Monday, September 25, 2023

Less Burden for Children

Himalayan Paths

By RK Sinha

It is a welcome move by the HRD Minister Prakash Javadekar to have decided to reduce the school syllabus to lighten the burden of �books� on students. It is a common sight in the morning to see even little children carrying their school bags that are �heavy�. I quote Swami Vivekanand who once said, �If education is identical with information, the libraries are the greatest sages in the world, and encyclopedias are the Rishis�.

I am told a class VIII student studies the Merchant of Venice by Shakespeare, something that students of English literature in college study. Shakespeare is taught in Bachelor�s degree course. Javedekar himself has admitted that school students are being taught what is taught in graduation course in colleges.

The NCERT (The National Council of Educational Research and Training) has been asked by the government to revise the syllabus for schools and try to bring it down to half of what is prescribed today. The basic idea is to lessen the burden of books so that a student may have some time for extra-curricular activities. Less number of book would also give school children time to �think� and try to solve many non-academic puzzles that confront the young ones today. I would like to suggest the NCERT to review the school timings also particularly for students of Class I to VI. In cities small and big students take school bus to attend classes and after the bell they take bus back for their residence. If classes start at 7.30 or 8 in the morning, a student has to take the bus half or one hour before the class starts. Students have to wake up at 6 in the morning irrespective of weather conditions. By the time they return it is past 2 or 3 in the afternoon. It gives them little time to play since they have to return to their study table at home to do their homework or any other assignment given by the teacher.

Educate the Teachers Also

Quality of Children�s education depends on quality of teaching. What to speak of government or municipality run schools, even in some Public Schools, some teachers are poorly trained and don�t know their own subject fully. Even when a teacher knows his subject he is not able to impart the knowledge to his students efficiently. The result is when a student returns home he or she does not retain what he or she was taught in class. The process of learning is incomplete. English and Social Science are two subjects where most the teachers lack basic knowledge of their subjects. I don�t want to name any school but a few schools of high standard and established ones teach English which is incorrect; be it use of Article or use of preposition. Sometimes even grammar is a casualty.

It is now mandatory for any school to hire only those teachers who have the degree of Bachelor of Education (B Ed.). But even the trained teachers employed in many schools can�t answer what is the difference between August 15 and January 26 that we celebrate every year as Independence Day and Republic Day respectively. It is a shame that some teachers don�t know the names and role of our great freedom fighters in freedom movement.

According to a report published a few years back, “In last two to three years, there have been reports that teachers in several government-run schools cannot spell the days of a week and months of a year; some can’t even spell apple or grape.� One can imagine their skill of writing.

More Funds Needed for School

Across the country, the condition of schools is poor. Class rooms are ill equipped. In some cases there are no black boards in class rooms. If black boards are in class rooms there are no �chalks�. In many cases, students of science studying Physics, Chemistry, Biology and Geology don�t have proper laboratories to do their practical classes. If labs are there, the chemicals other items needed for practicals are not there; not even beaker and funnel.

In many areas in villages, many schools don�t have proper roofs. During rains, students and teachers are exposed to rainfall. The dilapidated conditions of school buildings are a common.

In the past two decades we have given emphasis on �the midday meal programme�. It is good and laudable since many villagers send their children to school because they will get something to eat during the day, otherwise , villagers would not send their children to school and force them to work at home or in the field. The midday meal programme means cooking in school. In absence of kitchen, meals are cooked in class rooms. Students spend time outside class; room; no learning and all play.

Since the new syllabus that will be half of the present academic syllabus would be introduced next year in 2019, a class X student of Delhi has a message for the HRD Minister Prakash Javadaker. The student requesting anonymity says that it is injustice to all students who are to appear for the Class X Board examination this year and perhaps also in 2019. For two years there should not be any Board examination for Class X. The Board for Class X should be from 2020 that will have much less syllabus to study and prepare for the examination, a point to ponder.

(The writer is a Member of Parliament, Rajya Sabha)

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