Why Educate only for a Safe Future?

The greatest myth that we have encountered in our student life is the idea of a ​ safe future​ and as my physics teacher simply put it for me years ago –

“Work like a donkey for a few years and live the royal life of a horse for the rest of your life”

When you read this, you might re-visit the nostalgic realm of hope that such statements instilled when we were in school. When transition from primary to secondary and senior secondary was a repeated reminder of how ‘all this ​ toil ​ and abundant unpleasurable hours of hard work will all bear good results in a faraway future’.

While sitting in the resource room of our department I came by one such quotation-

“​The roots of education are bitter but the fruit is sweet”

This at once triggered a chain of thoughts and as we have now been exposed to this word for four years now, I again found myself asking – ‘​ WHY?’

Why the ‘roots’ of education has to be bitter and why should they not be enjoyable and meaningful instead?

Why the student’s life is perceived as the life of a hermit standing afoot in painful conditions in hope of a better future?

Why education is only seen as an investment for the future and not as a skill for present life as well?

Why our future is seen in complete isolation from our present?

There’s no denying the reality that majority of our classrooms stand teacher-dictated and the student remains a minor component of the system and as a result most of the times he is unaware of the teacher’s decision to take up a particular content and is too scared to ask “what is in it for him?”

It will come as no surprise if an image of a remote-controlled machine builds up in the mind of the reader, just as​ ​ on a similar level, the consent, awareness and interest of this ​ machine ​ doesn’t affect the working of the system and our ‘machine’ thus remains at the receiving end throughout.

‘ सुखा थनः कुतो व या ,

व या थनः कुतो सुखम ्।

सुखा थनः यजेत ् व या ,

व या थनः सुखं यजेत ्।।

Translation​ : The one who seeks comfort and pleasure doesn’t get knowledge and should leave any hope for it...

Such quotations, shlokas and sayings have now been used for a very long time in our education system to justify the prevalent traditional approaches that clearly runs on the principle of ​ have ​ and ​ have not’s* ​ (of power) and the have-not’s being subjected to oppression. This is a system which operatesnot with ‘learning’ as its end but marks and grades instead.

Children since their primary grades can be seen as cramming and vomiting out texts, abstract concepts and mathematical facts. Instead of teaching children about the interlinkages between these concepts or yet equipping them with the skills to apply these concepts, our education system instead teaches our students to ​ not ask the need or the purpose of these lessons.

So isolated is our pursuit of future from our present, that our children spend their years mastering over their natural curiosity and interest for learning. They too join the rat race to the ‘safe future’ which apparently has no finishing line. Instead of understanding with meaning and interest the world around them, they too start swearing by the four-walled learning.

Hence, against the very spirit of ideologies of our Educationists and Philosophers , such as Tagore, Gandhi and Krishnamurti and then NCF 2005, schools teach students ​the dire necessity of boundaries in learning, to focus on the end, no matter how isolated from the means, and adherence to fear from failure and thus a mediocritise living.

As Apple et. al. (Democratic school: REPRINTED 2005) strongly points out that children with no practical exposure to skills of​ informed decision-making ​ become adults with misinformed decisions and also increased dependency on others.

This race for the future doesn’t end as one steps out of the school system and by the time one is out of the school system, the child has internalized the utter need to be a part of this race towards a well-fulfilled future. And after a very long period one day, when she stops to catch her breath finally, she is faced with a question from her tired self - “Were​ you able to find out where shall I use sin^2@+cos^2@=1?”



Apple et.al.; Democratic school; reprinted 2005


The term have and have-not’s have been taken up from frieire’s work on ​ Pedagogy Of The Oppressed .

Credits: Ms. Taruna Jain(faculty of B.El.ED dept)

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