Few incidents over the last couple of weeks made me look up the meaning of school in the dictionary. As per Dictionary:
noun: school; plural noun: schools
1. an institution for educating children.
2. any institution at which instruction is given in a particular discipline.
Finished school about 25 years ago. I may be a little outdated, That’s what even I considered schools to be. Not because the dictionary says so. But we felt so, while we were in school. There was a lot that we learnt at school. From the books, our syllabus and curriculum. We had numerous activities like sports, debates, quiz competitions, cultural and co-curricular activities, apart from academics. Though we didn’t have a lot of facilities and infrastructure, but let's skip them for now.
Talking about knowledge and education. I still remember a lot from my school days- the basic concepts and even its application. Many a times I am amazed, rather shocked at the lack of knowledge and understanding of school kids these days.
Business of education
These days, schools and institutions are mushrooming everywhere. I understand the need for schooling and education. It's the making a business out of it that bothers me. I went to a government school where the fees were subsidized. Even there, my nephew today is paying 26 times the fees. I am sure the inflation hasn’t risen 2600% over the last 25 years. Compare to the fees of some private schools, I feel, is a futile exercise. Sufficient to say, school charge a bomb. Not only the great schools, but every other school.
Return on investment
Since school have become a business, it's better to apply a business matrix. For the kind of investment what is the school providing in return. I have interacted with many parents and children across cities and countries. Most of the schools and teaching are just reproducing the contents of the book on the blackboard/whiteboard/projectors/screens. That too, not very efficiently or effectively. The kids do not understand the very basic concepts and fail to apply anything. They however, can effectively replicate (in most cases) what's fed to them. So, is this return justified for the price we are paying?
There are a few exception, where the child development, skill sets imparted and teaching methods used are par excellence. Like I said, these are exceptions. The administrators are running a profitable factory, but the investors (parents) are not getting a return on their investment (Smart educated children).
Recently, one of my friends kid was having difficulty following math, and scored low. The class teacher sent a written undertaking with the kid asking the parents to put in specific number of hours revising the curriculum (Parents had to sign it and submit it to school). A particular parent refused to sign it. Similar undertaking was required to be signed by not just this kid's parent, but was applicable to all, irrespective of performance.
Does the school give an undertaking to all the parents that it will do x,y, and z for each student. They will pay attention and work upon to build an understanding of all that they teach (rather claim to teach). What is the school responsible for? Accountable for? What right do they have to ask for a written undertaking of all parents? Aren't they the one who should in fact be signing an undertaking?
A fortnight later, the kid had another exam in math, and the parent spent 2-3 hours a day for 3 days before the exam with the kid. The kid got 3rd Highest marks in the class. Reason: the kid never understood anything in class. Like the teachers replicating the book on the board, the kid replicated the same in the notebook. Copying all, understanding nothing. Without any understanding, failure in the test was natural.
If with 6-8 hours or effort, the kids could get 3rd highest, what were the teachers doing in all the hours they are supposed to dedicate to kids and the education.
If this is all it takes to make a kid understand some basic concepts and improve his performance in a test, what was preventing the teacher or the school from doing this? (I question the very premise of assessing based on standardized tests- but will leave it for now). In fact even if this is not adequate, the teacher and school must do whatever required to make sure the kids understand what is being taught.
This is in spite of the fact that regulations exist on the max number of students in each class (so required attention can be given to each child) , the teacher to student ratio, basic qualifications to be a teacher. You can enforce this, and a lot more. What cannot be enforced by the regulations is the motivation of the teachers and the intentions of the schools.