When my elder daughter was a KG student, most often she would come home with a complaint against the teachers. I considered the complaints an expression of the ire of a truant student. When she began to say that she was often and again caned by the mathematics teacher or the EVS teacher (Yes, it is environmental science. The children are not allowed to see the environment, but they are taught EVS!) I let the Principal know in writing that I did not agree with corporal punishment meted out to children, in general, and I particularly asked to exempt my child from mental harassment and corporal punishment. And I warned the Principal that if any teacher caned my daughter again, I would not send her to the school in future.
I did not need to wait for long. One day she came home crying and told me that she was chided and caned for not knowing the opposite of carnivorous.
A hardly five-year-old child was punished mentally and physically for not learning the antonym of carnivorous!
I met the Principal and asked to call the EVS teacher. “Madam,” I asked the teacher when she came, “At what age have you been able to know the meanings of carnivorous and herbivorous?”
The Principal interfered: “But you have sent your child here not to learn the meaning of the words at the age when the teachers learnt them.”
“OK, but what right do you have to cane my child?”
“We cane the students who don't do their homework.”
“Do you know the meaning of the word kindergarten?”
“No, and I don't need to.”
“You do need to know. The German word kindergarten means a garden of flowers. But your school seems to be a park of carnivorous people who prey on the little flowers. Henceforth my daughter is not studying in this school.”
As I sat in the bus I was thinking about who was to blame: the teacher who inflicted corporal punishment on my child or the Principal or I myself?
Why did I send my child to school even before she celebrated her 4th birthday? How could a little child learn the meaning of words like carnivorous and their opposites? Children should be allowed to observe their environment, to see the plants, the seeds, the trees, the flowers, the birds, squirrels, butterflies and should be allowed to play with Nature. Only then can they develop their own vocabulary, only then can they understand what is meant by herbivorous and what its opposite is. Only then can they grow up into healthy and dutiful individuals.
Before reaching home, I came to the conclusion that I was the culprit. I pushed my child into the arena of ‘education business', into the hands of those people for whom an educational institution is just a commercial enterprise. I decided not to send my yet-to-be-born younger one to any school before she or he celebrates the fifth birthday. When I discussed the matter with my wife, she agreed with me.
The second child is celebrating her fifth birthday in the coming March. She knows the names of almost all birds, flowers, trees, plants and animals. She knows that the stars are bigger suns; she knows that plants and trees also do have life and some of them sleep at night; but she has not been to school yet. Everybody asks why we haven't sent her to school yet and their expression is like that we have committed a horrendous crime. They tell us that we can't get her admission in any “good” school now without her having completed LKG and UKG.
A good school means any school that is not a government-owned one. I tell them that I am sending her to the GUPS in which I studied. Another horrendous crime! Can your child have standard education from such schools? Only the children of the uneducated and the poor are there in such schools now. Won't the association with the “low class” children affect the culture of your child?
Of course, she can have standard education, because in such schools there are teachers who got the job with their ability, not on the strength of their pocket. As far as culture is concerned, is the ‘culture' of self-promotion the children who are sent to the so-called ‘standard' schools attain praiseworthy? I think it is the root cause of many an evil that haunts our nation today. And I have studied in government schools and I don't think that the standard of my education is inferior to that of the products of any one of the ‘standard' schools.
Then comes the general remark — Nowadays nobody (except of course the poor) sends their children to Malayalam medium schools. My answer — Isn't Malayalam your mother tongue and do you know what Jawaharlal Nehru says in the Glimpses of World History about one's own language?
“The only way for a people to grow, for their children to learn, is through their own language.”
(The writer's email ID is firstname.lastname@example.org)