Based on the lessons learnt in the last four and a half decades in Ramakrishna Mission School, Aalo (Along), West Siang District, we present a dissertation on improving academic education in Arunachal Pradesh.
Aim of Education:
By imparting education to the Arunachali child, we wish to achieve the following:
- Integration of the child with the Indian Nation.
- Empowering the child with sufficient skills to participate meaningfully in the Governmental machinery & social set-up.
- Acclimatizing the child with the basic concepts of language (at least three), science, mathematics and history, required for making sense of the natural and social phenomena occurring around him/her.
- Developing in the child a faculty to express its thoughts, feelings and emotions in terms of words, both spoken & written.
- Awakening in the child a sense of wonder, a faculty for searching for truth and a faculty of aesthetics.
- Enabling the child to become a part of a team in a meaningful way.
- Spontaneously developing in the child a capacity for delayed gratification of various hungers – in other words, sublimation of the various natural urges in the child.
- Enabling the child to acquire a valid certificate from the Board by passing the prescribed examination procedures, thereby creating a sound base for its further education in a university.
The ideas associated with academic improvement can be classified under two headings – Academia & Discipline.
- Syllabus & plan for its completion: Since the School will have to be affiliated to any one of the recognized Boards, such as CBSE, New Delhi or Arun Board, Itanagar, there is no flexibility or freedom in framing the syllabus, as such. But regarding completion of the syllabus, the School can plan in great detail, much to the greater benefit of the students. The completion of syllabus must be evenly phased out through out the working year so that the load on the student is even. Especially for the Board Exam classes such as Class VIII, Class X & Class XII, the entire syllabus must be completed by December, so that the student gets sufficient time for self-study and repeated revisions.
- Exams & tests: At least three exams must be conducted before deciding whether the child can be sent to the next higher class. The syllabus for the 1st Part Exam need not be repeated for the 2nd part exam and so also for the 3rd and final part exam. This will reduce the load on the child as well as give the child sufficient scope to dive deep into the syllabus meant for that particular semester. Monthly Tests must be held, especially in English, Math and Science. This will keep the child always in touch with the subjects. Else, the typical Arunachali child has the habit of studying only during the exam period, which could be academically detrimental for its intellectual growth.
- Hostel life versus Day scholarship: In the general situation prevailing in the Arunachali society now-a-days, the child may often not get a congenial study atmosphere at home. A strictly run hostel, however, provides wonderful opportunities for study culture in the child. By the time a child enters a hostel at the age of 5 years, he/she must have learnt to control its bowel movements. By the time it crosses the age of 10, it should have learnt to sit continuously at one place for at least 2 hours at a stretch. Without this training, study habit cannot be formed. By the age of 13, it should be introduced to the moral training of restraining its limbs and senses. A hostel environment is ideal for achieving these.
- Unisex schooling versus co-educational schooling: It is heartening to note that the Arunachali society has inbuilt systems for meaningful and healthy interaction between boys and girls, right from babyhood. Unisex schooling could upset this advantage. Thus, even where hostels are provided, it would be socially beneficial to have both boys and girls in the school.
- Role of games, sports & PT: The Arunachali child has an instinctual ability for team work. Hence these children excel in team sports like football, handball, volleyball and cricket. However, there is a need to popularize games that enhance mental abilities such as chess, sudoku, crossword and scrabble. A hostel environment is ideal for this. The natural litheness and suppleness of the Arunachali child’s body makes it ideal for acrobatic games such as gymnastics. Hence the school must have a gymnastics teacher. Every child must be given physical training instruction through drills and exercises in the morning. This helps the child to regulate its limb movements.
- Role of co-curricula: Children have tremendous energy. And the Arunachali child seems to be especially so endowed. Various opportunities must be provided by the school for canalizing this energy in meaningful ways. NCC, Social service, scouts & guides, and band training must be provided for the extroverted child. Depending on the child’s preference, it can opt for any one of these from Class VI. Painting, clay modeling, Crafts and origami training must be available for the aesthetically oriented child. Quiz groups, debate groups, study circles and philately clubs must be available in the school for the intellectual child.
- Role of art: Compulsory training in line drawing and color drawing must be given in the school right from KG up to at least Class VIII. After Class V, however, the specially endowed children must be identified and given further training in advanced forms of drawing and painting such as landscaping, perspective drawing and abstract art. Structured music must be taught to the child. Every Arunachali child today grows up being able to sing only contemporary songs of the cinema and music bands. This however does nothing to infuse culture in the child. Structured music, on the other hand, strengthens the personality of the child. The child that is unable to sing classical music must at least be taught to appreciate it. Avenues must be available for the child to learn to play some musical instruments like the harmonium, tabla, flute, guitar and the mouth organ. It is very strange that this land of bamboos does not have flautists. Girls must be taught structured dances of various cultures, apart from traditional tribal dance forms. This will result in infusion of cultures later on in the Arunachali society. The innate ability of the Arunachali child to draw, paint, sing and dance is something unparalleled in the world. This ability has not drawn the world’s attention purely because there is still no systematic training being imparted to the Arunachali child in these fields.
- Need of the Library & reading room: The child must be exposed to the world of books. By the time a child passes class VIII, he/she must have developed a habit of spending at least a solitary hour with a book, speaking to the author through its contents. Awakening a love of reading in the child is one of the great achievements of the school.
- Need of computer education: Compulsory computer education must be imparted to the child at least from class V onwards. By the time a child passes class VIII, he/she must be conversant with working on MS office and browsing the worldwide web.
- Instruments for developing National Consciousness: By the time a child passes class VIII, he/she must have a clear identification with the State and the Country. National pride in every child is the greatest security that the nation can have. Special assemblies on Martyrs’ Day, Sadbhavana Divas, etc must be conducted by the school. Processions and Prabhat Pheris must be organized by the School and the children must be encouraged to participate in them at least once a year. Children must be guided to prepare wall magazines on topics related to Indian Nationalist movement, Nationalist leaders and issues concerning the nation presently.
- Instruments for developing Time Consciousness: the primary instrument is the Morning Assembly. Every child must be encouraged to attend it. The Assembly must be meaningfully structured and must be short. Other instruments include a strict time keeper in the school and hostel. Every day, he shall ring the bell at the stipulated hours, and this must be adhered to at any cost. The child who learns to stick to the routine by the clock during its school days will develop healthy work habits later on in life.
- Discipline defined: As we have noted in Sl.No. 3 under ‘Academia’ supra, by the time a child enters a hostel at the age of 5 years, he/she must have learnt to control its bowel movements. Without this habit, the child won’t have a healthy psychological growth. By the time it crosses the age of 10, it should have learnt to sit continuously at one place for at least 2 hours at a stretch. Without this training, study habit cannot be formed. By the age of 13, it should be introduced to the moral training of restraining its limbs and senses. Thus discipline means training of the sensory and motor organs.
- Instruments for disciplining the child:
- Dressing: Uniform must be worn. And that too in a particular fashion only. Hairstyle and footwear must not be allowed to deviate beyond a permissible limit.
- Routine: every child must stick to the routine as maintained by the school and hostel time keeper.
- Attendance: the child cannot be allowed to be absent from school or hostel without notice.
- Punishments for deviations from the norm:
- The norms must be clearly spelt out for the child again and again, and from time to time.
- The punishment for deviation from the norm must be aimed at the conscience of the child and not at its ego or self-esteem. Quite often, we hurt the self-esteem of the child while punishing him/her and this is counter-productive in the long run. We only end up creating imbalanced individuals by doing so.
- Corporal punishment must be avoided at every cost, even for small children of the KG and primary classes.
- While punishing adolescent children, special care must be taken to safeguard their self-esteem and image in the student-society.
- Counseling: Children everywhere need counseling. And the Arunachali child needs it all the more. We say this because the Arunachali child starts asserting its individuality much earlier than children in most other parts of India. So the teachers need to enter into quasi-parental relationships with the child and teach the child what right behavior is & what prohibited behavior is.
- Factors to be considered while disciplining the child:
- All too often, disciplining the child tends to be negative. The child is taught ‘Don’t tell lies’. But the child is not taught how not to tell a lie. More importantly, the child gets punished if it tells the truth in most cases. Whatever be the case, whatever be the actual event or situation, when the child speaks the truth, it must be rewarded. That is the only way of establishing discipline and reinforcing discipline in the child. In this regard, teachers need to be specially trained in handling Arunachali children.
- The present system of education depends largely on strict parental control over the child’s mind and its behavior. The Arunachali social set-up frees the child from parental control by the time the child reaches the age of 12, especially for boys, as we have seen. Unless this system is altered, and parental control remains until the child finishes its university education, there seems to be hardly any way in which the present system of education can benefit Arunachali society. In this regard, the school aught to form a Parent-Teachers Association and discuss this matter seriously between themselves.
- Since parental control relaxes itself too early in the child’s life, the Arunachali child forms very strong peer relationships. But peer relationships can never provide a moral standard for the child. At the same time, no peer relationship must be forcibly broken by either teachers or parents. Forcible isolation of the child from its peer circle is counter-productive. Again, counseling by the teachers, who have to double-up as quasi-parents, and strengthening of parental control over the child alone can remedy the situation and provide the child with a solid moral rudder for forming its personality.
- Children learn by imitation. Hence our behavior while children are around must be highly regulated. For instance, it won’t work if we are impulsive and blow our top for every small reason and then expect the child to be calm and composed. Children seldom listen to our words. Rather they study our actions and then follow suit. If a child does not show respect to elders, we can be sure that he/she has seen some of us behaving disrespectfully towards those persons. If a child does not show sympathy and consideration towards other children, we can be sure that we have not set examples of sympathy & fellow-consideration in the vicinity of the child. It is impossible to invoke moral behavior in the child while we exhibit corrupt practices ourselves.
- Consumption of intoxicants among adolescents in Arunachal Pradesh must be given serious thought by both teachers and parents. Children are too susceptible for addictions. The Arunachali society, which is undergoing a transition, must urgently bring in certain checks & measures to prevent sale of intoxicants to minors. Teachers must regularly explain to the child the terrible consequences of substance abuse on the tender organs of the growing child.
Sympathetic teachers-Arunachal’s need of the hour:
True education boils down to presenting persons of high character, in the form of teachers, before the child during its schooling period. Especially for the Arunachali child, we need teachers, who can truly sympathize with the child, because the Arunachali child is typically very sensitive and has a soul of great plasticity. It is easy to find teachers who are stentorian and strict disciplinarians, whose stickler attitudes stifle the child rather than allowing it to blossom. But persons who can empathize with the child are needed in large numbers, and they are needed urgently; and once we get such persons, they must be encouraged to stick around.
This is a land of great potential in terms of human resources. Great potential also means greater responsibility in nurturing it and harnessing it.
We pray to the Lord Almighty that this immense potential finds its fullest manifestation.