As the father of two school-going children, I found ‘Einstein and the crutch’ (April 27, 2014) quite relevant. There will be any number of parents out there who share similar sentiments but are reluctant to come out in the open. Let me underline here that parents are not against the “preparation of the child’s fertile mind …for a robust repertoire of intellectual skills.” But what is the reality?
Many schools have long ceased to be real knowledge facilitators. Students are asked to come up with a project, choosing from a range of topics. Generally, except for some tips they are left to their own devices. These projects get executed not under the supervision and guidance of the teachers, but at home. The parents have to necessarily make themselves available for all the antics and gimmicks willy-nilly, after freeing themselves from all their daily chores. Generally, no project takes shape without the parents involving themselves. No matter what you are, whether a late-from-work father, working mother or not-so-equipped parent, be prepared to play student along with your child.
First, you have to go scouting for the ‘components’ of the project. Whether you still remember your old science lessons or not, know the nuances or not, you have to fix things towards making the project ‘tick and work’.
The process is no less tricky for non-science projects. Here again you have to go on a hunting expedition to procure materials.
For those who are hard-pressed for time, resort to ‘paid projects’ becomes the inevitable option and an easy way out of the pressure-cooker atmosphere. Whether the student learns anything or not, the parent essentially learns, or rather re-learns, old lessons. The kids sometimes feel compelled to go to the Internet, with all its inherent dangers for a slip-up, for clues and help. Sometimes it’s a cut-and-paste job. Where are the learning points here, and what do the students actually gain?
In theory, such projects kindle the scientific quest, resulting in a better understanding of subjects. But is it so in reality? With anxiety mounting to beat the deadline, somehow the project gets done.
Something needs to be done to bring to life the real spirit behind the whole idea. While parents will always be forthcoming with material, it should happen in schools, under the vigil and guidance of teachers.
It need not necessarily be ‘spoon-feeding’, but an approach by which the student is made to learn, self-correct and re-learn. It’s time this received attention.
This is not to paint all schools black or discredit all teachers. The attempt here is to facilitate a focus on the ground reality and bring about correctives.