The one-dimensional education system that limits creative thinking
What’s education? The word is derived from Latin which means to ‘pump out information’. But for centuries teachers have been taught to ‘pump in’ mugged up information with no or limited interaction. After which it is called the end of the syllabus.
My primary and high school education system hugely dealt with rote learning and rigid approach. That’s when there is more of theory and often no practice. No relation to real-world problems. My Polish acquaintance and I had a discussion once that this is how it was 20 years back in Poland due to lack of world-class facilities, the education system made sure that its more of theory and fewer practicals. Everyone was in a rigid structure of the syllabus.
It’s similar to how CBSE in India which has 70% of kids enrol and study in, is accused mostly with more theory and fewer practicals. Because the schools can get away with little facilities. Sometimes it's baffling to see small playground space in schools and there are schools that don’t have any playgrounds at all in a metro city where there is a shortage of land parcels.
Well, the authorities could argue that kids will go back to their sprawling gated communities where they have an ample amount of space to play in designated play areas for kids. And after all, it is just the textbook and study that they do in school, so why there is a need for big playgrounds or a playground space!?
To describe all this in detail, I have to scratch the surfaces of both passages of my life in school.
My primitive years went on with rote learning. It was so much of stress given on knowing your ABCs, rhymes, tables, etc. that school was boring and a place which I never enjoyed to go. Learning was never fun. So I enjoyed other things like friendships and stories that fellow classmates tell you about what happens to your tooth when it fells and you keep it safe below the pillow at night to see money the next day. It was fantasy but it was exciting in the mundane routine of timetables and class syllabus.
I scored well and was ranked 1st once in the class. Thanks to rote learning and repetitive way of studying and writing with whatever was retained in the memory. Everyone considered this a great achievement. My parents were flying high on clouds. They figured out they had a genius in their house and will bring fortune someday.
But the problem with hopes like these is, that they are built on shallow depth or shaky foundation. And they fall in most definite cases. So it happened in my case where I didn’t show an interest to do the same mugging up again to write the exam and faired awkwardly inefficient in scoring good in the next few mark sheet. Since I couldn’t find the relationship of practical life with what I was studying or looking through books, my so-called marks dipped in the coming years.
That led to more frustration for my parents as well as few friends of theirs who had heard about how bright I was and how I was in top 3 or 5 in the class but when my primary school was ending, I was miserably found wanting to just pass in some subjects. I just barely escaped from failing and not repeating a year. That was a shame! But nobody really got to the root cause of the downfall and my lost interest.
Pupils would often say, “Oh, why do we have this Art period or this Sports period? It does not fetch us any marks for our board exams! Why are we wasting our time?” Therefore many of them sit and discuss their maths problems or science concepts in the time when they could freshen up their minds with other concepts or games.
I remember how one single boy in our class just laughed his heart out at those Pink Panther episodes that were shown on TV. Just enjoying the humorous series collection that we had as a VCR/VHS tape which was played in a video player. It was astonishing that almost 90% of kids paid no attention but spent their time talking with each other since that was the only time, they could talk and discuss things other than the lunch breaks. I was in the other 10% that was embarrassingly looking at the TV thinking that enjoying cartoons in school time is a crime. Also, the fact that the laughing boy was the worst performer in the class in terms of marks scored, I didn’t want to follow in his footsteps and laugh out loud.
Talking in the classrooms or discussions was a strict ‘No’. It almost felt like bringing in military discipline to classrooms by appointing a class monitor (head boy) who would make sure to use his right to thrash a few of the kids and also report cases of revolt or any deviation from the said discipline to the teacher.
Students were discouraged to have their own point of view on subjects like Maths and Science. We were told not to attempt anything outside of our textbooks & that if we did, it is a waste of time and none of that will get us good marks in the exams. Therefore we were told to utilise the time in mugging up stuff from the syllabus books because ultimately questions will be asked from it and nowhere else. So every student was referred to a particular publication and author which was accredited by the board of education. And if students had understood the concepts but wished to write definitions and answers in their own words, it was discouraged. Sometimes it may be marked wrong or given fewer marks, due to no match with the textbook content!
But there were other subjects like English and Hindi, where teachers allowed students to come out of their shell. Students imagine and gave a detailed explanation from the paragraph or respond to the poem or story of the author, often there would be a silent classroom with an exception of 3–4 students standing up to do a thorough explanation of the concepts and ideas mentioned in the lesson or chapter.
There was an overemphasis on Mathematics and Science to the extent that all other subjects were considered just fillers or just being there to compliment your final score in the examination. But Maths and Science were considered as those pillars in which students would build up their careers and be successful in life!
So those exceptional students who did a great job in explanation of poems and expressing themselves often left behind in the mark lists of Maths and Science. Naturally, those few found their interest in more expressive subjects. Some found their interest lied in football and the annual sports that happened to showcase their talent and win some trophies.
Even there, the laurels were given to those who scored more marks in class and at the same time were good at sports. So, prizes were awarded to all-rounders and were looked upon as role models. Because ultimately it’s these boys who would be successful in life with their bonus in athletism and excellent marks. So nobody raised an eyebrow for great sports’ talents who did not score well in their exams.
Similarly, there was little to no co-curricular activities. There was no drama, no theatre, no art or painting. The only music classes we had was in primary school with a teacher on Piano asking the student group to sing hymns. And he would then select few and let others go. And the chosen few had a privilege to sing somewhere I don’t remember.
Therefore, eventually, both my High School and Senior School Certificate results were not great and were close to a disaster waiting to happen. And I was not sad that I did worse. Not scared that I won’t get admission to a good college. I did not commit a suicide thinking my life has ended.
It is all because I had sorted out other areas of study where I could be successful. That helped me gather myself and understand the evils in our 1 Dimensional education system that promises too much but delivers little. It is not a joke when Steve Wozniak, the co-founder of Apple Inc. once quoted,
“ That’s a lot like Singapore study, study, work hard and you get an MBA, you will have a Mercedes but where is the creativity? The creativity gets left out when your behaviour is too predictable and structured, everyone is similar. Look at a small country like New Zealand, the writers, singers, athletes, it’s a whole different world.”
Also, there is this great infographic animation https://youtu.be/okpg-lVWLbE by Next School uploaded in YouTube that specifies in detail.