That English and History class….

Posted: July 2, 2016 in Education, English, History

When I was in class 7-10, apart from liking Science and Maths, which I am pursuing today, I loved Social Studies and English classes too. On the other hand, a large chunk of the student population seemed to think that these were a mere waste of time for those who were going to pursue only Science and Maths in the future. Their point seemed understandable at that time, given the amount of memorizing involved in Social Studies and the general difficulty with mastery in English, that was being enforced as the first language as opposed to regional languages/Hindi. Now, after almost 8 years since I passed class 10, I have come to realize the importance of having these subjects.

A recent chat with a friend brought memories of the wonderful times during History classes. There would be open questions thrown at us at the beginning of every chapter, one that encouraged us to transport ourselves back to the past and contemplate. These sort of things really helped when studying-  the subject no longer required to be memorised, rather it was about putting down all that I felt and experienced, having mentally gone back in time. Setting exams aside, I realize that these classes played a more important role. They paved the way for us to develop opinions and defend them, gave the confidence to put together our thoughts in a way that others could understand and appreciate it, it was the first step in moulding us into independent thinkers.

The English CBSE curriculum prescribes three textbooks, the English reader, Main Course Book (MCB) and Grammar book. I considered it to be a pain to have 3 different text- books. I almost always forgot to get the required book on a given day and ended up being warned by the teacher umpteen times  with  ” This was not expected from you Sruthi !” ( Funny though that despite repeating the mistake several times, it continued to remain as unexpected !  and my teacher never punished us for not getting books. Yeah, she was damn cool ! ) The lessons in English in class 9 and 10 are still etched in my memory. The story of Thanappa- the postman, the poem on a brook, the 7 stages of life by Shakespeare, the play on Mira Bai, Bishop’s Candlesticks, The Ultimate Safari, the Night of the Scorpion, the old man waiting for ‘The  Letter’ from his daughter Mariam. All these lessons had their own creative exercises and group activities that were a part of the Main Course Book. Even the very simple diary entry was fun to do. The very special lessons in literature were Julius Ceaser, A Christmas Carol, Ode to the West Wind and Rime of the Ancient Mariner – I don’t remember having enjoyed any other lesson so much ever again. The depths to which our teacher interpreted them used to annoy me at times, but looking back, I think every sentence that she uttered spoke of the effort that went into preparing for the class.  Not only that, her efforts were also meant for us all to understand that we could also analyse the lines and draw conclusions on our own. I wish we had realised this back then. Oh! and the English exams- I miss them so much!! The questions reflected the ability to analyse, reflect and present thoughts creatively. English classes involved components like a TV show or Radio show. I always played my part in them doing what I was comfortable with – talking. So, I mostly did plays, talk shows etc until one day my teacher decided to pull me out of my comfort zone. She asked me to do a rap or something like that. I put up a mediocre performance woven with an indifferent attitude while every other person excelled at what they did. Along with a sense of shame, I realized for the first time how important it was to occasionally step out of one’s comfort zone. This allows to expose your weakness and improve upon it.

On the other hand, in subjects such as Math and Science, the emphasis was on ‘Learn the Concept and Solve’- Solve from the textbook, reference books, solve as many problems as you can lay your hands on. After all, getting 100 percent was the goal. Open discussions on scientific progress, weekly brainstorming sessions that would encourage students to come up with new ideas and debate its feasibility, hackathons  etc were  unheard of during my school days. Perhaps events like these would actually help students reach beyond the books, test their scientific acumen and help them question their existing understanding of the subject. Of course, it’s not as if whatever we learnt in school in Science and Math is useless in fact, we still remember, recollect and apply most of what we learnt. However, we are to a large extent dogmatic about what we have learnt and are unwilling to look at things from different perspectives. Thus, the purpose of that learning seems incomplete to me without the tenacity to analyse and question what is taught and the ability to comprehend and accept different approaches to the same issue.

Sometimes, I wonder if the creativity that exists in various art forms ranging from poetry and painting to dance and music is a result of mentoring an individual to think independently and shunning an algorithmic approach. I wonder if such an approach would work with sciences.

Today, it seems odd that the very subjects that were dismissed as being pointless by a sizeable portion of the student community are indeed the ones responsible for having unknowingly sown the seeds of individuality among us. If we were to adopt similar practices in all subjects, it might propel us towards achieving the purpose of education in schools.



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s