By VIJAY PHANSHIKAR :
The child The seed The grain of corn The acorn on the hill Each For some separate end Is born In season fit, And still, Each must Arise In strength, To work The Almighty Will
OF FREEDOM TO FAIL -- THAT IS TO MAKE EXPERIMENTS IN STUDIES AND IN LIFE
The core idea of education is to allow every child an opportunity and scope to learn what he or she wishes to do --in life; to find the element of joy in the process of learning, even if it comes at the cost of failing... for success comes only after failure
T his is how Robert Louis Stevenson captured the entire gamut of issues relating to learning and education and its purpose. The core idea of education is to allow every child an opportunity and scope to learn what he or she wishes to do -- in life. Another dimension to the method and manner of education is to help the child find life’s purpose -- by offering him or her the scope to do things of his or her choice. And then, there is yet another dimension that is far more crucial to the element of joy in the process of learning -- the freedom to fail. Or in other words, it talks of freedom to make different and difficult experiments -- and the consequential freedom either to succeed or to fail -- honourably, without a sense of unnecessary guilt, without a sense of being a waste, without any discount of love and affection from the near and dear ones. Unfortunately, our educational thought does not promote this kind of freedom -- of making experiments, of failing, and naturally of rising again.
I request readers’ indulgence for a moment -- about one childhood incident. My parents were generous enough to allow me the scope to acquire a near full-fledged laboratory at home -- at a considerable cost -- during my school days. One of our many experiments was a successful making of TNT (trinitrotoluene). Unfortunately, I was not cautious enough and the whole thing exploded, breaking every possible glass material around. Kudos to my parents, I was never punished for that massive explosion that was the product of my own carelessness. Father placed his hand on my shoulder and said in a slow, deliberate tone, “Restart your lab from tomorrow.” Whatever might have been happening in my school, but parents at home never stopped me from doing anything -- which even looked terribly outlandish and plain stupid on many occasions. That freedom made a lot of difference to me -- despite my shortcomings, which in other places would have been punishable issues.
The reference here, again, is to the element of joy in learning.True, children do find their methods of securing some element of joy in their own ways. But this idea still does not form a core value of our school education system. If this is not a flaw, then what is? Story is told of how the iconic painter Bal Gaitonde -- whose paintings fetch prices as high as Rs 50 crores -- refused to follow the dotted line indicated by his father, and joined the Sir J. J School of Arts in Mumbai. The rest is history. His father never spoke a word with him all his life, but Bal Gaitonde persisted -- all willing to mess up his life. But because he pursued what he wanted, he found joy -- as well as jewels -- in that career. Such legends abound in the larger human story. Despite this, unfortunately, our educational community has always felt compelled to create rigidly formatted system which has element of joy only exceptionally. There is a funny definition of puritanism -- the puritans are always afraid that there may be somebody somewhere happy and full of joy!!! That worries them. Perhaps, too much of puritanism dogs our approach to education -- particularly in primary and middle schools. A little less of it should actually become the order of the day. But that does not happen -- as a result of which children feel terribly frustrated with whatever they are expected to do in schools. And our larger society expects every child to be an APJ Abdul Kalam, to say the least.
How can that ever be? If every kid is to become Kalam Chacha, then what abut Pandit Ravi Shankar or Baba Amte or Sonal Mansingh or Malini Avasthi or SachinTendulkar (who did not pursue his education), for example? These people took a leap of faith -- all prepared to come crashing to ground. The whole affair of learning relates only to this aspect, and nothing else. This is the actual crux of the issue -- of joy of learning, joy in education, and finding purpose of life that would bring joy (engulfed naturally in pain of hard work) in the ultimate analysis.