Our Education system and Critical Thinking: the way forward??

This article is with the main focus on the Indian Education System which is unable to develop critical thinkers, but many things are relevant to the world at large. You will understand the connection gradually while reading. We generally curse our system and try to get rid of our responsibilities but that is not the only thing. Recently our Union Government has come up with a brilliant Education Policy. If that is implemented with genuine intentions, then also this problem, we are going to discuss here, need to be focused well for its better success.

There is a problem of illiteracy but there is a bigger problem with the so called educated elite is that either they are not reading or educated properly or even if they are they are just concentrating on cramming the information and not focusing on its implementation in the real life. I believe that my respected readers are able to understand this minor problem which is the boon of contention for many further issues resulting into constructing the directionless youth of the present world.

Here we are going to discuss the same and try to find out the way forward, this actually is necessary to be understood by the parents and the Primary school teachers. We lack giving importance to the Primary School Teachers in India, who have the potential to make or mar the future of the Nation itself. But in our country we keep them busy in all the other stuff but education.

Actually the problem is when we avoid reading or understanding what we read, then there are greater chances to accept rumors spread by many sources for their invested interests because we are unable to connect the dots to discard the irrational information stored in our minds.

What we mean by reading or what is the aim of study??

We do learn reading by imitating others in the beginning, this is what I observed in my childhood, as parents and teachers all ask us to repeat after them and gradually we are habitual of the same. My mother used to bring me story books which increased curiosity and I learnt reading and pronunciation. The reality is that not all of us do it with the curiosity to learn rather also do it just because it was asked to be done or to qualify a particular exam. But this is not the am of studies. Then what is that?? Please think over it carefully and reply to yourself, you are always free to share your opinions here in the comment box too but first reply to yourself. What I feel is that reading and study both are first step to education (which includes understanding). But studies are mainly with the aim of gaining good marks and over with the syllabus. But reading when develops interest it becomes a habit and then we start stepping towards understanding it.

For example, if we are reading something at times we get it in one go but at times it takes us another read. So our eyes always do their work but at times the brain avoids to take the signals and interpret it and it becomes even dangerous when it starts interpreting with prejudices. If a letter of our loved ones is there we will put all our energy to understand it but not much when it is a formal letter and not impacting our interests :D.

Since books or journals are written for many readers whom the author doesn’t even know, likewise it happens with the news different reader or listener interprets it with her/his own understanding. Also, this makes us feel, at times, as if the write up or the book or the story was depicting our emotions or replying to our queries etc and the author becomes our favorite or not so favorite. This particular connection makes us read more and more literature. We need to develop this interest in our new generations as well. For this we cannot force the to read a particular book rather will have to give them options where they can choose their literature of their choice and go ahead. Once they start doing that they can touch other areas too gradually but not when they have limited options.

In the general observation I have found that we normally prefer to see our kids reading the course books only or we rarely have any other book in our home. Now I can see why did I like to keep my Hindi literature course books even after exams because they developed the interest of reading in me and I never was able to read them just as a course book to qualify an exam with good marks rather they gave me a different kind of satisfaction and that is why I developed the interest in Poetry. But the same did not happen with the English Literature books those I just read somehow to give exams. When I went to the university I found almost every classmate of mine talking about English Novels which was beyond my reach then I found many of my friends had more novels than course books in their rooms and that gave them an edge to understand the language as well as many issues understand better. This gave me many more insights and I could see the clear difference between those doing this and those who did not. Since then I have observed many things which have made me write this post / article today.

Normally I have observed that they were city kids or my mother was a literature student therefore we were allowed to read many books out of course as well but not everyone has this privilege and get scolded by parents; girls are blamed to be ever characterless for reading novels at times, because it is just time pass. Whereas in cities like Kolkata I have seen many big shops are there where you can go and sit in peace to read your favourite books for free. How amazing!! isn’t it?? In Jaipur also we see many Public libraries are available where we can go and study. In London I found it was a culture to have a public or community library in every locality, where you can find books for every age group and of everykind, though may not be many books on each subject but literature for kids and youth and elderly is enough. Today we have lot many options available on internet as well. So easy to access but in want of exposure to good habits our youth is just getting knowledge from the social media university where they get no clue of real or fake news and they get misguided in want of basic understanding. Gradually they develop wrong habits and get directionless. This also depends on the culture, education standard and the social developments of the place like in India you will find most of reading culture in states of Bengal, Kerala or Maharashtra but not in the Hindi belt that much.

Where do we lack??

If you have noticed you will find libraries in almost each Government or private school, with great books and in sufficient number but there happen two things one is that there are many books which do not interest students. and number two is the pivotal thing that neither students nor teachers are aware of the importance of the existence of library there, rarely any great literature or other books are touched by students, except those related to their syllabus. The ‘culture of reading’ itself is lost somewhere. Also we see that once the kid learns reading s/he wants to read it fast and finish early to save time for playing, so do parents think that the studies should be competed at faster pace, but none of them realize that this where they are lacking the understanding part of it is lacking. Lets understand it with an example that first time when we read we just focus on the story and our mind do not understand it well to apply in the practical life, even if we are asked to analyze a particular line from the page we just read fast, we need to look at it again to reply better. Or see when we first watch a movie we just know the story and do not get much time to focus on the acting or dialogue delivery etc but when we watch it again we learn these things too. Earlier we have just gone with the emotional flow of the story.

This also happens because in want of regular reading and understanding our mind is not that active to understand the psychology behind things presented before us via different media and we are not even fully self aware. Self awareness makes our mind perform better with the basic understanding or say it increases our critical thinking. Schools as well as parents are putting kids in the race to complete the syllabus faster and forget the factor of understanding. Also when we try read things on digital medium, it is okay for the knowledge gain but I feel the connection as we have with the books is missing somewhere. May be it is a psychological but that gives a different satisfaction. Also, on computer or mobile we tend to start doing something else in between like checking mails or using social media or reading news or any other way of disturbance so the feeling or mind set is gone. Anyways, we are not here to get into this debate here, so lets move ahead. 🙂

Need to Focus on thinking and understanding

Basically the same way we set our mind to read we need to keep it on the thinkin mode as well to understand what we read or what the author wants to convey us. Actually here we confuse the concept with loud reading as the the teacher does in our class or asked us to do the same, there we need to read the lesson without a break. Or say the news reader cannot take a break in between as they need to convey the information therefore it is not good to give pause in between but while reading for ourselves we need to think over and understand it well, it also helps us connect within, have reflections of the social situations, or things around us. This is how it improves our analytical power and we develop a critical thinking. For this we can ask our kids to choose any book of their choice but the condition is that they will be telling us in brief about that, once they complete the read or you can have a discussion with them, which will further develop their interest. But we need too be careful it may also take some of the kids away from the reading habit as they may not feel free while reading or feel same as reading a text book. Therefore the better way is to avail them plenty of resources to develop interest in many areas. For this we need to avoid the digital medium as we discussed the disturbances above, because of that they find it hard to make their opinion or concentrate on one thing. Actually both putting together help gain the democratic goals of Education.

Impact of coaching institutions

Another thing to notice is that the competitive race of marks have filled the little minds wit stress of studies to get merit or a job and there the habit of reading and analyzing to develop the critical thinking has been lost somewhere. Competition is good but not this kind of environment which drags them into the darker side and personality development becomes the forgotten story. The coaching system has added fuel to the fire. This destroys even the existing normal thing, since it increases the dependence of the kids on someone else rather than individual endeavor. This kills their inner inspiration and curiosity, they are afraid of walking alone and need motivation every now and then. But that doesn’t mean that literature or reading habit give solution to any such problem; expecting that will create extra burden.

Role of childhood stories

What I feel is the hardcore literature is not going to help children develop these habits rather I personally experienced that the story books with different kinds of stuff including stories from Panch-Tantra or Akbar-Birbal, with tricky games like connecting the dots or find the difference or color the natural sceneries or other creative activities to help their curiosity grow. Even I found that the stories from our grandparents with or without a moral message have helped grow their power of imagination, they also gave us lot of information about nature, communication, human relations with other creations, information about possible problems in life, natural solutions to them, expression of emotions, experience of different feelings like fear, hope, failure or success, adventure, struggle etc. All these things together make the things interesting as they feel connected with that, therefore always just the information or the moral message is not necessary to help kids grow towards their goal. This is why if you have noticed we can find this kind of similar stories in every corner of the world, as it is the basic human behaviour.

Education system as a barrier

Is it true? Yes unfortunately :(. As we discussed earlier our present day environment of education is not helping in their sustainable development. Even the joint families helped us in many ways but now in the nuclear families parents have no time to spend with kids nor the schools give them any time beyond homework. On holidays they are busy with mobiles. This is how our kids have no place where they feel connected. Our normal stories make them feel connected in the same way as we connect with the movie characters while watching it. The moment our kids get connected with the stories they are reading they start thinking the way the character is going to play role further. And this is the start of their critical learning. Our schools first try to make them cram letters or words which takes their interest to learn away from them. The warmth of the story helps them read more and concentrate on understanding. Likewise, while reading a poem we need to focus on the words used there, but our teachers are habitual of telling us the meaning and there is no freedom to focus on the words and learn the art of poetry while connecting with our own imagination. If it is important to tell the meaning then it should not be with the translation rather creating a story around the words or lines and then letting the students know it will help them understand it. And for small kids even the voice to the words creates magic.

This way their mind will not focus on remembering the story or translating the poem rather they will work on critical evaluation or summary or analysis of the things they are reading.

What to read??

The books which help kids reflect their natural self, as we discussed earlier, the books which make them curious with the presence of happiness, loss, fear, adventure, success, etc. Basically where they get liberty to look at life or the world from all sides as they want and to try to fix is again and again in their own way, attract them the most. Same as opening and fixing the toys or fixing the puzzle pictures, help them have a holistic view of the problem and they come up with better solutions in future. This is the way to develop a picture of the world around in their minds. They have the freedom to create their own imaginary world which makes them handle the real life problems and this way they come out of things like hesitation or fear and gain self confidence. Another important thing I see here is they learn beyond the prejudices of their parents or teachers, which is absolutely necessary to empower them.

Conclusion

Actually if we focus on the sustainable development of out kids then we will have to think with the help of psychology to empower their thinking and views, while connecting with their real life feelings rather than just putting them under the burden of particular lesson or moral message from everything they read. Understanding of the behavioral psychology is more important than anything else. Authors who serve a surprise or secret or suspense in everything are a great read for kids because they give them more space to think and reflect upon. Also the pictures play a pivotal role in spending their imagination power. We need to implement the new education policy but whether or not that comes into picture, the real picture is going to change with the development of understanding and strength of critical thinking. Then only our future will get the sense of direction and contribution of human resources will be counted in the development of the nation.

Copyright @rachanadhaka

photo credit – internet

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