Saturday, November 28, 2009

Dear Teacher, Your Questions Are Mistaken!

A colleague brings me a second-standard-child's homework. He is flummoxed. His child can't answer it because it seems too profound. Neither can he, though he is almost, not exactly, literate. He sees me as somebody erudite, which impression I maintain by looking distracted and being a bit weird at times. And he knows I write so I could possibly have the answers. But he doesn't know I write perverse and anarchic things, things that are never read (especially this blog). He shows me the homework teacher has given his six-year-old. Oh! I exclaim this is weird, as weird can get. I don't know the answers myself. I guess I will fail a second standard test of these days. The questions (verbatim):

  • What is population?
  • What are responsible for growth?
  • Is this growth has positive effect and how?

(There are more questions along these lines, but I am ashamed to go any further.)

God! Imagine a six-year-old being asked such deeply, mentally-taxing, econo-socio-centric questions! I ask him: "Who is the teacher who has set these questions? I would like to meet him or her."

He senses my agitation and withdraws the paper, feeling contrite, as if he has really offended me.

I am confused, really am. I don't know what or who is at fault: the educational system, the poorly paid teachers, the abysmal anarchy of the questions, the overbearing dictatorial tone, the self-righteousness of it all. Apart from the language, lack of basic understanding of a child's intellectual powers, what boggles is the associations one makes with the teacher's mental state. Is that person an ogre who preys on the minds of small children? In this open letter to Kapil Sibal, I had raised some issues about the level of education in the country. Why are our children treated to such homework by such malicious teachers when they should actually be playing and enjoying themselves?

Or are we turning into a super-illiterate country, unable to grasp even the basics of language and primary education? I guess I should withdraw the request to Minister-ji it because it may have gone beyond the permissible remediable limit.


David Raphael Israel said...

Perhaps the parent should request from the teacher an example of a "correct" answer to those questions.

Perhaps the underlying conventional wisdom the sequence of questions aims to get at, may involve issues of global over-population. If this be so, it's being approached in a strangely round-about, trick-question sort of manner (I suppose).

If there is no example of an acceptable answer, then the questions themselves must be deemed unacceptable.

As the Buddha said: you're asking the wrong question. :-)

ms said...

we can't claim ignorance since english has replaced every dialect in this country, lack of grammar and poor spelling are on display everywhere. i still have to hear a conversation in english that is flawless, after 200 years of its usage. i remember the rule in primary school, only english to be spoken as soon as you enter the gate. but no one does it anymore. the teachers also conduct their classes in the regional languages, even english literature is taught in hindi at the MA level!! i cringe every time i see directions on the streets ("light vehicles to exit at entry point", "entry from back side", and on cars - "if driving rash, phone below"). the teacher who set the question paper will get away with such poor grasp of english since it is not his/her subject - i was told the other day by someone who works in the HR of a firm,"company moral is so down, i am doing best to get it up"! kapil sibal can only dream about the educational reforms, their implementation is another matter. we churn out crores and crores of "graduates" who rarely pass the english language tests required for migration. our system is a big failure - we place a huge burden on our young so that they never reach the end of the line. the scenes outside schools during final exams are heart rending - young children are left in tears by grim faced parents. no surprise when i see young parents desperate to leave for the west, "atleast they will have a childhood there, they will enjoy school and learn something. here all they do is study and study and not know anything".

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