A good school in my opinion is one which inculcates a sense of wonder and curiosity in children. It doesn't require much.
Thirty years ago, when we were trying to popularise science, we went to village schools where even a blackboard was a rarity — leave alone laboratories. I wondered how we could demonstrate practical science to students. That’s when I came up with my credo: science is everywhere.
It’s in the water you boil, the rainbow you admire, and in the cycle you ride — and that’s how it should be taught to children, not through textbooks alone.
Think of a young child learning how to ride a bicycle. When he is about to fall one side, he instinctively tries to move the handlebars the other way. But that is the sure shot way to fall!
Instead, if he were to steer the handle bars further to the side he is falling, his centre of gravity comes between the two wheels, and he won’t fall. Textbooks won’t teach you that — real life will. A cricket enthusiast learns about spin naturally; football is all about mechanics.
It is because we don’t link our education to real life that children and even grown-ups often can’t answer basic questions that nature throws at us every day. For instance, when there is a cloudburst and a lot of water falls, why does the rain never fall like water from a faucet? Why does it fall in streams of drops?
A good school must also encourage its teachers to learn from children — I have always found children the best educators for teachers. Children are curious. They innovate. They have questions. In answering a child’s questions, a teacher learns and understands what no textbook can teach him.
Instead we find schools loading students with information like learning the names of capitals of all countries, and grading students based on their memory of such details.
(the writer is a former chairman of the UGC)