Sunday 4 August 2013

Entertainment & Education

Entertainment attracts students more than anything and this is why they are always attracted towards the various means of entertainment. This strongly supports why means of entertainment should be considered as tools of education. Various educational practices are followed throughout the country in this area. Not just the resourceful private schools but even NCERT accepted this notion and this reflects in its recent instruction manual for schools’ education, namely the National Curriculum Framework (NCF). Post NCF 2005, the perceptions about education, teaching and textbooks has changed.

Textbooks are well thought and prepared by an expert committee therefore one cannot reject a textbook easily. Every book now has a lot of edutainment based content. There are sufficient activities in the textbooks which can make education lively, thereby maintaining learners’ interest. If we summarize the views of the contemporary educationists we could say that this learner centric approach will make the learning easy and aid knowledge acquisition. There are few questions that emerge – What kind of means of entertainment should be included? Will it be a tool of teaching or it will be the content itself? Do we have the sufficient amount of such edutainment based content which can fulfill the entire demand of the education system at both small and large scale? Are we ready enough to introduce and use this material in our school system? Do we have well equipped set-up and skilled teachers to run this in every school?

As we know the entertainment based education practices have already been introduced in our country and NCERT certainly plays a big role in it. In most of the council’s textbooks, there is at least one instruction about chapter being related with the various means of entertainment, such that learners can use this information to understand the topic or chapter. Sometimes, in certain cases activities based on different medium of entertainment have been found to be a part of the content. This situation if not handled appropriately, may turn chaotic. Neither the students, nor the teacher can concentrate on a single method. There should be clarity about the means of entertainment in the chapter.

Another thing is that India is a country where there is a big gap between the idea of education and the reality. All the educationists and textbook makers believe that textbooks are just a tool for acquiring knowledge and it should be treated just like that. However, in practice Teachers and student may not go beyond the textbook or use limited or extended resources to clarify a certain concept. Thus, in practice the entire education system moves around the book treating it as the ultimate source of information and the goal of learning. In such a situation, completing the course becomes more important and the teachers and students are left with little time to go beyond the textbook or engage in an edutainment based activity.

Another drawback is the placement of suggestions regarding the entertainment based education. Usually these are placed at the end of the chapter. This makes them unnoticeable and a teacher often moves to the next chapter without bothering about those instructions. It is widely accepted that these means of edutainment are included to facilitate the education, but sadly this acceptance does not reflect in classroom pedagogy as very often the methods of usage of edutainment material is not clarified. Should it be used as a tool or content material? This depends on the aim of teaching. If a resource material has enough data on the concept than we can consider it as a subject material. Tangential content could however be used to aid content building.  Science fiction films can be quoted as good examples here. Such movies would aid in pre-teaching idea development and students will definitely enjoy. Our education system wants to make entertainment based education popular among the teachers and students, but, it is somewhere reluctant to accept it as a ‘course’ material. Accepting them as course material could break the supremacy of textbooks and reduce time and labor and make the education a fun.

Now we move on to the more challenging part of this topic. We have a vast and diversified system of school education in India. In practice, we do not consider entertainment based material as content but use them like other tools, in such a case the question of quantity and quality arises. In a textbook there are many chapters and every chapter is unique in its nature, so, naturally we cannot rely on a single mode of working. We need several tools to understand the subject content and the stock of available material is scarce. We don’t have the sufficient amount of videos or cartoons or other relevant material. The issue quality is deep set in the problem of quantity. Qualitatively good resources from among the limited available resources are hard to find. Some material is available for the English language based learner, but, there are very few things available in Hindi. Availability of entertainment based material for Math and Science in Hindi is almost zero.  We can consider films as a material for language teaching but they too, cannot be picked up without much thought and censoring to suit our school set up. The system still applies the rigid and old way of handling students and learning. It does not provide the free learning space to a learner.

Our schools are considered a proto-type of our society and our society is diverse in its nature so using any tool or course material becomes very sensitive in the school’s set up. In such a scenario, learning becomes secondary. A few months back a controversy over a cartoon in a certain textbook had emerged. The cartoon was not seen at the learning level, but on the societal level. The idea of this cartoon was to convey what was written in the chapter but the immature nature of our political and social behavior just subdued the learning that could have happened. This applies to every area of our school education. Adolescent education in our school system is one such area. Another example comes from the fact that every now and then we have to undergo a change in chapter content of history and literature books, in order to suit some social group interest. Our social and political approach is unpredictable and we cannot be sure about the content and the idea. Thus due to this continuous change, learning and education gets limited. Thus we can say to a certain extent that it is not easy to apply the entertainment based education in our school system.

And finally we look at the main stakeholder – the teacher. Teachers are an important part of this entire process and it is up to them to handle the situation with sensitivity. Nowadays in many states of our country, teachers are appointed on contractual basis and it has been seen that the states are manipulating and bringing down the minimum qualification of a person eligible for this contractual appointment as a teacher. Sometimes teachers’ training is also ignored. Job dissatisfaction and lack of training worsens the situation.

It is appreciable that our education system has introduced entertainment based learning, yet there is a lot to be done in this area to increase the awareness levels about these materials. There is also the need to provide a good and social influence free set up to make it more applicable to teaching learning. Once this is done edutainment based education could then be and used to its maximum potential.

Thursday 25 July 2013

Lady with black teeth !

I came to Kerala from north India and like almost every north-Indian I too had a love for its beauty. It was early February when I reached here. I experienced a sudden change in the weather condition. My flight got late due to heavy fog in Delhi. As soon as I got down at Kochi airport I had to take off my woollen cloth due to heavy sweating inside. Soon I found that I had to spend a good amount of time for window shopping so that I would know about the shops from where I could buy my stuff. I use a particular brand of detergent powder and during my own kind of exploration of local market I didn’t find any shop where I could get that.

                    I used to go to see the nearby places during my evening walk and the Periyar river bank was my favourite haunt. One evening when I was returning from the walk I saw those detergent powder pouches hanging in a shop. I found them inviting me. I went to that shop and started searching for the shopkeeper. To my surprise and fear there appeared an old lady with a fearsome face on a thin body. She was wearing a wrap around kind of a dress that was surely neither sari nor skirt. At the first glance I found her decaying by the hands of cruel old age. She said something in Malyalam but as I didn’t know a single word in the language I stood dumbfounded. When she opened her mouth again to say something her teeth became visible to me they were black like coal. Suddenly all the bad women of my nani’s stories which I used to listen to in my childhood came alive. There were a few people but they seemed less bothered about us. She gave me one pouch as quickly as I gestured about what I wanted. I bought other item to avoid the problem of change but it went in vain when she gave me some discount. I got the word ‘discount’ only as it was said in English but couldn’t get how much it was. She tried two three times to explain it to me but I didn’t get that. Finally she joined both her palms as if she was worshipping and said pathu. She did that to two times and said the same word again only then my tube light lit up and I got to know how much money she wanted. I paid her twenty rupees. There was a great relief and satisfaction on her face and a smile too. My fear was gone and a smile came up. She asked something that too I didn’t get but I told her in English and with some gestures that I came here as a new teacher in Navodaya school. After hearing Navodaya and her smile appeared bigger. Somehow I found that smile very innocent. That day onwards whenever I went that side I waved her and she always replied it with a broad smile showing her those coal-black teeth. Then there came a break in that usual stroll when I left the place because of the two months vacation in school.

                                          I reached back here last week. Kerala’s world famous early showers welcomed me and stopped me from going anywhere. I had to buy the same detergent powder. I directly went to that shop and saw her rushing into the shop as she had been waiting for me for the last two months. We exchanged smiles. Suddenly she started crying. She was crying and talking in Malyalam. I couldn’t get anything. She took out a picture of a young man and gestured that he was dead. I heard some words ‘drugs’, ‘hospital’, ‘operation’. I reached a quick conclusion that the man had died and there was a relation between those words and young man’s death. She sat down on the stool and showed me her purse there was not a single rupee! I brought my purse out and tried to give her a few hundred but she didn’t take. I found some tears in my eyes too. I started searching for whatever I could buy from her shop. I left her shop and came back to prepare a list of things.

Old age is an age of helplessness and being a single-old-woman it is the worst of all situation.