Teacher, can I please be a dancer?

Take a minute and think about the time you were a kid and thought of your future self.  All of us, at one point, have had a visual of us as grownups, doing something, enjoying it and making our lives about it.

As a kid, I went to dance classes twice a week and to school five times. I wonder how it would have been if the schedule of these two was interchanged. I wanted to be a dancer. But the problem was that I didn’t know I could be one. It wasn’t my lack of ability, but the absence of choice.

Like religion, caste system, money, education is a topic that goes deep with people. Almost everyone takes a deep interest in this subject because it helps them view the future and get a grasp of it.

A few months back, I was teaching in a low-income private school, when I had an epiphany that I was making my kids go through the same rut that I went through, perusing the same matter that I did as a kid and I had to quit. I could no longer be a part of a system that refuses to change with time and doesn’t adopt ways that would be the most beneficial to its recipients.

As Indians, we’ve come a long way from being a part of the Gurukul system of education that was born in the country to following an education that was dictated by our colonial masters.

The Gurukul system of education that was largely popular and practiced before Independence entailed a rigorous, intensive form of educational training that was conducted by the ‘Guru’ (the teacher). Anyone could be a student irrespective of his/her social standing and this method focused on the overall development of the student. They were taught science, grammar, skills, pronunciation, logic and their practical application. The teaching methods used in the Gurukul system were reasoning and questioning. Most importantly, there was no time limit allotted for the completion of the course and the each student would be given the amount of time required to perfect the art. This system was not regulated by a central authority and a free market existed, in which the students could choose the Guru they wanted to learn from, allowing for ideas to compete freely, no matter how radical they would be.

Coming back to the point and age, the budget allotted to education in India today remains as low as 4 percent of the total expenditure and the United Nations Organization ranks the country 147th out of the 181 countries competing on grounds of their respective educations systems.

We are a product of an education system that is centrally regulated, such that decisions are taken by the authority that has passed through the same training. This allows very little scope for innovations and improvements and the resultant is a static structure.

In India, any institute for higher education must operate as a not-for profit organization. The law looks at education as something that shouldn’t be profitable and this is where we’re losing out on people with entrepreneurial mindsets, having extraordinary ideas but minuscule incentives in exchange.

However, many of the institutions running in the country at present are owned by people in an effort to hide illegal earnings and they end up with unimaginable profits from the not-for profit business. There are less than handful teachers who are revolutionary and who will infuse the system with world-changing examples. These schools that provide teachers with rewards are often very expensive for students and that’s where the inequality proves to be fatal. Owing to these points, deregulation of education is what will bring about a revolution in this sector.

Imagine this situation. All of us think of education that is imparted in schools run by corporates. Now, think of what should be done to radicalize this – anyone with the zeal to educate and with ideas should be allowed to start a school. Students will have a range of educators to choose from, healthy competition will exist, the best will survive and the quality of knowledge imparted will be the highest. As incentives,
profit-making should be allowed and this will be encouraging for entrepreneurs and innovators to take interest in this field. Moreover, teachers should be the highest salary takers since they play a huge role in determining the future of the society.

Additionally, the content that is taught in Indian schools is decided by the government of the country. Everyone is put under the same umbrella of following a particular syllabus decided by the so-called servants of the masters.

Revisiting the adage of ‘every human is different and so are his needs’, it exposes fairly conclusively a truth that every child is a different learner with different interests. Customizing education to suit the needs of the child is what should be demanded. One might further argue that an institution as large as a school in today’s time can possibly not cater to this demand. A suitable answer to this problem is private schooling, e-learning or self-learning, famously known as home schooling. Central regulation kills choice, and stifles innovation too.

Schools today run for around 7 hours and are designed with packed time tables leaving no time for the kids to think, innovate and realize their inclinations. All kids are made to study the same subject for the first ten years and then finally select one of the three streams. This practice undermines creativity and inclinations of students instead of nurturing. The school system mars their inquisitiveness and very few gather the courage to break free. Majority of the students go to school, because they are made to and very few can retain the curiosity to learn. Students should be given enough time to think and come up with new ideas, realize their inclinations and proper facilitation should be made to enable them to pursue those. Stereotypical schooling makes little sense when many of the most successful people in the world have explored the road not usually taken. Walt Disney, Charles Dickens, Elton John are just a few of them who dropped out or never went to school. It’s not the absence of schooling that made the difference; it was discovering their inclinations and pursuing those, that did the trick. Our system focuses on theoretical knowledge as opposed to its practical know-how. Its primary use has been made to climb the social and economic ladder and to seek public approval. Amidst all this, learning takes a backseat.

The British brought about educational reforms in India, destroying our foolproof existing system of education for the sole reason of manufacturing slaves who had an English mindset, to help rule the masses, and to cut costs in importing British men for administrative jobs. Apathetically, very few changes have been introduced in the system thereafter, and originality is often not spoken about in schools in India today. The aim of our education system should be to establish centers for educational excellence, to fuel a knowledge based economy instead of establishing units for manufacturing followers of certain set psyches of the world, making it look like an assembly line.

It is mind-boggling to realize how simple it is to find loopholes in this system. Many of us are consciously aware of all the problems, but still, very little has been done by the people, by the government to bring about change. While it may be the inactive, nonreactive nature of the takers, it appears to be a well-thought of conspiracy of the decision makers, because such perceptible misjudgments are difficult to make thoughtlessly, and deception has evidently become a habit.

What you can now do for yourself is that if you want to be a dancer, know that you can. Go ahead, put on your dancing shoes.


4 thoughts on “Teacher, can I please be a dancer?

Add yours

  1. I am happy I came across your article a friend shared on FB.
    I share your views, and it frustrates me to see it happening over and over again in our education system, no matter how expensive the schools are getting. I live in U.S. And I really do like the Montessori method of teaching here. I wonder if India might be able to adopt Montessori teaching one day, it might help. It is similar to Gurukul system you mentioned ( I don’t have too much knowledge about it, but My opinion is based on the experience of sending my son to a Montessori here).
    Congratulations on your article being published!


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