Last week, I asked the children whom I coach a simple question. ‘What did you learn in the one year of pandemic?’
The answers I got were incredibly straight and similar. From learning to handle computers and getting used to the mask to acquiring better hygiene habits and keeping social distance, they were all operative replies. They were skills the new times had imposed on the children, and without demur they had all adapted to the changes.
However, those weren’t the answers I was hoping to receive, for learning, in my view, is not only about what one does in their daily lives, but also how one handles the dynamic conditions of daily life. Education to me isn’t about the functional changes that come over our life as a result of habitual action and practice. It is about how we evolve and become capable as individuals.
Disappointed with their initial response, I rephrased my question. ‘How has the year of the pandemic changed you as a person?’
It was a fresh trigger for them to start thinking. Some confessed that they hadn’t thought about it at all and others uttered a few vague things. The truth was that the children had not been taken through the exercise of practical wisdom and understanding of how these difficult times could give them new lessons in life, and how it could make them more compliant with the dynamic nature of existence.
If in the long, insufferable year of corona, our children have only learned to use computers and remain sanitised, I sensed that there was something fundamentally wrong with the way we were defining education. And it’s not a surprise. Education has always been a warped means to win accolades and establish financial security in life. While this is an inevitable aspect of everyday survival, to put all our energies into these worldly variables would be a huge folly.
Why do schools, by and large, provide only outward efficiency to our children? If education does not help our children comprehend life as a whole through experience and observation by knowing its inconsistencies and by finding solutions to it, how effective is our teaching in preparing them for the future?
It is true that the primary responsibility of teachers is to equip our children to build a successful life by giving them subject proficiency, but somewhere in the process of doing it, pedagogy seems to have lost its true purpose. Education is increasingly becoming a means of scoring over the other, of gaining power and domination and of establishing supremacy. It has turned into an exercise of erecting a fancy edifice outside without laying a strong foundation inside. We are concentrating more on creating artificial intelligence experts than building a free thinking, ethically strong and empathetic generation that can steer the world through tough times.
If children are not taught to integrate the heart and the mind, how will they grow into better human beings? If they are not given exercises that will help them discover their values and responsibilities, how will they learn to tackle unprecedented crises in their lives? How will they line up with the new challenges of a dynamic world?
This period of pandemic is an excellent opportunity for educators to give children the most potent doses of self-knowledge and observation. This is a window for teaching our young ones how to strengthen their relationship with people, things, ideas and nature. These lessons cannot be inculcated without exposing them to the realities and total process of human existence.
Our educational system has been doing gross injustice to them by making them believe that learning STEM alone will guarantee success in life. It is time we tweaked our core objectives and curriculum to include lessons that will make our children sensitive to the deeper aspects of knowledge so that they come out of real-life crises without snapping.
Let there be active discussions in schools about what is happening around and let students be stimulated to think practically. Let them be encouraged to voice their thought and views openly. Let them be exposed in controlled ways to the hard realities of life and be armed to face the uncertain world. Our schools must create safe spaces that provide them holistic life competency and not just incite fierce academic contests.