Menagerie Minds….


14 March 2016

It was the most gentle of nudges that one can experience. At the turn of the day, there was this little boy, 2-3 years old, who in the most ingenious of ways presented me with an entire menagerie. He took my palm, and with a pen in his hand drew out different shapes and sizes on it and then christened them with the name of a bird or an animal. The glee in his eyes, the tender forte of his hands and the firm belief of what he was bestowing me was indeed a very rewarding moment. There I was, witnessing the brilliance of a child who displayed the ability to think, create and talk about what he felt, experienced and wanted the world to know – without as much as the bat of an eyelid, without questioning himself of what he was presenting and with an attitude deprived of any qualm. And that was a dignity that one wants to so experience throughout. The ability to live out what you think, feel and experience devoid of any constraints. And it was in that one moment that this adorable 3yr old taught me the most sacred of all theories that I had so forgotten – “Man is made by his belief. As he believes, so he is”. This little boy, my source of inspiration, saw the lion, cheetah and all those various birds in his imagination and he lived it in my palm. Since then, I have held on to the images for some time and am convinced that it won’t go away for a long time.

The sequel to this experience (like most sequels) is not as strong… but very relevant and related though. There has been so much talked about the need for revamping the education system in the country. A sizable amount of time, money and space spent by the 3rd estate gathering what is going wrong in our schools and colleges. Notwithstanding, the government crying out the obvious that we need to invest more in education. The question that has not been asked, or dare I say, has been skirted for long. “What is it that we need to change?” OR “What is the vision that we have for education in this country?” The areas being singled out tend to point towards what is currently wrong with it!

For a country that takes pride in holding perhaps the world’s oldest universities - Nalanda – is it so tough for us to figure out what to focus on? Can we go beyond concentrating on report cards, percentage of absenteeism in schools and colleges, the challenges and travails of learning by rote, teacher qualifications …etc and with single minded effort look at what constitutes the nucleus of our society? In a world that is shrinking fast due to technology, and is experiencing spotlight conversations of a ‘global culture’, there is this need to expand the territory of individualistic knowledge in the classroom.

We have for long been guided by Macaulay’s Minute on Indian Education. “We have to educate a people who cannot at present be educated by means of their mother tongue. We must teach them some foreign language. The claims of our own language are hardly necessary to recapitulate.” Macaulay’s reference was to that of the English language in that day and age. WE need to meander out of this interpretation, and encourage a framework that guides the child in a classroom – in any classroom to speak in a language to speak in a language and follow a thought process the he/ she identifies with. The claim of individuality and the belief that overrides it is hardly necessary to recapitulate.

I have been through school, college and university surviving tests, exams and assessments and many a times not! A lack of understanding of why 2 trains travelling from 2 different stations at an x speed would meet at some point… was perhaps responsible for my forbearing absence in the IITs and the IIMs of the world. I believed that all trains got me home and I was content with that… just as the 3yr old boy believed that the little circle he carved out on my palm was a cheetah. And any education system that will help keep that belief alive is the answer to getting it right.