Oh! To have a class for reading Tintin and Asterix! To lose oneself in country music and unleash the paint brush with myriads of hues on the canvass! Or to be engrossed in the study of coins and connect with the sheer intellect of ancient civilizations that were gone with the wind! How refreshing it would be to include hobbies in the school curriculum!
One of the most primitive forms of education dates back to the Vedic Age when the pupils used to go to Gurukul. They were provided with holistic education including management, administration, maintaining physical fitness, honing war skills and even pursuing their hobbies. With the evolution of education system, as the winds of civilizations left behind ” footprints on the sands of time” the modern day buildings called ‘school’ came into existence. The syllabus is voluminous and students are bulldozed with the tonic of competition. There is an overwhelming pressure to excel. The unbearable log of syllabus has stifled inherent interest and skills. Mathematics, science and social studies fight for a place in the tired brains. There is no space for hobbies, no leisure to feel one with Nature, no time to conjecture and contemplate. The impact on such fatigued minds paves the way to perdition. It causes countless teenagers to slip into depression and feel frustrated with the quotidian and mundane monotony of life. The psyche may be reformed by introducing hobbies in the school curriculum. This might have been the reason behind inclusion of Tintin and other books of lighter sense in the English syllabus of reputed institutions like Calcutta University.
Among other things that should be taught as subjects in school and college are photography, debate, singing and dance. Each of them enriches the creative vent of mind and is an expressive form of art. Deeper research on one’s own area of interest broadens the ken of knowledge. Also being engrossed in one’s passionate field inculcates self discipline, a quintessential factor of democratic education. It upgrades the mind.
Sports as a hobby not only enhances physique but it also imbibes qualities of teamwork and confidence. Gardening if taught in schools would contribute towards the ecological health of the community. Numismatics and philately widens the general knowledge and idea about the days gone by. Cultivating skills of debate and public speaking in students who have a penchant for the same, inflate their balloons of awareness about socioeconomic and political issues and would eke out articulate individuals with oratory skill par excellence. Acting as a hobby allows students to fit in the boots of a plethora of characters. Given the importance of a subject, acting might also be taken up as profession by keenly interested students .
Although institutions may face an initial problem to provide the infrastructure required for nurturing the hobbies of all students, it would be beneficial for the health of the students community in the long run.
Hobbies are the windows of communication with the world of our dreams. They tap hibernating potential and intrinsic talents. Stress of monotonic education is relieved when one is engaged in a hobby. It develops personality and confidence that pave the way for the tryst of passion and profession. It provides satisfaction and catalyses the learning process.If hobbies are taught as subjects, the institutions would produce stalwarts in many fields like sports, photography, writing and other creative arenas.And that would revert the system from the Factory Model of Education.
Tagore received no formal education. He felt claustrophobic in his school that had no provision for hobbies. He escaped to Shantiniketan to pursue his passion, his hobby to create creative masterpieces. The great souls of the globe had all reached the highest pedestal of success by following their hobbies, be it Tagore, Einstein or Van Gogh. They followed their hearts. There was an eccentric streak in them that made them challenge the conventional education. Perhaps it was their eccentricity that elevated them to the spotlight..And this is achieved only when passion marries profession, hobby meets education.
“If you try to judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree it would live all its life believing it is foolish”, said Einstein.
This is precisely where the fault of the grade based education system lies. In its attempt to assess the quality of students on the basis of marks, it has paralyzed the education system.
The Nalanda University was probably one of the oldest institutions to admit students based on marks. The practice has now come to our ages bulldozing students with competition right from nursery classes. How an individual’s strength and depth is measured by marks remains a matter of mysterium tremendum (awe inspiring mystery) to me.
Somehow most of us are the victims of the break neck competition which throttles us squeezing out every bit of our lives. It may be due to the much ado given to societal pressure that we have stepped on a mousetrap, shutting ourselves from the rest of the world and making grades the cynosure of our eyes. The unquenchable urge to prove oneself as one among the creme de la crème has transformed us from emotional humans to mechanical robots. At best, the flawed system has drilled formulae into our brain without making us realize their physical significance . It has taught us statistics but failed to bring forth sharp analytical minds who can examine data in real life. This is a travesty of education to esteem one’s strength by putting marks on the beam balance . The Factory Model of Education churns out a bunch of nincompoops with no skills of leadership, teamwork, finance or disaster management.
Another obvious impact of grades can be observed if we focus on student psychology. There is an overwhelming pressure from society and sometimes from one’s own self which forces one to be a part of the cut throat contest. The insatiable desire to prove oneself worthy and competent ( ironically their units of measurements are grades and marks) pushes one to the edge. The inability to succeed has often created inferiority complex. Instances galore where teenagers slip into depression, frustrated by the strife, unable to find out their hidden potential. The system makes us forget that each one is unique. We hone our skills at achieving an A grade silently stifling our inherent adroitness, which thankfully ProTeen’s 21st Century Skills programme help us rediscover and nurture. Marks based tests are fatuous and leave the students under the false impression of a binary world–either you obtain a percentage that is above 97 and taste success or your life is set for doom. The fallacious prophecy brews up nervousness and has lethal result on the mental makeup of students.
The mechanical approach of present day examination erodes creativity and individuality. It would be beneficial for the health of the world if we abolish grades and look back and learn from the fruitful teaching methods of great philosophers like Scholas who imparted real education to his disciples.
An age old English ballad narrated how the rats and children of Hamlein were encapsulated by the music of Pied Piper and were entrapped in a dark cave. With burgeoning competition and a mad craze for marks, and yet with million s of students leaping into the aura of the sphere of competition, I wonder which dark cave this hypnotizing rhythm of competition will lead the present generation to.
It’s about time that we transform learning from Mediocrity to Melody!
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Author – Samriddhi Ganguly