The article "A new look at child abuse" details this kind of harm and I think it is worth reading to understand what exactly happens because of our schools other than marks and rote learning. And people not "in" on the vision are getting disenfranchised. Schools are simply creating templates of people with preinstalled data. It is like buying a computer with a large library of ebooks of all sorts installed. How many of them are useful to you? And people are not things. Waste of space on a computer is one thing, but we are spending over a decade of children's lives and taking away their freedom for what?
And it doesn't make them feel secure.
The thing is, it is not working. Even as literacy rises we are plagued by unemployment, recruiters are talking about scarcity of employable candidates - the products of this education system. The simple matter is that education does not do what it advertises. It doesn't prepare people for jobs. With the lack of respect for menial jobs, education triggers a lot of migration to cities for jobs "worthy" of their education. There is wholesale neglect of vital work necessary for survival on a national level - farmers, weavers, other workers, transporters...
Traditional occupations are dying out. Be it a horseman, weaver, blacksmith, cobbler, farmer, whatever. To continue this kind of work in spite of education would be deemed as failure - a waste of an education that was a waste of time - if you don't use it, then you are forced to face the wastage, no? Traditional art forms, crafts are dying out, because those artisans are also not on the approved list. Occupations that were once hereditary are going extinct because education has made them shameful.
Even teaching is not on the "whitelist" of respectworthy occupations, and most teachers become teachers when they run out of alternatives. These are the people shaping the minds of upcoming generations.
The thing is, this can't survive, because we'll end up broke and starving like this. We need intellectual capital in all directions rather than make an Olympic sport out of education as though no further utility is needed and breaking records is the glory.
In another article, School Reloaded, I make the distinction between teaching and learning and share several ideas about learning centers that are empowering to the people learning in them. About learning environments that are learning friendly. Those ideas are ideals, rather than practical, but they create an awareness of how learning can be.
But at the root of all this lies the nature of education itself and the dramatic changes it will have to go through if it is to remain relevant as a resource to citizens.
- From teaching to facilitating: The approach needs to shift from "things to know" and their "right answers" and focus on encouraging interests, curiosity, finding out, finding areas of "don't know" to investigate.
- More practical, vocational. Learning that can allow students to start working and earning. With access to developing emotional intelligence skills that make us functional when working with others. Being sensitive. - will also combat the widespread dehumanization plaguing society.
- Dignity. I had wanted to say "of labour" but I think all kinds of dignity is needed. Write it into the constitution if you wish, but dignity should be a fundamental right, no matter what, if cutting edge intellectuals are to flourish (among other things). Having a novel idea, perspective should not mean attacks. That stupidifies the population. Debate and discard ideas, but people must be inviolate if we are to maintain a learning environment.
- Acceptance of ambiguity, incorrect "answers", unanswered questions. This is the bleeding edge of learning that current education seals shut. Most of our learning comes from not knowing and finding out. When you notice the conversations with rigid people not open to ideas, the first symptom is that they are never wrong. Thus, they never update.
But the greatest shift that needs to happen is from a perspective of free learning. Human knowledge is growing. You cannot expect to convert it into subjects and standardize it flat for all kids to know it in exactly the same way - dead. It will be too unwieldy, if at all it is possible. Also, it is insane to learn about water along with all biology, then again with physics, then again as art, poetry, whatever. Water IS. Specialized understanding can come later, but kids need a whole perspective like - that stream of water is from molten snow and has minerals and will fix dehydration and can be thrown on someone for holi, and a shower uses less water than a bath.... ideas are chain reactions - don't cage them, because you silence the ones you can't find cages for.
The world is now fast. Knowledge updates fast. Living learning is one that unfolds as you watch. You can't predict it, though you can pursue based on interests. All this needs accounted for, in designing learning experiences rather than syllabus. Essentially, from having teachers who can deliver the final word on something, we need facilitators with skills to make knowledge and experiences accessible - regardless of subject. And the ability to transfer these sourcing skills to students. Facilitators whose responsibility should be to maintain a learning environment, where the nature of learning is highly individualized and determined by those using it - the children. More on this in School Reloaded.
But needless to say, exams are useless as conclusions of learning. It is absurd to conclude learning in the first place. More useful to open specialized learning with entrance exams.
It is here that the RTE is taking us back two centuries by obsessing with syllabus. It is quite hideous that some schools for tribals that were run by emminent PhDs volunteering their time and wisdom get into trouble because they weren't qualified teachers and there was no standardized syllabus! The same kids who were out of reach of the nearest school anyway. Talk of lobotomy!
We need to scrap the whole RTE except for "send kids to school" and detox an entire population from their dependency on manufactured parcels of learning. Wean parents off the addiction with numbers indicating performance like a cricket score. We have made an Olympic sport out of education. An achievement rather than a tool. Total bull shit.
If after ten years of basic schooling, a child is fit for no job, then the education system has failed. Unless it is a profession with specialized training, kids out of school should be fit to find any work if they want. Those kinds of experiences, knowledge should be accessible to them based on their curiosity.
Most of all, rural schools MUST have access to cutting edge information on rural occupations - be it pottery, poultry, agriculture, green living, whatever. Though frankly once we break free of subjects, all things are accessible everywhere. But those would be easiest to set up in their environment, and they would lead to innovation and development. It would prevent the brain drain from the villages and instead empower the villages to a whole new level of existence.
Ideally, this duration should be five years or less. There is no need for a kid's life to be dedicated to some institution throughout childhood. It is too much. Kids have to give up free fun to prepare for growing up. This is ridiculous! You don't grudge a three hour film unless you get something out of it. Stop inflicting it on kids just because they don't have the power to rock this boat.
Discard these stingy packets of information and throw open the world to kids - but first those schools will have to be created. Those facilitators will have to be identified, developed, skilled.
The future of education is in becoming extinct and making way for learning.