From Kalalayam to virtual classes

Sep 26, 2022

If anyone asks me what may be the next biggest disaster our next generation is set to face, I say doubtlessly, it is their education. The system of virtual classes for as long a period as two years has shattered our children, who were otherwise also carrying the damage of syllabus overburden. The concern is squaring up.

The memory of university or college, usually known as Kalalayam in Malayalam, comes with excitement, perhaps the most exciting in the entire life. The reminiscence renders a smile. I am damn sure, for many people, the life on the campus was remarkably sweet. Kalalayam means a place or a platform to develop skills and taste for a subject at the young age of a person for a bright future. That was also a place for politics, arts and sports, great fun and what not. That was the spring season in many people’s lives. Simultaneously, a campus could nurture values, right thoughts and broader mindsets among youngsters. In that sense, the name, Kalalayam is prudently meaningful.

Sadly, today the undertone is far removed from what it means. Parents, teachers and students grope in dark to find a meaning to the term, education. Set aside the term, higher education and learning of specialised subjects. Learning endeavour by nature helps a child develop his or her talent. Everyone is born with some of the other talents. Incidentally, only the privileged few get opportunities to ride on their talent, barring some exceptional cases. In the past, celebrated artists and politicians were not much focused on their studies, but on polishing their talents for consistent improvement in their performance in their respective areas. A better counterpart was not equally luckier.

Now we have lost the meaning of education, as we have lost the meaning of Kalalayam. The erosion in meaning has much to do with the prescription of the syllabus. That has made our education system imprudently more modern under the false impression that our children will grow up and achieve everything upon learning through sophisticated systems. Our children learn everything from printed texts, except how to live a worthy life. Far removed from this, the online learning system gives hardly anything to learn. Like many parents, I too am confused. Yet, we are forcing them to embark on this virtually to betray themselves. On the other side, we become victims of the business interest of the modern education system. Tycoons made their bets rightly. Three segments such as education, pharma and algorithms thrived on the pandemic, fear and lost sense of people.

When I discussed online education with many parents, they asked me what were the other options. They showed their helplessness and limited ambition in their thinking. For all parents, missing an academic year for their children was unimaginable. They did not mind their children learning wrong lessons and acquiring lifetime sickness by addition to the cell phones. Educational Boards are letting all students pass through farcical online tests and assessments.

We have seen how buffaloes and cows take care of their progenies. They fight for their offspring when they are in danger. Every living organism takes care of its progenies as best as possible. But we seem to be unburdened with our progenies by keeping them engaged with online classes and all types of the regimental education process. When many parents say they are living for their children, it seems hard to believe. Even though we know, the hours-long daily online education is a spoiler, we cannot think of doing away with it. We know most of the students are not interested in learning online. Virtual classes make the character of children virtual, but not really. We believe, even if we know online education has many adversities, we find some solace under the notion that our children are picking up something from the routine. What are they learning? Nothing. We are making them learn how to take us for a ride. One day it will implode within the minds of children, who are put to learn online as slavery. A dagger is dangling on children’s heads.

By the time our children grow up, their elder generation will pass away. The same elder generation will save themselves from witnessing the consequences of the bad education and the burden of the unhealthy way their children were educated, as we compromised. So what are we looking for? A healthy life of our children or our false vanity about our children’s sophisticated way of education? Are we ready to say our vanity is more important than the value of our children’s healthy life?

Unfortunately, we do not mind whether our children are put to breathe toxins, acquire radiation damages or other psychosomatic damages through virtual classes or any other acrobatics we are particular about our children covering the syllabus. We need to cast away this reckless thinking and rethink prudence.

India had the model of the finest teaching system. Scriptures and epics are in the form of questions and answers. Guru has been an immaculately great embodiment. The term Gurukul emerged from this word. Guru and Gurukul – teacher and school – are inseparable from all ancient civilisations. In all these civilisations, parents, teachers and gods are equal. From them, a child learns good lessons. In history, there may have been some aberrations as we see Gurukul was closed for certain classes of people. But in such cases, children could learn good lessons from their parents and demand local situations. The learning was basically for a job, which naturally set in them a character too. Nevertheless, in the Gurukul system, a student was supposed to learn everything, which was helpful to the ward’s future life. The old generation learned more from out of syllabus, but today it has become very thin.

We came a long way by universalising education removing discrimination, which led to grand universal elementary education different from the Gurukul system. Now if we talk about it again, it would become a controversial subject. Before Macaulay conceived education began to conquer India, we had by de facto, a virtual Gurukul system for decades. That made the son of a Vaidya being a Vaidya by profession, a shopkeeper’s son becoming a shopkeeper and so on.

The British era did not set India free from the British style of education. They left “Convent education” behind us. Still, students were allowed to learn better. There was enough space for art and sports, showing that even the British style education had accommodated physical education as a part of the curricular exercise. That was an approval of the fact that physical education is equally important for children’s brain development. Until two decades ago, education was almost all-inclusive. Education retained with it the connotation of comprehensive development of mind and body. The playground was gradually becoming history as the schools and coaching classes were training them to keep up their grades. Now online specialists may advise going for a virtual playground and imagination arts!! We are in such a position to obey anything if specialists are advising. The education helps children make out the element of social animals in them. They had enough opportunities to play together with their friends. They had equally enough opportunity to choose their real friends.

Modern education deprived us of all the comforts needed for personality development. It seems nature allows human beings to develop physically and mentally in a slower phase. The long years of developing stage in one’s life are the years of schooling. That calls for our education to be attuned to the principle of nature. At the stage of mental growth, if a child’s brain is curtailed within a narrow jacket of online rituals and the syllabus without wisdom, a generation will carry with them a disaster. Once the grown-up begins to feel shattered, its consequences would be unimaginable. This will certainly create discrimination. Maybe that is what they are looking for.

Nature has given freedom for everyone to live. But we have chained our children from everything owing to many fears and misconceptions. Modern schools function like typical garrisons in the name of discipline with a drastically reduced element of sports. Many schools do not have spacious grounds and sports materials. Worse, the pandemic made everything dream and talk of history.

Children haven’t met their friends for several months. In the urban centres, they are locked up within four walls to live a life under the round-the-clock sight of parents. Not many parents are concerned about the prisoner-like life of their children. Very few parents are aware of the new generation’s mind. Others treat their children with an old generation mindset, leading to a clash and conflict of opinion. It is sharply going up in the urban atmosphere, where children and parents have limitations, besides the limitations caused by the reckless lockdown. Children are locked by pandemic laws and parents, though they are said to be naturally safe from the infection.

All good physicians who do not have any vested interests say kids have better natural immunity. That was the reason initially no scientist suggested a vaccination for below 18. Maybe, later they will advise it, as today nothing can be predicted. Still, why did we deny our kids their freedom to go out for such a long time? There should be some reasons! Surprisingly we do not want to know the reason. Usually, we are seekers of an answer to everything.

I know no parents or only a few parents are aware that a disaster is waiting. A serious divide of generation, an unknown situation is waiting for us. That would be mentally more tormenting. The child specialists may eventually speak up about what caused the torment. Counsellors will be ready with their equipment to gauge the level of our kid’s mental illness, which is unknown to us!

I wish our children should return to their typical Kalalayam. They must know the actual meaning of education; we must let them grow up as they desire. We should re-educate them about what are the colours in life that we experienced. They deserve it. Education is not just what faculties are lecturing. It is much beyond textbooks. We should have enough sense. It is time to ask authorities to reopen the schools before anything worse happens to our children.

I do not know who has swapped the name Kalalayam for the campus. An otherwise promising generation thus remains divided by our immature curricular approach, unwise policy formulation, and regimental lockdown.