• kewal sethi

teaching is an art

teaching is an art


there was a sports school for animals. the sports chosen were jumping, swimming, running, and flying. all sorts of animals were there as students – elephants, eagles, rabbits, tortoises, and ducks. the syllabus and the training were the same for all the students and they were supposed to practice all of them.

after rigorous training for some years, there was a competition. the duck was declared as the champion. the elephants failed in jumping; the rabbits failed in swimming; the tortoises could not even complete the race; and the eagles lagged behind; and few could fly. the ducks could do bit of everything and hence won with ease. they were not masters in anyone but they were there.

is that what is happening in our schools? jack of all trades and master of none.

the idea is from a book "can you teach a zebra some algebra" by debashis chatterjee (wisdom tree – 2014).

the idea is very attractive and cleverly worded but then it started a chain of thought. the eagles are born to fly, the fish are there to swim but is it so with the human child also. is he born to be a nuclear physicist or a doctor or an engineer or a music director? he would not know what all these categories demand. he must be told and that is teaching. no one can start teaching with the career in mind. some fundamental information must be imparted. it is only later when he knows something about many things that he can decide which branch of learning attracts him. that is the stage of specialisation. that is the stage at which his or her interests should be the deciding factor.

even here as he progresses in a particular line, he may find his interest varying. he should have the opportunity to shift over. the new national education policy takes this into account. it lays down that credit from one course can be passed on to the other related branch. switching of branches is allowed. nothing sacred about any branch of learning. but all this will come when the basic knowledge is there.

another problem with such writeups is that we never know to which section of readers, it is addressed. are they the parents, or the teachers, or the peer groups or just the random addressees. if the teachers are addressed, then are they school teachers or college teachers. each of them has the responsibility of developing the intellect of the student and influencing their choice of career. parents do try to impress, with their knowledge of the world, which line would be better. the inclination of the ward may or may not be taken into consideration. the importance of peer group can likewise be quite important to decide the course of action. here the compulsion is psychological. the comradeship plays a part and the natural inclination is likely to be suppressed. so far as teachers at higher level are concerned, they can only advise that the course the student has chosen in not proper from him. they cannot advice which course would be better for him because they have not been trained for that. perhaps some other agency well versed in various careers can do counselling but not the teacher.

so far as the school teacher is concerned, his role in choice of career is minimal. it is too early to decide on the inclination of the student who would not be exposed to various facets of knowledge and without which the student is not able to decide which line is better. no one is born to be music director or a big businessman. there may be rare exceptions but this is the general rule.

the book has many anecdotes to illustrate various points. there is one about yogi, called harvard yogi,who is talking to the students about bliss. apparently, he has found it. but is he content with it. why can he not be at one place and enjoy his bliss? why has he to travel, often by aeroplanes, to different places? he wants to share his bliss or he is restless to be at one place. why does he not remain at one place in bliss and let others come to him if they so desire. perhaps the bliss in incomplete unless he tells others that he has bliss.

here is another. teachers should treat the students as hosts. they can make a guest appearance if, and only as long as, hosts want them. the guest must disappear when he has overstayed his welcome.

a third one and i am done. teacher asks students in open courtyard to look up and asks if they can see stars. obviously, they cannot. the next sentence, "really, there are no stars there"? he explains that they can only see stars if it is night. next sentence, "the students stand there stupefied". (they must be four years old or about that).

i think the word should have been stupid. it is another matter to whom it will be addressed.

likewise, some ridiculous examples have also managed to come in. think over this. "a geography teacher was asking the class to memorise this – nile is a mountain in egypt. the headmaster confronted him on this .... the teacher said – nile will be transformed into river as soon as my salary is raised". (here probably the teacher was the zebra or was he?)

this was by the way to stress the point that the study is not focussed.' everything is wrong and must be corrected' is the watchword. there is hardly any cohesiveness in the arguments advanced. anecdotes do not make a good theory or,even, good argument.

so, the best thing to do is to quote some gems (?) from the book which appear to be lessons drawn by the author from life.

1. to hear the unheard is essential to be a good leader.

2. brain that is dulled by the predictable is not suitable for learning.

3. you can learn something from one who cannot be taught.

4. teachers become content fillers like the salesman at the petrol pump fills the petrol into cars.

5. the two banks of river are dharam and moksh. the river inbetween is artha and kama. (does it mean dharam and moksh are destined not to meet ever).

6. "please note that we have advertised for a 'vice' president not a 'virtue' president". (rejecting gandhi for the job, had he applied for one).

with that i can conclude.

a disappointing book despite the attractive title.

इसी पुस्तक के बारे में मैंने अपने डायरी में लिखा।

निराशा ही हाथ आयी। कहानियों से तर्क नहीं बनता। सिवाये इस के ​कि व्यक्ति को अपने शौक के मुताबिक जीविका साधन चुनना चाहिए और कुछ नहीं। पर इस में अध्यापन की भूमिका जबरदस्ती की बात है। अध्यापक अपना विषय पढ़ाता है। हर छात्र की रुचि के अनुसार अलग अलग विषय नहीं पढ़ा सकता।आईआई एम से यह अपेक्षा नहीं की जा सकती कि वह चित्रकला के बारे में प्रशिक्षित करे गा। चयन तो छात्र ही करे गा, अध्यापक नहीं।

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