What then is the True Purpose of Education ?

This Independence Day I got an opportunity to be part of the prestigious celebration in one of the reputed schools of the town. It was after years I was to attend the Independence Day function at school. Naturally I was excited and eager to revisit school days. The enthusiasm and energy that school children radiate is amazing.

While I was driving down to school I recalled my school days and the preparations that were done to celebrate this day, which holds great significance in the life of every Indian. The struggle of our freedom fighters was remembered with great respect and gratitude. Speeches eulogising the sacrifices of the brave warriors of freedom were carefully rehearsed. The achievements of independent India were highlighted. One had to go through tough competition before getting selected to deliver the speech on the final day of performance on 15th of August, the Indpendece Day of India. Several competitions like patriotic song competition,  folk dance competition,  essay writing , debates or poetry recitation based on patriotic themes were organised by the school. The environment was electrified with the gusto and fervour of the students.

The smart cadets of the National Cadet Corps (N.C.C) dressed in immaculately clean uniforms, forward marched with brisk steps and saluted the Indian tricolour ; it was a sight to remember. Their was something in their body language, spirit and confidence that automatically aroused the spirit of ‘Unity’ and ‘Discipline’  (which is also the motto of N.C.C.) among the eye witnesses. Even though several years have passed but those images are still fresh in my mind as if they happened just yesterday.

I was so engrossed in my thoughts that I did not realise that I had almost arrived at my destination. I walked inside the entrance gate and looked around expecting to find a huge group of energetic young girls and boys and the disciplined school staff to greet me, but to my utter dismay I found just a handful of students and teachers gathered in a small area looking bored and weary . Upon questioning where the function would take place; a hesitant girl shyly escorted me to a nearby shaded space with some chairs placed in rows and occupied by few parents and small children.  After a while, the school teachers walked down  sloppily and stood by the shade. After a long wait, with some background music being played by the school choir ,and a few patriotic slogans that were being raised by one of the teachers, I found the staff and children struggling to maintain the flow. They appeared pretty uninspired and confused. The person shouting slogans would insist upon the students and participants to repeat them after him. The response was both cold and poor. Attendance was thin,  energy was minimal and enthusiasm was zero. It was such a sorry sight and in complete contrast to what I had experienced or expected; this made me question, “what was wrong with these people?’ Yet, I patiently waited for the students to perform. It turned out to be a futile wait. There were two to three speeches and two short performances all by the teachers and the administrative authorities. Here, I would refrain myself from making any observations on them and reserve that for future interaction with my readers.  However, what struck me particularly was the fact that not even a single student was invited on stage to perform or participate in the event. What I have known or understood over the years is that any occasion like this is a platform to  bolster the confidence of the students. This is the time to provide opportunity to young people to overcome their inhibitions and exhibit their talent.

It is the primary responsibility of any academic/ educational institution to focus on the formation of a rounded personality of its pupil. Students learn more by doing rather than by imitating. Students should be active participants rather than mute spectators. They should live and learn through the experiences they undergo. If a student speaks well, let him deliver the speech; if a student sings well motivate him to sing on stage; if a student is good at organizing , allow him to experiment. Let your students take initiatives, allow them to commit mistakes, mistakes make them wise that is what we mean when we preach, “Mistakes are the stepping stones to success”. Let them take the ownership, inspire them to let loose their creativity. Children are creative, help them to exploit their potential, empower them to express their talent, groom them to become self_reliant and independent. Is it not the aim of teaching? If we fail to motivate our students then the very purpose of teaching _learning process is defeated.

I believe the students appeared quite dull and disinterested as they were not actively involved. To make the students more interested we should adopt a strategy to let them explore,  investigate and experience the principles of life by doing things themselves.  Of course, the supervision and guidance of the teachers and guardians is must to ensure the effectiveness of learning.

Let every child be inspired through consistent support and encouragement. To empower the student to grow and excel is the primary purpose of education .

As I conclude,  I leave you with this strong message by famous poet William Butler Yeats :

“Education is not the filling of a pail but the lighting of fire”

Keep lighting the fire…

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