When anyone tells me I can’t do anything, I’m just not listening anymore
-Florence Griffith Joyner
Five years back during a clinical rotation, one of my supervisors instructed me to mind my business in response to a question I asked her. I was an inquisitive undergraduate student who asked her, ” ******** ma’m, what does ***** (referring to the child with disability) do when he goes home after the therapy session?” And the title was her answer to my question also followed by, “Why does it bother you to think beyond what you are told to do?”. All this while she is rolling her eyes and exchanging looks with her colleagues.
Why did I ask her the question?
The child who was receiving therapy was a 14-year boy who was diagnosed with cerebral palsy. His mother carried him to the department every time he came down for physiotherapy. He was taller than his mother yet she carried him every where they went. He went to a private school that denied his promotion to higher grades after a certain grade. They just couldn’t provide him with a lift to attend the classes on third floor and also refused to move the class. I asked my supervisor that question because everyday this boy went back to an almost nil physical activity situation at his house. He was beginning to gain weight and his mother struggled to carry him with each passing day. Lack of physical activity was also affecting his overall health (muscular and cardiovascular health). For my brain, the obvious thing to think was, “Is there a way for us to get him to move more every day? Can we arrange for assistance? “. I was told to shut up and not think beyond delivering physiotherapy interventions that were so archaic that it would make the relics in Salar Jung museum look new.
Fast forward to a couple of weeks back when Dr. Kalam passed away. I won’t lie. That week I almost went back to every Youtube speech that was available of Dr. Kalam. Many of which I never heard before. Of all the questions students asked Dr. Kalam, the ones that stood out for me where the ones that revolved around ‘education/scientific research system reform’ in our country. The above scene from my undergraduate days is exactly the reason why Indian education system is so messed up. It is because a majority of ‘faculty’ in educational institutions are ‘never’ trained to be teachers. They are trained to work as clinicians, law enforcement officers, so on and so forth. I will refrain from commenting about faculty in engineering or technology related fields. In fields that involve human beings as the clients for health related direct services, how many teachers are taught and trained to be teaching in classrooms?
What happened to me and what happens to a lot of students in classrooms across India is that we are told not to question. We are only supposed to follow instructions
Rewind back to my physics class in high school, I once asked my physics teacher why a particular reaction would give that particular result. I was told to shut up and just read what was in the textbook. I am sure I am not alone. This must have happened to many of us. Training to be a teacher does not end at earning a degree. It is a constant process. It is never ending. You are always working with your students and they are always training you to be the best teacher you can ever be. The teachers who have that attitude towards their jobs are the history makers.
What am I trying to say here?
Reviewing through pages legislation and policies for education in India, I understand that:
- India’s education laws are archaic (almost)
- Most of the Acts that guide the delivery of education services in our country are very vague
- Where there are a few good and modern clauses in those Acts, there is a gap between enforcement and reviewing of the service delivery
- Teacher training guidelines are very generic and lack clear instructions on addressing the needs of each specialization. There is a lot of ambiguity.
- Guidelines still show a lack of connection to the real world
- Use of technology is missing in the teacher training scene
- Websites of most of these organizations need serious updating (I am thankful for the fact that the ministries have their websites updated)
How can we begin addressing this situation
Only when more urban Indians with financial and social security take up professions like teaching will we be able to start a change. Please I am not referring to Teach for India. I am talking full length walk of B. Ed, M. Ed, M. Phil, PhD that kind!
More students/parents should question the quality of education that is delivered in private institutions too.
Reading more about the legislation in our country is a great way to begin understanding the system.
Without spending time to read about the history of a problem and the legislation associated with it, we will be wasting our time every time we complain on social networking.
Like every student of science knows, if scientific questioning is not encouraged in the schools, we cannot produce citizens who will love their education.
And only students who will love the education they receive will be interested to become researchers. There is a severe need for more research and publication of data outlining social phenomena in our country. So before we start getting disheartened every time a negative news is reported, spend time to look up the research conducted in India on that specific topic. You never know what might ignite your mind.
~SriPadmini Chennapragada aka Jussri