By Nita Chicooree
Value based education has gradually phased itself out from the modern trend of education. It has tended to push children to extreme academic pressure and to condition them to believe that academic excellence is the only parameter of success in life.
Concentrating on knowledge-oriented education which focuses on obtaining good marks to satisfy parents right from primary school and ensure the possibility of getting into a well-paying job in the future has failed to deliver. This approach to education has not always transmitted ethics and values which are indispensable to children in their formative years.
How do parents fill the gap? Are modern parents too busy to truly interact with their children and provide them proper parental guidance? Many parents are probably ill-equipped to spot and deal with behavioural deviation in their children especially when, after a day’s work, they are more interested to watch their favourite serials on TV than to make effort in the child’s direction. Get admission in a ‘good’ school, pay monthly fees and then take the burden of a meaningful upbringing of their children off their shoulders. This has been their attitude in most cases.
In India, ‘good’ schools mean private Christian schools, and this has become a thriving business. Anyone who has some money to invest just has to buy some land, build up a school, think of a Christian saint and name the school after him. Crowds of Hindu, Muslim and Christian parents flock to enrol their children in these schools and rely on the school staff to take care of the development of their kids. Private secondary schools, and not simply those put up as Christian confessional schools, are getting more and more profit-minded demanding high donations from parents. It is a peculiar educational system which has flourished on the soil of India, and to say the least, it is a most corrupt practice which perverts the meaning of education. Not surprisingly, this kind of practice has surreptitiously infiltrated some private ‘secular’ schools in Mauritius which have started to ask parents to make ‘donations’ to the schools, in addition to paying monthly fees.
So, the ‘good’ schools put a lot of pressure on staff to obtain ‘results’ and the latter pressurize children to perform well. Much energy is channelled toward the sole aim of obtaining As and high grades. Too much concentration on academics fails to promote the psychological development of the concerned children. Little effort is devoted to shaping up character and teaching life skills which help youngsters interact positively with others and to resolve conflicts. It is amazing how a whole generation has not learnt how to put up with criticism. Not only children but young adults are just as well handicaped in this respect, especially in developed and ‘advanced’ societies.
Not only in the West. An extreme case recently shocked the teaching community and the public when a teacher was assassinated by a 14-year old boy at St Mary’s Anglo-Indian School in Chennai. Ms Umamaheshwari was working alone in her classroom, waiting for her pupils when the boy got into the classroom first and went straight to the teacher. Pretending to throw something in the dustbin, he bent forward and took a knife which he had hidden in his bag. He slit the teacher’s throat and stabbed her several times in her abdomen before the other children and teachers next door could rush in to stop him. It was too late.
The horrrendous crime caught staff and pupils unawares. While most of the papers in Tamil did reveal the identity of the boy, the ‘secular’ English language press kept mum, only publishing the testimony of a very close friend of his. The reason for the sordid crime was the teacher’s remarks in his school report. The parents were informed that their ward was not making any progress at all and they might have to pull him out of the college. In police custody, the boy admitted that he saw the movie ‘Agneepath’ 30 times!, and it inspired him to take revenge.
‘Agneepath’ is full of blood and gory scenes. Public opinion strongly condemns the glorification of crime and violence in movies which perpetrate the notions of self-gratification upon committing crimes. Portrayals of a misguided sense of ‘self-esteem’ are more than partly responsible for such insanely gross and unsociable acts by children. Indian films are fast imitating western movies in depicting violence, fighting scenes with winners and losers, promoting hero worship and glorifying unruliness.
Such films allow vicious seeds of hatred to grow in unbaked adolescent minds. The imitation of western style films has amplified since the liberalization of television channels. Though it is the first time that such a crime took place within the precinct of a school in India, devious behaviour is said to be getting more common among youngsters. The entire social fabric is in turmoil due to the influence of the more violent western media.
What happened in Chennai could happen anywhere and it should be an eye-opener to one and all. The essence and goal of education have to be reviewed as well as teacher-pupil relationship. Respecting children by re-thinking unnecessary punishment and avoiding social humiliation and embarassment should become a key component of their education at this stage. Modern education has become too utilitarian in spirit. Preparing children psychologically and spiritually to interact in society, reach out to others and cope with conflicts, success and failures in later life both in their private life and professional domains should start earlier in their formative years if we are to avoid creating a generation of future adults walking around as mobile pressure cookers without safety valves. Any responsible society which cares for its people in general and its younger generation in particular should re-assess its track record and address its failures towards to the spiritual development of its members. Value based education is of utmost importance. It starts by the transmission of wisdom, goodness, and noble values in a spirit of love at an early age.
* Published in print edition on 17 February 2012