Other day I met an old friend at a marriage reception. He is in construction business. During our exchange of usual pleasantries he informed that with illegal buildings coming up all over, his business was brisk. While his elder son helps him in his business,the younger one due to his being highly educated could not do anything worthwhile. Therefore,he has got a school opened for him. Dish (Jagdish) has been instructed by his builder father to engage four lady teachers with good English and better looks. Tie in uniform is an absolute must. It has a dual purpose. Parents are impressed,in turn they can impress other parents.
This is the crux of our literacy mission. Whenever we talk of education we are eager to launch yet another new scheme. This field has been treated as a big laboratotry for experiment by all those mandarins of education department. Industrial entrepreneurs,construction giants,business houses and NRIs have also jumped on the bandwagon. We have had more systems than one can count from ancient GURUKULAS to today's high tech, computer friendly,air-conditioned class rooms. Remeber Montessori model of schools, Model model of schools, Navyug, Central, Navodaya, Sarvodaya etc.etc. 10+2+3, 5+3+3, 8+2+2 all add up to a big zero. Everone claims that the scheme prepared and launched by them is the best. All others are quickly termed as myopic,short-lived,wasteful and hence,outright foolish.
When Montessori system was ruling the roost, all other schools were looked down upon. Montessori enjoyed the status that of a lotus in the cesspool.The then parents' choice was clear-- child has to be Montessori educated or not educated at all. Teachers in Montessori used to be sweet,fairy like,pretty and fluent in English. The one who were 'weak' in their mother tongue were preferred as teachers. Times changed, Montessori moved over giving room to preparatory,nursery and K.G.(B) schools. It was an era of Indo-Soviet friendship. There was this competition among the newly wedded as to who would be first to admit their child in these schools. This eventually led to cradle snatching. Age of wards' admission reduced from 7-8 years in our times to 2-4 years now. Bal-Mandirs started on terraces and backyards in a big way. Kids in caged rickshaws look like prisoner transfers. It is here that citizens of tomorrow pick up the skill of telling lies with sweet innocence:
"....Eating Sugar ? No Papa ... Open your mouth Ha.!.Ha..!"
Indian people misunderstood the population control policy. They thought our motherland is short of manpower and hence, Government wants every citizen to hastily produce two or three children. Patriots that we are, we lost no time and every citizen who was in reproductive age group devoted himself/herself in the name of service to the nation. We all know the results. Government was not sitting quiet either,we opened schools under the tree,under the tents and simply in open fields. Teachers and students both in communion with the nature. But there was brighter side to it. No gruelling interview of parents,no fete tickets,no donation. I wonder how kids of that era never fell victim of gastroentitis even after consuming water from open unclean earthen pots, look at the kids of today, they have to have water from aqua guard purifier or else by evening their stomach aches. Go to a doc he will not talk to you unless you have undergone half a dozen pathological tests-- blood,urine, ECG, X ray and CAT scan.
Government progressed. We had Model schools where except uniform (Khaki shorts and navy blue shirt changed to white) nothing changed. We further evolved Central Schools with low fees and all India syllabus.Educated but unemployed got teaching jobs. Bored housewives also got paid for boring (teaching) the class. Central school facilitated marriage of unmarriageables and separation of married ones (due to transfers)The teachers bloated to Master of universe and shrieked " I am the Power " during admission season.
Public,like young children,want a fresh toy to play with. Therefore, the planners keep themselves busy in constantly experimenting with education bringing out new models. Latest schemes are churned out and given attractive titles. Old wine in a new bottle--- SUPW __ socially useful productive work. Pray ! what was that we learnt all these years.We have 'Education for all'. whatever it means, it has been amply realised that the schools today have become factories. Some are sophisticated while others are plain and simple crude. They produce material-- faceless,born to be at the most babus who have scatiest regard for manual labour,morals and motherland.
With all its drawbacks I love adult education. It is simply unmatchable with anything happened in recent past on education scene. Adult or no adult,classes or no classes, Roll call is fudged. Hefty funds change hands. Adult education you see. I know a father, unable to pay huge fees and hasseled with everyday fund raising in the name of building,games,library,transportation,picnic etc. withdrew his children and gave his final verdict- " I cant afford your schooling instead go for adult education when you grow up. That is in case you still felt education was necessary otherwise looking at these legislators and ministers,take the words of this old man -- there are much more possibilities and brighter career prospects in remaining illiterate."
(from the collection Bald is beautiful 2000)
also published in Alive Dec. 2000