Recently about a month back, one news, which was circulated widely by the MSMs was about how over 5 lakh UP Board students gave exams a miss after Yogi Adityanath-led Government installed CCTV cameras. Then came news about the SSC paper leak in Delhi. And last week was full of news about the CBSE paper leak of the 10th and the 12th standards. As expected, the social media picked this up with gusto and Prime Minister Narendra Modi was blamed, the HRD Ministry was blamed, the CBSE chief was blamed and Rahul Gandhi even put up a tweet on the ‘leaks’ (sic) of PM Modi. And there were counter-arguments on how papers were leaked from the 70s onwards and were not a new phenomenon at all. Students, who did not look one bit like they were 15 or 17 years old, protested violently in Delhi and elsewhere and the matter escalated like never before.
In this melee, one noise was shut out completely. The noise made by our conscience when we do something wrong.
In the Mahabharata, many instances of cheating have been depicted. Of these, two famous instances are related to education. One is the famous episode of Dronacharya asking Ekalavya for his thumb and the second is of Parashurama cursing Karna. Both these stories have, in the last few years, been twisted to show that this was how Brahmins prevented lower caste people from learning. But in my mind, this was a case of exemplary punishment meted out because these students attained Vidya (education) by cheating their Gurus.
In the case of Ekalavya, Dronacharya refused to become his Guru because Drona had promised Bhishma that he would teach the Pandavas and the Kauravas and none other. Despite this, Ekalavya made a statue of Drona, treated it as his Guru and learnt the art of archery. Ekalavya could have gone to another Guru but he did not do so. I equate this to a modern day student wanting to learn at a premier institute though he cannot get through the admission process laid down. In the case of Karna too, though he knew that Parashurama had laid down his arms, he pretended to be a Brahmin and asked Parashurama for a favour, fraudulently. In both these cases, the Gurus punished the students that they would not be able to use their knowledge to its pinnacle especially when they needed it the most. As is known to readers, both Ekalavya and Karna chose to fight on the side of adharma (no surprises here) and died on the battlefield.
Once a path to achieving knowledge via fraudulent means is chosen, that knowledge will be used only for adharma. No good can come of it.
While watching the debates on TV I realized one thing – that most commentators were only worried about the lapse in procedure. Many also spoke about how it was a ploy to defame the Government schools, the board and the Government itself. Many said that it was a systemic failure of the education system itself in Bharat where only marks obtained mattered. To my mind, it was actually a failure of our ‘society’ itself, where we have not been able to teach our children the value of honest efforts. We do know that cheating in exams started in a big way during the ‘70s (it existed a little, even earlier) via copying in exam halls and also paper leaks. Then why are we surprised that a decade later we became among the ‘most corrupt nations in the world’? Can education, got through wrong means lead to a society of people having a noble character?
For any knowledge absorption, 4 conditions are to be fulfilled:
- The interest of the student
- The worthiness of the student
- The interest of the teacher
- The worthiness of the teacher
The first two largely depend on the next two. It is the teacher who can mould the student in such a way as to increase the interest and the absorption capacity of the student. For this, the teacher herself/himself has to be completely involved in the mentoring process and keeping oneself updated with the topic and teaching techniques, both. Also, the teacher has to possess compassion and integrity. An indifferent teacher is the biggest loss to the student.
Certain problems w.r.t. teachers, which the HRD Ministry has to look into are the following:
- Employment of teachers to be strictly on merit based – the future of our nation depends on good teachers.
- Repeat training in the respective subject for all the teachers.
- Refrain from using teachers for duties which have no connection to the education process – for eg. Polling duty, Census duty, etc.
- The motivation for teachers via awards, better salaries, other facilities (for eg. Railway/Plane reservations), etc.
When we see Japan as a civilized and disciplined society, we have to appreciate the fact that this starts at schools. It is time we taught discipline and integrity in schools irrespective of whether they are private or public schools. We must also teach our children to value, the dignity of labour. The solution to reducing exam stress does not lie in the scrapping of exams in lower classes. It lies in encouraging students to excel in the subject they love the most. Else, we will continue to remain in the vicious cycle of ‘marks gathering’ instead of ‘knowledge gathering’.
I happened to see a video of a student asking PM Modi whether he considers 2019 as a board exam and whether he is prepared. I am so proud of my PM for telling the student that he puts in his best efforts for the betterment of society, not for the results that any election could throw up. Dr APJ Abdul Kalam too exhorted students to put in their best and not worry about the results. In fact, he once quoted, “The best brains of the nation can be found on the last benches of the classrooms.” Isn’t this what every teacher, every school should be teaching their students? To learn the subject and not the words, to love the subject and not the marks received.