Wide Angle Education

Break out of those shackles

For progress Dress codes don’t matter. Photo: Shanker Chakravarty

For progress Dress codes don’t matter. Photo: Shanker Chakravarty   | Photo Credit: SHANKER CHAKRAVARTY

A host of factors ail our education system. There is a need to debunk these myths instead of glorifying them

A myth is any “widely held but false belief or idea”. We are surrounded by different types of national, social, political and educational myths (“edumyths” — my coinage) and governed by them. At times, we glorify them and take delight in propagating them. It is because our education system does not allow us to question certain beliefs. Many pseudo-educationists propagate certain edumyths without realising that they are myths and some do so in order to have dominance and control over others. Of late, some educational institutions have become myth making industries. Here are a few edumyths I have identified:

Myth 1: Regular and compulsory attendance to classes will help students gain more knowledge.

Many educational institutions insist on compulsory attendance. Administrators and teachers working in such institutions believe that if students attend classes regularly, and listen to lectures, they will be able to gain more knowledge and become better learners. In the 21st century, though teachers are needed to a certain extent, it is possible to learn everything without face-to-face contact. There have been many cases of autonomous learners who without the help of teachers have proved that they are better learners than those who rely on teachers and attend classes regularly. Many schools and colleges in developed countries do not have compulsory attendance rule. It is quite unfortunate many schools and colleges in India work six days a week, have long working hours, conduct special classes for students and do not allow them to take leave. Have these institutions improved the quality of education? The answer is ‘No’. Compulsory attendance rule can kill students’ creativity and their ability to learn on their own.

Myth 2: More assignments (homework) enable students to acquire more knowledge.

Most schools and colleges in India are obsessed with the idea of giving assignments to students as they think it will help them acquire more knowledge. Most of the assignments are pointless as they do not help students acquire new knowledge. Rather, they make students lose interest in studies. Instead of giving a hundred pointless assignments, a few purposeful ones will help students develop their creative and critical thinking skills.

Myth 3: More tests help students learn more and achieve better academic success.

‘Less time for teaching and more time for taking tests’ has become a norm in educational institutions which erroneously think that students can learn better by taking more tests. Tests and exams have negative impact on students. They cause tension and pressure in students and create unhealthy competition among them. They kill students’ creativity and curiosity. In the U.S., many schools have passed a resolution stating that standardised tests “strangle” schools.

Myth 4: Students who score high marks in tests and exams are brilliant.

It is assumed that if a student scores well in a subject, he/she knows the subject. It is not always true. A few days ago, an educator involved in counselling students about higher education opportunities in the U.S. shared with me that many Indian students who were considered ‘mediocre’ by the Indian teachers were academically more successful in the U.S., than their counterparts who had impressive academic record and were considered ‘brilliant’ in India. It is a fact that some school toppers and university rank holders are not successful in life.

Myth 5: Dress code instils discipline in students and makes them focus on their studies.

In some educational institutions, students are asked to follow a meaningless dress code and forced to wear “formal dress” as administrators think that such dress code disciplines students and prepares them for the workplace. When students are denied their freedom to choose what they want to wear and freedom to express their individuality, they become rebellious and, consequently, the dress code has a negative impact on their discipline and studies. Forcing a dress code on students implies forcing one’s thoughts on them.

Myth 6: Students who have good proficiency in English are those with high intellect.

Those who are proficient in the English language may perform well academically as the medium of instruction is English, but no research shows that there is relationship between English proficiency and intelligence. However, there are many living examples of people who lacked English language skills but could become great scientists and intellectuals.

Myth 7: Extracurricular activities are a waste of time.

Extracurricular activities help students develop social, communication, team and various other skills. Students who take part in them know that they are rewarding experiences.

Employers recruit candidates who possess talent, skills and habits that indicate their potential.

Edumyths are viruses that have a detrimental effect on society. Unless they are identified and shown the door, we cannot cure the education system and society. Decades ago, John F. Kennedy said that “The great enemy of the truth is very often not the lie, deliberate, contrived and dishonest, but the myth, persistent, persuasive and unrealistic.” There is an urgent need to debunk these seven myths.

The writer is an academic, columnist and freelance writer. rayanal@yahoo.co.uk

Why you should pay for quality journalism - Click to know more

Related Topics
Recommended for you
This article is closed for comments.
Please Email the Editor

Printable version | Apr 4, 2020 7:55:39 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/education/break-out-of-those-shackles/article29118534.ece

Next Story