Saturday, March 5, 2016

Does one still need to go to school?

As I thought about my previous post, it set me thinking. On the one hand, there are a lot of regulations on who can open a school, who can run it - what you need and so on and so forth. And on the other hand, there is technology and there are people.

Why does one need to transport children in uniform across thousands of (cumulative) kilometres, when they can learn very well where they are? Yes, maybe in the industrial age, it had to be done, but why now?

India already has a National Institute of Open Schooling. And a Virtual Open School. Why aren't enough parents taking more advantage of it? Why are we still sending children to school (I still am, even as I write this)? Is it because that schools are also a place where children go daily - thus allowing parents to work?

Why cant this be extended to simplify the process of licensing schools? (I think some part of licensing is free atleast in Karnataka - for some types of schools). So why cant it be simplified further? To make smaller schools, even in cities. And make the whole debate about RTE (A flawed law in itself) nonexistent? (The RTE ironically, in the name of making education more available, actually puts more restrictions - which has resulted in more small schools closing down)

In the olden days - and this is not going as far as the 'Gurukul' system - as late as the 1960s, children used to go to neighborhood 'teachers' who used to teach. Just a home where children used to go, learn and come back. No uniform, no big building, no big buses transporting them

One of the fascinating aspects of writing/blogging - is that once you put an idea out, it does not go away from your head, it comes back. Sometimes, you cringe that you got that idea - at other times the idea comes as a better packaged, more thought through or with more perspectives. This idea is one of them - written about here.

And this is still an evolving thought - need to read up more on this...

The long tail of languages

India is a unique country. With 122 odd major languages and 1599 other languages. And yet, the languages available in schools is dependent on many factors - like demand, availability of teachers and so on.

So, on the one hand, there are a range of options of choose from, on the other hand it is not uniform.

Here is where the power of the internet can be used. If for every language, the government made courses available online with tests and practice lessons - anybody can learn any language at home. Without having to depend on the quality of teachers, number of students and suchlike.

All they need is a standard question paper that gets delivered (and this can be automated from a huge question bank) to do the tests.

Wonder if something like this is already available?

The truth is also that schools with non English mediums of instructions are closing down in urban areas - slowly but surely. And English is the language of opportunities, the other languages deserve to be learnt - and here is where the HRD Ministry can step in and provide those opportunities.

Epilogue: I cannot read and write in my mother tongue - and that is not a great state of affairs. Considering a rich literature that is available in Tamil (and this applies to all other Indian languages) - but I cannot read it unless it is translated. This is true for many others - perhaps this is an initiative worth considering? A National Languages Mission?