Cloud 9 Minus One

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My Favourite Book March 6, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — sangeetamall @ 7:18 am
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On the first day of school, when I was in class five, I received a big shock. I picked up all my textbooks and notebooks from the school bookstore, and then, as I always did, I went to my bench and opened my books. And then followed the shock. All the pictures from the books had disappeared. The textbooks were weighed down by the burden of sentence upon sentence of long, incomprehensible words with little coloured boxes here and there to make up for the lack of pictures. On that day, at seven in the morning, my education changed from being a real blast to one of relentless boredom, until, by the time I reached class nine, I had given up all hope of ever gaining anything by way of knowledge from my school.
I had the same feeling when I opened my son’s book to teach him geography. On the first day, something disgraceful happened. I fell asleep in the middle of his lesson. Try as I might, I could not muster even a modicum of interest in what he was being taught in school. And then the next fatal feeling followed. I stopped blaming my son for not doing well academically. Which normal person could have any interest whatsoever in the reams and reams of data that is being offered up as a good education in the best schools across the country? Geography was never my favourite subject, so I turned to biology, an exciting field, its excitement supplemented by my passion for NatGeo and Discovery channels. Unbelievably, the biology given in the textbook of class nine seemed to have almost nothing in common with the cutting edge stuff one watched on TV. So much for biology. In desperation I turned to English, always a sure bet. How boring can Macbeth be, huh? I read the play as I had always read it, with absorption and dismay at the boundless villainy portrayed in it. But now there was another reason for dismay as well – the short and long answer questions given at the end of each act in the textbook. Each question sunk me further into despair, as I realised that the student could answer any of the questions without ever understanding the play, let alone enjoying it.
It was not the state of the schools but the state of the textbooks that made me want to home-school my child. Why can’t Indian textbooks convey any humour, joy or even recent advancements in any of the fields? Why must they be so drab and dull? Why should we have ‘education’ forced down our gullets so that our first instinct is to regurgitate the whole repulsive mess, and forget the experience as soon as we can?
I wish we could bring about some change in our education system, beginning with an overhaul of the school textbooks. A collaboration with one of the myriad publishers of books for children might be a good place to begin.

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