Affects Eternity

Henry Brooks Adams wrote: "A teacher affects eternity; he can never tell where his influence stops". This is something we seem to have forgotten. Yet this is so true!

I understand the third National Education Policy (NEP) is about to be drafted. It's mandate is to: assess the status of the present education scenario, review the impact of the 1986 policy and the amended education policy of 1992, assimilate the feedback based on grassroot-level consultations and draft a new one keeping in mind the changed social, economic and technological context. Perfect on paper and in spirit but what frightens me is the news that the Draft will be ready by the end of the year - December -. The Committee is still being finalised. This post was not meant to be a ranting on yet another policy whose fate one can easily guess. India is replete of good intentions, perfects pieces of legislature, super sounding schemes and social programmes. The problem lies in their implementation. If I was ever given a chance to do something for the country I would first an foremost ensure that all existing projects run. Pipe dream of course!

For the last few days or more I have been meaning to write about the question du jour : tolerance; about crimes against children; about the rising graph of crime in general; about tens of thousands of people applying for a handful of jobs and so on. Perhaps I should write about all of them together as whichever way you look at the problems, there is only one true answer: education.

What the child learns will affect his life. As Jacques brazen wrote: "In teaching you cannot see the fruit of a day's work. It is invisible and remains so, maybe for twenty years". The seed planted within the home and in school will take time to grow and bloom. It is time we looked at things in a proper perspective.

The new draft policy has a huge task before it: reviewing impacts of past policies, assimilating feed back from the grassroots and keeping in mind the changed social, economic and technological context. From that they need to distill what will be the seen that will be planted in future generations.

A daunting task to say the least.

I have been an insider in the matter for the past 15 years. I remember the day when a young class VIII student came to me with her English school book and asked to underline. It took some patient prompting to understand what it was all about: in the English class the teacher barely read the text (in the occurrence an extract from Wilde's Happy Prince), proffered a short summary in Hindi and proceeded to tell the children to underline the relevant portion question wise. In the tests and exams the kids simply had to mug up the underlined portion and regurgitate it as best they could. No wonder the young girl was lost. No one had told her what to underline.

You may think that 15 years or so down the line things have changed. Yes they have but not for the better. Actually the scenario has worsened. In state run schools, classrooms designed for 50 kids have over 100 packed into them. Now even Wonder Teacher cannot do much when a period is just 35 minutes.

There are so many things that need to be addressed but if there is one thing children do not have is TIME. So whereas policies are welcome, I feel that the need of the hour is immediate remedial measures.

First and foremost we need to address the learning process and ensure that children understand what they are being taught. That of course touches upon the quality of the teacher issue and again that is another ball game.

Is there a magic formula that may help kids in school today as those are the ones I feel for the most. Let me tell you why. What most do not realise is that children today, rich or poor, have been invaded by an insidious source of information that is flooding them with data: IT. Every one possesses or has access to a smartphone. The problem is that there is no one to hold their hand through the assault and help them process the information. With hormones raging this is a true recipe for disaster: teenage pregnancies to eve teasing.

The one solution one could apply asap is access to mentors in schools of all hues. This does not need to wait for new policies to be executed. It does not require training of zillions of teachers either. What you need is identify people who could reach out to these kids. The ideal would be counsellors but to me a simple mom, a concerned soul or a gentle grandpa with the right approach could be just as good.

The children need to feel cared for and loved. That is one battle won. They need to be appreciated and valorised. Second battle. They need to feel that there is someone they can share everything with and not be chastised but guided. They need hear about positive things. These kids have no role models at all. We have to craft some for them.

The other need of the hour is the immediate introduction of sex education from an early age. There is no option and it is time we realised that. Beating around the bush will not help. There is no place for detractors.

Pipe dream again? I pray not.