Friday, April 12, 2013

A Call For A Radical Reform In Education

This is a call for a radical reform in our system of education based on our understanding of how our mind works

A knowledge of how our mind works can help us make use of it better, and it calls for radical reforms in our education system. This is not a psychological explanation using psychological terms, for this writer is not a psychologist. However, this writer has been in the field of education, and the experience gained over three decades in three different continents has contributed to this study.

A human individual is made of mind and body. Our body and mind work together like hardware and software. As often said, a healthy mind needs a healthy body, and we need to take care of both. We need to eat balanced diet, drink plenty of water, do regular exercise, maintain cleanliness, and sleep at least eight hours a day to keep the body healthy. Like computers, human individuals exist in networks as communities, which are further connected to form a global human community. Like software, an individual human mind has very complex structure and is made of so many different parts. What follows is a cursory look at the structure of human mind, and an examination of how it implies a reform in our education system. 

The Parts of the Human Mind
The human mind has various component parts such as:
  1. Thinking part,
  2. Feeling part,
  3. Willing part,
  4. Attitude part,
  5. Mood part,
  6. Memory part,
  7. Awareness part,
  8. Imagination part,
  9. Paying attention part
In an ideal mind, all these various parts will work perfectly well, and will work together in perfect coordination. If any one part of the mind is not in a good working condition, it causes a mental disability. Actually there is no one with an ideal mind, with all the parts working perfectly well. For example, one may be good at thinking, but not that good at feeling. One who is good at both may not be that good at will power. Our current system of education seems to function with the understanding that thinking and memory are the only skills of the human mind that are worth developing. All the other skills are ignored, and thus the children come out of schools mentally disabled. Our children are never taught how to feel in a healthy manner. They are never taught how to improve their attitude and their ability to pay attention. They are never taught how to do things meaningfully and how to maintain social relationships. They are supposed to learn these things by themselves from their families or from their own faith-based communities.

We can improve the ability of each part of our mind with specific exercises for that part. It takes regular and sustained exercise to make each part function better. In schools, children are pressured to memorize a lot of information, which of course improves their memory power. They engage in problem-solving in Mathematics and other similar subjects, which improve their thinking skills. Outside the formal education, traditionally there have been ways to improve some other mental skills. Almost all religious traditions promote meditation, which seems to be primarily an exercise to improve our awareness and our ability to pay attention. Fasting seems to be an exercise of the will power. Watching a movie or drama or reading a fiction identifying with the feelings of the characters seems to be an exercise of the feelings. That is probably why Aristotle claimed that the function of tragedy (drama) was to purify human minds. Creative writing, painting, and other such creative arts seem to be exercises that improve our power of imagination.

All have their specific inborn skills, and they should have the opportunity to identify their inborn skills and develop them further. This opportunity should be provided to the children at their schools and colleges. The practice of pushing everyone through the same education machine needs to stop, for it makes them mentally disabled.  

With our diverse mental skills, we can function better if we can learn to cooperate rather than compete with each other. In our schools our children compete with each other and struggle a lot to pass standardized tests that measure their thinking skills and memory power. But such competitions and struggles won't help in real life situations.

Our children are taken away from the real life of the society and are placed in a setting where they practice an artificial life far separated from the real life of the community around. At the end of the course of education, they come out as misfits, unable to function in any real society. They find themselves misfits in their own place, and they run away to other places. It is high time for a radical rethinking in our system of education. We need an education that helps children develop all their mental and physical skills in the real-life setting. They need to learn from real interactions with the real people and situations in the community around. For example, they need to learn farming interacting with the farmers around. They need to learn to do manufacturing and to run businesses by similar interactions. It has to be mutually benefiting interactions. The emphasis should be on cooperation rather than competition.  

The Two Levels of Human Mind
Our mind seems to have two primary levels: conscious level and subconscious level. Our subconscious mind is always active, but our conscious mind is active only when we are awake. Conscious mind consumes more energy than the subconscious mind, so it does only things that cannot be done by the subconscious mind. Almost all of our activities are managed by the subconscious mind. To get familiar with the new situations and information is the function of the conscious mind. As familiarity increases, the subconscious mind takes over. For example, you buy a new car. Your conscious mind knows that it is yours, but your subconscious mind doesn't. It takes three weeks of daily familiarity for the subconscious mind to get fully familiar with it and realize that it is your car. They are like the land and sea. Land gets warm fast, also cools off fast. The sea gets warm slowly and cools off slowly. The conscious mind learns fast, but the learning does not last. The subconscious mind learns slowly, but it stays there longer.

Our mind is a learning tool, but we should not do the mistake of forcing it to learn. We need to allow it to learn in its own way. Let us say you want to learn to drive. Don't expect your mind to learn it in a day. Give enough time for the conscious mind to get familiar with the new skill and pass on the familiarity to the subconscious mind. All learning requires time. Any creative activity can be done better if the mind is given enough time.

The Role of Feelings
Our feelings take huge amounts of energy. So when we have intense feelings, our minds cannot be used for anything else. Imagine a situation in which you become very sad or very angry. You can't think right in such a situation. Imagine that you fall in love. This feeling captivates you, and you lose your normal power of thinking. Unless we understand our feelings and have some control over them, we cannot function right.

Our feelings may be broadly classified into positive and negative. Feelings like joy, admiration, and caring for others are positive, but feelings like hatred, and jealousy are negative. Negative feelings weaken our mind, but positive feelings strengthen our mind. In order to keep our minds healthy we need to do a regular cleanup of any negative feelings.  

Networking of Minds
Just like computers are networked, human minds are also networked. The networking takes place at the conscious level as well as the subconscious level. Communication happens between minds consciously as well as subconsciously. Thoughts are communicated verbally. Feelings are contagious. When you watch someone with a certain feeling like anger or sadness, you get the same feeling within your mind. Subconscious communication of thoughts, feelings, attitudes, and moods takes place among members of a family or of other similar close-nit groups.

If we can imagine the planet earth as a living being, the humanity may be seen as its nervous system with each human individual as its neuron. The humanity works together as the nervous system of the planet earth. We communicate with each other like the neurons communicate with each other. We also communicate our thoughts and feelings with the planet earth-- the higher level being which we form a part of. Our prayer seems to be such communication with the higher level being. Our sincere prayers are always answered, but it usually takes some time. The answers most often come in the form of coincidences. 

An understanding of how our mind works helps to live our life more meaningfully and successfully. It also helps to develop a better education system that can help children grow up healthy as integral parts of a healthy society.  


Thomas Chandy said...

Education should in my openion, should be aimed at the following:
Discover and devolop the skills that the person has.In todays system children try to devolop skills based not necessarily on which set of skills suit them,but various other considerations like probablity of getting into professions which will help them earn better,get higher social status etc.
Second objective of education should help the child grow into a better human being and a responsible citizen

susan said...

Dear John,
I agree. I have some suggestion.
Children who appear dull or lazy must be checked for learning deficiencies and trained sufficiently early.
Children who have major problems coping should be assessed to find their strengths and a separate syllabus ( it is already there in CBSE- but schools do not provide the facilities) based on these, aimed at enabling the child to become employable or an entrepreneur, should be offered.
Children should be taught to eschew unhealthy competition as between Cain and Abel and adopt friendship on the lines of David and Jonathan.
Kids must be taught stories from all religions (in India) so that they can understand each other and grow in tolerance.

And above all, a child must be taught to handle failure even while pursuing success and to be firm in following his convictions.

Susan Eapen

susan said...

Hi John.
I agree.
I have some more suggestions, such as identifying Dyslexia etc, and providing suitable alternatives to prevent years of agony for the child who would be labelled dull or lazy.
Teaching to cope with frustrations and failures effectively.
Instead of a purely secular education, teaching stories and philosophical content from all the major religions in India to promote mutual understanding and respect.
Since I have attempted this 3 times and each time I tried a preview it got deleted, I am submitting without editing.

Jaise's said...

The main problem with the current education system is that it is making children a self centered. It's not only the problem with the system itself but also with the society. I passed out from college 2 years back. Now I can see most of my friends are going for MBA's and other higher studies. Yeah, It's good going for higher studies. I asked a few about why they are going for it. The answer I got is that they need money, more money, more comfort, more luxury!!. One of the shocking reply I got is "I am ready to work like a slave to earn more money". I got this reply from a guy who is earning more than 60,000 per month. I think this is the problem with we society we live in but I needs to be corrected by the education system so that we can create a good society in future.
Another thing is that our education system is not teaching to ask questions. Students are just mugging up what their teacher is teaching. No one teaching to think.
Promoting keeping short term goals is another problem, like just to pass an exam. We must teach to think big and think wider.
Another big problem is teaching 'only some profession is good so you must try to reach there'. It eventually let to keeping blind eye to majority of other professions. The most visible example is India is that all think only Engineering is good profession. So they start the coaching from 8th std onward. One of my colleague wanted to study Economics but he was forced to go for the training for IIT and now he ended up in a stream he don't like. It not just with the children but with those passed Engineering. Majority have their next aim MBA!. What I see is that from the lower standard itself teachers and parents are trying to cook one to a specific profession without seeking his interest. Children must get exposure the available streams.

Currently many don't have any vision on why and what education is is. And they trying to inject the competition mind, self centered thinking into the next generation. This will create only robot which only progrmed to earn money and pleasure at any cost(not about all but majority are like this).

I like to quote Mahatma Gandhi's word here "By education I mean an all-round drawing out of the best in the child and man-body, mind and spirit."

Cheriyan Thomas said...

I read the topic "A Call For A Radical Reform In Education"
I have few doubts. Can u please clarify?

1) You told about feelings. Especially about "Negative Feelings'. You said "In order to keep our minds healthy we need to do a regular cleanup of any negative feelings". How can one get rid of "Negative Feelings'?.

2) Can education be made more pleasing for children?. Will they ever enjoy?. Because unless you pressurize a child to learn tables, how can he or she multiply?. Moreover, the teacher is pressurized with time limit in an academic year. Should we appease the Child or support the teacher?. Shal we spare the rod and spoil the child?.

3) Identifying one's passion is fine. But, where is the opportunity sir?. At the end of the day ,you need to earn your daily bread. Will passion come to the fore or will any job come as a priority?.

4) "We can function better if we can learn to cooperate rather than compete with each other". Is this possible in a working environment? In my office, it's a do or die situation of cut throat competition. Hence , am asking you.

5) I have never been able to identify my passion. I don't know why?. I guessed some as passion. But those where not coz i was not built for that. Any mantra for identifying one's passion?

My personal comments on the topic:

1) Sir, there is a cry for change in education system. But how?. What's the way?. Who will take the first step?. Recently i heard a teacher in Australia was suspended for doing away with ranking system!!!!. I read Deccan Herald Education supplement which is a news paper here which connotes very much with your topic.

Looking forward for a reply from you.

Thanking You,

With Regards,

Cherian Thomas,


Tony Daniel said...

Modern educational systems in India, does it promote the idea of a sustainable lifestyle? The ransacking of our environment, total disregard for nature, wildlife, and cruelty to animals, shunning the sick and disabled and deification of wealth and the craving for status in the society are all symptoms of a troubled educational system.

This reflects on the way we do things. Look at our buildings and other infrastructure. Are they built with the environment in mind. They are virtual heat sinks, unlivable. We have forgotten our roots, in architecture, medicine and culture.

We seem to have an educational system that promotes the aping of the West, though this has always been the case, it is time to take notice that the West is looking towards the East for wisdom and solutions to modern ills.

All the references to our culture in our daily lives, science, education and religion are perhaps sham, shallow and superfluous, without substance.

How can we resolve this problem?Here we have young people addicted to violent computer games. They play the games to the point they cannot realise where the game ends and where reality begins. As a consequence we have speed driving which ends in fatalities, and senseless violence towards the weak is commonplace. Covers of paan masala may be a sign of things to come, compared to used needles in schoolyards and people's front yard, in some unfortunate suburbs here. If paan masala is the greatest problem there, then Kerala is doing mighty well.

In Jesus' parables, leaders are described as shepherds and fishers of men. They see the changes in the skies and predict the weather to lead the flock etc;. How many of our leaders, both political and religious see the signs in the society they live in and take action to prevent the impending problems. ("Intellectuals solve problems and geniuses prevent them"). We need geniuses, with their hearts in the right place.
Is it all about vote and pursuit of power and control? Change must come from the grassroot level. For this children must be taught to think on their feet, critical thinking and the ups and downs of blind obedience. Our children are programmed to do what the majority does, whether it is right or wrong. No one stops to think, for they do not want to be seen to upset the apple cart. Young people must be well equipped to "risk some persecution for the sake of Truth" and what is right. Our education system has a challenge to which it must respond urgently.

Samiah Sultan said...

John, you have written a very interesting article and since I am still a teacher at the same American high school for the past 8 years, I can tell you that the American Educational System needs an overhaul. The natives in the lower socioeconomic strata have lost interest and faith in the system. Our desi middle class is still striving hard to make their kids doctors and engineers even if it proves suicidal for the child's career. The upper class students want to become rock'n roll stars, models, etc, while the poor want to become drug dealers and rappers where the pay off is quick, and middle class students are dogged by their parents with a tunnel vision. One day I hope we wake up to the nightmare we have created in the world of education.

Gordon said...

John, You are right that the whole person needs education. I believe that much of our problem in the US stems from administrators, politicians, and labor unions imposing top-down their ideas of education, with little feedback coming related to the personal needs of children's growth and development. Thus, schools become almost like glorified baby-sitting for 12 years. Unfortunately, the middle class continues to buy the idea that legislators and money can fix this situation. History has proven that when this approach is relied on, test scores and 12th grade knowledge and skills continue to decline.

George Varughese said...

What is mind? Mind is matter. What is matter? Never mind!!!. How mind function? I am not qualified to give a scientific or academic answer, but I do know this, functions of every mind depend up on the Supreme mind. God is the supreme mind. Our mind derived from the perfect mind. Our mind is the shadow of perfect mind. Our mind likeness or image of Supreme mind. Our mind derived from God, it was with God in eternity and it goes to eternity with God. When a bay born he or she already have the knowledge of God and eternity. He not been experience it at the time of birth. God somehow build in a mechanism with in our mind. God put conscious build with in our mind. It need to awaken it. It is sub-conscious until experience it. Our mind corrupted at Garden of Eden, when Adam disobeyed God. Cause of his disobedient, man inherit a defect. Our mind does not function as it is supposed to work in the original design. Our mind become dull, become callous, bend. Mind become corrupted. Bible says we are dead. Physically alive, but mentally dead. We are aware, but soundness of mind gone. We have inherent corruption. Man produce after the image of the fallen nature. One of the ancient philosopher said, this world is occupied by demons and wicked men. Our government become corrupted, they don’t care for others. They willfully wantonly focus on their self interest and their well being. Government become a necessary evil. We live in a corrupted world, we are enemy of the nature, enemy of other human being and enemy of ourselves. Self awareness is the key to the knowledge of God. The more you know yourself, the more you know God. The more you know God, the more you know about yourself. This will help a person to discerning good and bad and we can build a better world.
George Varughese.

D. Mathew said...

yes, The Supreme court on 4 July held that the education system in the country has failed to achieve its objective and needs to be reformed urgently. " Its objective is mainly to reform human behavior but due to its failure we find troubled atmosphere in the society at large, which calls for immediate reformation with the efforts of on and all," said a bench of Justices B S Chauhan and F M Ibrahim Kalifulla.