Our kids love fast food restaurants. A burger and pizza are a treat. But we all also know that nothing beats the home-made, local-grown organic food. Burgers and pizzas are junk food and we try to keep their intake to a minimum
But do we know what makes fast food unhealthy? Some of its inherent characteristics. And somehow I find similarities between them and our schooling system at present-
All McDonalds look the same. They may change their menu a little bit, but their practices are same. They do so to maintain quality across the world. But the standardization kills innovation. Any McDonalds employee is not free to introduce a new recipe or try a new seating arrangement even if it is relevant to the restaurant and much needed.
Schools too are often given the diktat from the Board. 7 periods of English. That is it. Even if the children need more of it, it many a times becomes impossible to do for the teachers thanks to the standardized system of the output.
California apples taste great in California. But by the time they come to India, they lose half their nutrition. They then have to be covered with wax to make them look pretty and saleable or frozen to keep them fresh.
Similarly, a child in India would relate much better to the local variety of vegetation and animal life. Having the child learn the names, just names, of fancy exotic animals that they never will get to see in the real world makes the experience hollow. A kangaroo would make sense for an Australian but an Indian child needs to know more about the Indian goat before moving to kangaroo. Let the child see, touch, feel, pamper and feed the goat to make the experience more meaningful.
Quick, quick, quick.
Fast food is essentially fast. You drive by and the food is ready within seconds if not minutes. Vegetables are chopped, the oil is pre-heated, bread is baked. All you do is put it together. It provides a quick bite, but ask any nutritionist worth their salt, they will tell you that chopped vegetables and constantly heated oil lose their nutrition within hours and food’s effective value diminishes with no time.
Similarly, in schools, we want quick results. Learn the times tables within a week, memorize your poems, master the sports, finish your lunch- QUICK. Try the latest digital gadget to make the kids learn faster, use this curriculum to bring better, quicker results and on and on. But children have their own pace and no matter what we do, they learn when they are ready. Not when we decide. Moreover, in our bid to be faster, we lose out on the marvels of growing up and enjoying childhood. We look at childhood as a passage to adulthood and then seek all the remedies in adulthood to forgo the burden of the same!
So then what is the way forward? How do we maintain quality? Do we let go of the best practices achieved by other schools? Do we keep reinventing the wheel? No, not at all. But as Sir Ken Robinson points out in his book The Element, instead of emulating fast food chains our schools can aim for Michelin Star accreditation. Wherein each school is free to arrive at the best-case scenario on its own, but what is good education is well established through various accreditation institutions or Boards. Schools then choose to apply for that accreditation and work hard for the same. That would mean much better education for our students than one-size-fits-all kind of solutions.
Our children then would not grow up in a fast and obese world, but in a lean and meaningful one.