Re-imagine the classroom

How many educators have come across students celebrating their Eureka moments?   | Photo Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

While the nation lamented the ‘brain drain’ decades ago, I recall a professor saying, “It’s better to have a brain drain rather than brains going down the drain.” Learners reach educational institutions every morning for cognitive adventures, excitement, and surprises. But, as the day progresses, they feel their energy ebb. How many educators have come across students celebrating their Eureka moments?

Among the several factors for this are teachers. While it is not possible to have neat categorisations for a community of over 12 million, students tend to have their own labels for their teachers.

Unfortunately, the uninspiring classroom practices are responsible for draining the learner’s energy, frittering away class time, offering no scope for learner-centric approaches or inquiry-based experiential learning. As a result, the classroom space is just a hollow talk shop.

Innovation hub

Now that students have returned to schools and colleges, the classroom space needs to be reimagined. Teachers must veer away from their stereotypical style of explicating the textbook and look at using the space for multiple purposes and — as a forum for a clash of ideas, a laboratory for exploration, an incubation hub for innovation, a home theatre, clubs for debating, reading, and other activities, and a centre for mental gymnastics.

Whatever is celebrated at home is stonewalled in classes — no more cajoling to speak, itching fingers to scribble on walls and floors are slapped; singing and dancing to their own rhythms is banned; the choice of what to wear is snatched away and students are tethered to their seats and commanded to maintain silence.

As one first-grader once observed: “I know the mother of my father is my grandmother and his father is my grandfather. I know ‘a’ for apple, ‘b’ for ball, ‘c’ for cat. I also know that 1+1 is 2 and 2 multiplied by 2 is 4. But why does the teacher want me to repeat them in every class?” This mindless practice exposes how innate qualities, such as curiosity, inquisitiveness, playfulness, and imagination, are proscribed instead of being nurtured.

Higher levels

It is no different at higher levels of education. The same practices are perpetuated, but the operative terms are ‘tuition’ and ‘coaching’. These terms, which once applied to “weak learners” and elicited jeers from fellow students, have now gained iconic status, thanks to professional courses and branded coaching centres.

Students pride themselves on learning from specific tuition masters and coaching centres capitalise on the entrance exam mania. The curricular focus has shifted towards preparing learners for JEE and NEET and true deeper learning has been unceremoniously buried.

As the Chief Justice, N.V. Ramana, recently remarked, “Any change in the nation’s trajectory always stems from its youth”. This can be done by redefining the class space to channelise the youth power.

Efforts must be made to ensure that students’ time and energies are not being depleted in class. Otherwise, the rhetoric of creating future leaders will continue to remain a hollow slogan.

The writer is K. Elango, National Secretary, ELTAI, Prof and Head, Department of English (Formerly) Anna University

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Printable version | Jan 19, 2022 1:05:03 AM |

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