Can schools think beyond textbooks?

Lata Jain

My knees seemed to wobble and my heart beating fast, my palms was sweating. I was the newly elected Head girl of the school and I was to recite a poem. This was stage fright at its worst.

lata jain

Lata Jain

To start the school assembly I had to recite a poem of Jaishankar Prasad or Sarojini Naidu. I started but my mouth went dry and my mind blank racked my brain for the elusive verse which I had learnt several times last night but all I sensed was a snigger echoing through the crowd. I ran to the classroom and sobbed; I cried silently and bent my head in embarrassment.

Just then my class teacher entered the room. A very loving and pleasing personality but she was a no nonsense kind of teacher when it came to academics and extracurricular activities. She was stern and she was respected by students and her colleagues. She put her hand on my head and said calmly, now trying reciting the poem. Fear nothing.

“Himadri tung shring se prabhuddha shuddha bharathi………….”the verse flew without a hiccup. Now why don’t you go back to the audience and recite?

I tried again and my mind went blank. I struggled, my lips went dry and tears rolled my cheek and I stood in front of the audience silently. I don’t know what’s in store for me. I left for home with heavy heart and cried in consolably sleeping in my grandmas laps.

On Sunday I did not go out to play. No skipping, no Kho-kho. I stayed in my room though the weather was very pleasant. I had decided that public speaking in not my forte. But after prayers on Monday the class teacher invited me to try reciting the poem again in front of the whole school. Strangely the words flew spontaneously without a hiccup. The entire assembly broke into thunder applause. I had redeemed myself.

There was no praise from my class teacher. I expected but instead she made me speak the entire weak and I had to come prepared with various topics. I had to prepare myself daily.

Run to that small mogul library near the house, sometimes to state central library. I prepared well in advance making lot of references and reading books. After a few days the topics were of my choice. I started borrowing books from the library. Reading became a habit in me.

What started as a battle within myself, with my emotions, the jostle ended up with an achievement. My writing and reading skills improved. I knew and I believed in my strength of conviction and this would be evident by my delivery of my speeches. I started going for inter school and interstate elocution competitions and started bringing trophies for the school.

Years later I became a teacher, to my children. My class teachers teaching became invaluable. I sympathized with my child when he was weak in a subject. I learnt to appreciate their courage to ask weird questions and doubts. I accepted their mistakes as a part of learning yet be firm and never accept shoddy work or shortcuts to their academics.

My class teacher taught me to look beyond my initial failure. Can I forget that smiling but stern face which helped me see my mirror image?

There is something beyond books and homework which schools and teachers need to realize.

In the past few years in particular following the opening up of the Indian economy and technological sea-change, there’s been growing awareness among school and college managements that examination success does not necessarily translate into workplace success. There is a different approach at work place which books in the schools do not teach.

It requires something more than mugging up textbooks to be a successful. And that vital missing link in the education process is the acquisition of life skills – capabilities which prepare children to cope with life’s diverse challenges.

The  skills which need to be nurtured help children tackle failure, relationships, sexuality, exam fears, rejection, peer pressure, and stress – problems which can severely affect their lives, says  United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the Paris-based trans-national organization committed to children’s rights, survival, development and protection, has decreed life skills an integral component of quality education.

Somewhat belatedly educationists, especially in urban schools across the subcontinent, have become acutely aware that teaching life/ soft skills to students is as important as developing academic capability for professional and personal success.

The Corporate world today prefers candidates who are not good at academics alone but also with soft skills, decision making, good manners, communication and interpersonal skills because it saves the industry time and huge money as these qualities are required for a company to increase its productivity and if these characteristics are missing the corporate end up spending time and money training the candidate.

Is it not time that our schools think beyond textbooks?

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