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    Chernobyl Blast and Indian schools: What’s common?

    “Are you a duffer, don’t you know your job.”
    “Pata nahin kahan se aa jaate hai. Incompetent fools.”
    Know about such humiliating experiences?
    So you might be confused why am I talking of humiliating experiences in a video titled Chernobyl. Lately, I binge-watched this mini-series, Chernobyl, which dramatizes the story of the 1986 nuclear accident in Russia. It was one of the worst man-made catastrophes and the series is fantastically made.
    Now, as it is America who is telling us the story of how Russia failed, we need to take it with a pinch of salt, but we also know that the accident was catastrophic.
    In the last episode, they explain why the accident took place and point to two main factors, human factor and the other is the scientific problem that arose out of state’s systemic attitude to look away when the truth is offensive. Somehow I could not help but draw parallels to that and our Indian education system and that is what we are going to be talking about today.
    The first factor discussed in Chernobyl was the human factor. Dyatlov, the supervisor on duty whose fiendishly autocratic attitude leads to the nuclear disaster is someone you come to hate by the end of the show. Now, education is the field of human enrichment but what happens when you have toxic humans like him running our system? And believe me, we are plagued with such people. Have you seen students and teachers fear a Principal as if he was a ghost? Have you seen people take pride in creating such fear? Well, when one fears their own leader so much what do you think happens in the workplace? I guess the answer is obvious- mistakes are hidden, facts are fudged and the morale is so low, you just want to get through the day. Our system has a handful of good people like Legasov, the scientist who dared to speak up but as long as we have Dyatlovs running our schools and teachers and students fearing them, I doubt we are getting farther than rote learning.
    The other factor that led to the nuclear disaster was Russia’s attitude to look away or rather lie when the truth was offensive. But as Legasov says, the truth is still there. In India every time the ASER survey shows dismal levels of learning, we choose to talk about how skewed the survey is. If the international body like PISA shows we are second from the last, we blame them for culturally non-contextual testing. But we do not want to own up. We create a lot of drives- school enrolment, marks enrichment, free lunches, etc. but we do not have the courage to take the bull by the horn. We are masters at diverting attention and as far as education goes, I guess we Indians have given up on expecting our public schools to fetch us good results. But a country as vast as ours cannot afford to do it. There is no way a handful of private schools like ours can manage to educate the vast population of India. The state has to intervene before the RBMK reactor of India’s peaceful populace explodes.
    So what do you think we can do to keep the Dytalovs away from our system and have more proactive members join education?

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