What sets humans apart from animals is our ability to reason. Perhaps that is why we have been able to develop as a race, by questioning age old norms and doing away with traditions that avert progress. However, is our Education system training young minds to question and reason? Are we producing thinking beings or another Flaubert’s Bouvard and Pecuchets?
Education in Nagaland
It is exam time in Nagaland. Across the state, as colleges under the Nagaland University system embark on the end-of-the-term semester exams, it is also a time to ponder on what the ‘exams’ in our educational system signify. It is worth reflecting on this issue because one will soon realize the problems intrinsic in the existing arrangement. Any astute person who bothers to do so will soon realize that exam times are when students tirelessly memorize the received information shoved into them by their teachers in the past four months. What is also interesting about such culture of preparations is that students completely disgorge the memorized materials from their mind, body and soul, that, after the exams, nothing of what they have learned remains with them. Now, is this learning? Is this education? Is this even sensible?
Surely, it would be imprudent to blame the students for memorizing the materials because such study-culture stems from the way in which the entire educational structure is organized in Nagaland. I believe that there is a threefold structural problem inherent in this arrangement: the syllabi, the state university system and the quality of teachers. It is also essential to note that these three problems are in concatenation and must not be viewed as factors independent of one another.
The syllabi of Nagaland University is obsolete and unnecessarily vast. Indeed, I encourage concerned readers to check the NU’s website to substantiate this claim. If one looks, for instance, at the curricula of our state’s most prevalent Honors such as Political Science, English, Sociology, History, Education etc., one will soon realize not only the obsoleteness but also the needless immensity of the curricula. Let me elaborate using some cases to illustrate the problem.
English honors students in their first semester are required to study a paper titled ‘History of English Literature.’ Here, the teachers and students are obliged to complete, in the space of four months, 800 plus years of English literature. The problem is, there are too many unwarranted facts for the students to digest. This leaves them overwhelmed and at the same time bewildered in the labyrinth of facts that renders this course useless. Of what use are these facts, hastily transiting from one period to another when the learners are given neither the time nor the space to retain and reflect on how these ‘facts’ are incorporated in the larger realm of their understanding of the English literature?
Another case in point concerns two papers in the curriculum of Political Science. In the third and fourth semester, Political Science honors students take the prerequisite papers on ‘International Organization’ and ‘International Politics’ respectively. The issue here is that the latter should be taken in the third semester and the former in the fourth semester. How can students understand international organization when they aren’t even aware of the basic fundamentals of international politics essential for understanding the theoretical and practical underpinnings of international organizations? This is equivalent to putting the cart before the horse! Furthermore, even some of the topics within international organization are superfluous such as ‘the League of Nations.’ I do not know of any educational institutions anywhere in the world where so much weight (20/100) is given to an obsolete topic.
I could certainly go on citing more examples but that would be needless. And mind you, these are not isolated cases. Cases such as these pervade Sociology, History, Education, and Anthropology. Additionally, each syllabus is permeated with the terms ‘nature, scope, meaning, and significance’ further solidifying the ‘learn-by-heart’ culture of education. What can be ascertained is that the curricula have been so structured that they, implicitly or explicitly, highlight the prominence of memorization stemming from the gratuitous enormity of the dated syllabi, where importance is given to quantity of facts shoved down the students’ throats rather than reasoning or understanding.
What’s more, when the state government, assisted by inept faculties of the state university, decides on a top-down basis on how education should be structured, operated and what curricula should be implemented, as is the case in Nagaland, then one must not expect such educational arrangement to be first-rated or even second-rated. Rather such is a breeding ground for mediocrity, for state government committees with their command and control structure, isolate and alienate both the teachers and the learners. And in most cases, learning and education altogether cease to exist.
Lastly, because of the curricula and the structure of education, quality of teachers becomes ancillary. Certainly, there is no shortage of qualified teachers; however, ‘qualified’ does not mean Quality. The issue here is, the present system in place to judge the ‘quality’ is faulty. Just because teachers have a Ph.D., M.Phil, NET, etc., it does not mean they have the ‘Quality.’ Rather they are products of a system where they’ve been trained to memorize and aver from reasoning. What’s more, this culture perpetuates itself unto the next generation and so on.
Readers would have realized that each problem feeds off the other. They are in cyclical relationship perpetuating the noxious system of education that puts an end to the hopes and aspirations of countless students. No doubt, aforementioned problems can be remedied, yet they nevertheless require concrete efforts on the part of the teachers, students, colleges, and society.
I hope readers will graciously forgive me if I have given any cause for offense, for that is not my intent. After all, this is just a pensive rumination of a concerned teacher on the future of his students.
Degree of Thought is a weekly community column initiated by Tetso College in partnership with The Morung Express. Degree of Thought will delve into the social, cultural, political and educational issues around us. The views expressed here do not reflect the opinion of the institution. Tetso College is a NAAC Accredited UGC recognized Commerce and Arts College. The editors are Dr. Hewasa Lorin, Anjan Behera, Dr. Salikyu Sangtam, Nivibo Yiki, and Kvulo Lorin. For feedback or comments please email: firstname.lastname@example.org.