith in me. They look down upon me as an out and out, impractical person. 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!

Examining Ourselves

The extract spoke of an experiment where the experimenter tried some ‘un-conventional’ techniques. For one, he tried story-telling. In a country with such rich oral traditions, considering this un-conventional is itself ridiculous.

But systems are steeped in traditions. By setting a different example, we are only disturbing the status quo. Fellow teachers are bound to be critical of our methods, disbelieving of their effect, circumspect of our intent. Creating an open classroom will require us to be convinced of its use and persevere to establish it.

Studying Extract 08
From A School Under Trees by Raghu Babu
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Examining the Extract

We choose here some quotes that show an understanding of children and the futility of disciplining them when we know that the environment they live in, contradicts our teaching.

Quarrelling is children’s nature! One way it is their right! If they don’t quarrel, who will do it? How can we stop them on the name of “discipline” or another?

Children do not know about “love” “dedication” “patriotism”. Children do sing, play, quarrel, mischief, fight, tease....

Children may quarrel, misbehave, but if there is right education, they never forget their duties.

At present I can not teach any moral to my children. They have to analyse the nature of anger, the situation, the psychology behind anger and correct themselves.

Parents demand teachers to teach discipline to their children... May be, in their context discipline means: not to speak against the elders, respect elders, not to speak obscenities, lies etc. But, if we see the reality, the parents themselves drink, abuse with obscenities, beat their wives, never care about neatness at their homes and around their homes. I know, many parents who send their children to bring cigarettes, liquor bottles ....I know many fathers who tell lies on various occasions, when the children are observing.... But, these parents expect the school to teach discipline to their children -- like not to tell lies, not to smoke, to have good conduct etc., etc. And moreover they demand to teach discipline through punishments and keeping them in fear!!

Examining Ourselves

In schools which ‘control’ children, they will soon learn to pretend – pretend to be obedient, pretend to be well behaved, pretend to be rule loving. All hell breaks loose behind our backs. No unsupervised group of children can be silently working; no school fails to celebrate the last bell; no child hates holidays; adequate proof that something is wrong about the ‘control’ that we wield in the class. But if we dismantle control; ‘open classrooms’ is the answer!

This brings us to the next set of readings – on control


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