Over the centuries, as a tradition, we Indians have shown a lot of respect to teachers. The ‘guru’ is given the highest position in our society. And naturally, that extends to parents giving a lot of importance to education of their children.
Various governments, NGOs, individuals and private organisations have been working towards educating the masses over the years. And the good news is that our literary rate has nearly touched 80%. This is a big number for a country of 135 crore people. And the day is not far when we will have 100% literacy.
But in this upward graph of literacy, the pandemic had quite the negative impact on the education system. While the urban areas easily adopted technological changes, the rural still has to cope up.
You must have heard how school dropout rates are increasing. Many families, especially from the lower income groups, are pulling their children out of schools so that they can start working. This is a big concern.
The educated and well-to-do parents can afford new mobiles, laptops and Wi-Fi connectivity. The first-generation literate children may not have these luxuries.
The government departments, educationists and policy-makers are working to resolve the problems. But, can we also look for a solution from an alternative perspective? This is where Chanakya would come in.
Remember, he is a teacher who taught students like Chandragupta Maurya, who was from the lower strata of the society.
He said, “And (he should have) constant association with elders in learning for the sake of improving his training, since training has its root in that”
Chanakya says that learning happens not just in schools and colleges. They actually happen through association with elders. What does elders mean? The Sanskrit word is vriddha, meaning those who are grown-up and also wise. So, if children are not able to go to schools, it is best that they spend time with elders and more experienced people. Chanakya says that by doing this, training improves. And the root of any training is constant association with elders.
So, how do we practise it in our generation, especially when the education system has gone online.
Here are somethings that we can do...
1. Spend more time with elders
Look no further when you have elders at home. The pandemic has taught us that we got quality ‘family time’ because of the lockdown. Formal education has been affected, but children are learning more from their elders at home. This is the best time one can have with their grandparents too. They have all the experiences of life, but hardly anyone to share them with. So, children should take the opportunity to learn from elders at home.
Also, elders can teach children in a different manner. If your grandparents are far away, use technology and learn from them. Yes, a call to your grandparents can teach you a lot.
2. Invent new ways of teaching rural kids
The most affected during the pandemic were the rural children. They do not have the benefits of going to school. The elders of the villages should try and reach out to them. They can form a committee with school teachers and work out a strategy.
A working committee can be formed and the elders (non-teachers too) can teach children online or can find other methods of teaching. It can be fun for children too. Not just formal classes, but the elders can also teach them about the various professions that they are following and encourage children in taking up different careers.
For instance, if someone has a business in the city, the entrepreneur can take a class online and teach children something new and different. Or one can send money to buy equipment that can help them access technology.
3. Rope in senior students
I did this experiment at my Chanakya International Institute of Leadership Studies (CIILS) at Mumbai University. When my new batch of students for the Masters in Leadership Science (MA-LS) joined last year, there were no physical classes.
How could I make them learn better than just online classes? I brainstormed with the students of the previous batches. We started a ‘mentorship programme’ wherein the seniors would guide the junior students. It was so much fun for the seniors as well as the new students. When there is a gap between the teacher and student, the alumni can fill the gap. And the learning curve just goes up. Try this, it really works.
I know for every student, teacher and even parents, this is one of the most challenging phases of our times. Yet, if we apply innovative techniques, we all can look back and say, “Yes, those were the best days of my life with new learnings in new ways...”
(The writer is Founder Director of Chanakya Aanvikshiki Pvt Ltd, a best selling author and an expert on Chanakya’s teachings. He can be followed on his twitter @rchanakyapillai)