Outdated syllabuses, overenthusiastic parents and teachers obsessed with discipline…today’s students are more Bonsai than teak. Alvin Thomas meets a teacher who’s in tears seeing his students too scared to smile.
There’s something intriguing about the life of a teacher. More often than not, their lives are almost exclusively dedicated to the crafting the lives of children during their formation years in school. It’s an observation that was strongly validated during my recent interview with high school teacher, Radhakrishna Kurup, from the Indian School Darsait, in Oman.
Dressed in simple clothes, the teacher walked into our interview spot at the Rumba Lattina in The Cave, Muscat, with a gift in his hand: His newly published book.
Titled the ‘Bonsai Kuttikal’ (roughly translated as ‘The Bonsai Children’), Radhakrishna’s book revolves around the lives and well-being of school-going children who are forced to – as the title shrewdly suggests – be restricted in their approach to life; just like Bonsai trees.
“Children are like flowers,” Radhakrishna says. “You must take a lot of care and give them a lot of nourishment if you want them to grow and bloom.”
All metaphors aside, the teacher of over 20 years explains that the children of today (in Indian schools) are under a lot
of pressure stemming from the curriculum.
“Today’s curriculum is designed to teach the students and not let them experience it. The children don’t know what’s going on outside as everything they do is on paper and on the books.
“So, there are times when I have to take the children out and show them the real world. And the enthusiasm in their eyes paints a picture that you just cannot imagine.”
He believes that one of the primary concerns hindering mental development is the restrictions that are placed on
the children of today by their parents.
“Parents want their children to fulfill dreams that are of their own. Sometimes that leads to the child having to pursue a stream of studies that they are not interested in. Remember, this is what the child has to live with for the rest of their lives.
“Another concern I have is that after classes in school, the kids are sent out for extra tuitions. Where is the time for family and friends,” he asks.
Radhakrishna is also not one to hold back on the tears. Frustrated with the several factors in society, he narrates one incident in school: “Once, I was walking past the hall in the school and I saw some students looking at the television that was hung on the wall. It was showing a cartoon – Tom and Jerry, I think. But the kids were all holding their hands against their mouths while laughing so as to not make any noise.
“That is utter nonsense,” exclaims the teacher. “Let them laugh and enjoy. This is their time and it makes me cry to think
that teachers want to control and discipline children to such a level.”
“Also, have you been to a mall in Oman during exam time,” asks Radhakrishna. “You will not find a single student there as they are at home forced to study.”
Our conversation then slips into another direction: The importance of imagination and creativity for the healthy development of a child.
“If you ask a child what he or she wants to become, they will tell you that they would like to become a doctor or engineer. But behind the eyes of their parents, most of these kids have several talents, and that’s where their focus should be.
“If you’re good in art, become an artist. If you’re good in singing, work to become a musician. In short, everyone must follow their dreams. And that is what will lead to diversity in jobs too.”
Despite that, he believes that a radical change must be brought to the existing schooling system. “The school syllabus has not been changed for more than 20 years,” he tells me.
“If this remains, children will completely lose interest in studying. Everything is accessible on the internet, but none of these new technologies are being used in the classroom. Children are ready to adapt, but it is those who are sitting on top and governing (in India) that are continuing to incorporate such old teaching methods.
Radhakrishna is a strong advocate of e-learning applications.
Radhakrishna’s new book which compiles his thoughts, emotions and beliefs has been received very well among the Malayali community in Oman. But several others have expressed their interest in the book – so an English version of the book will be revealed to the public soon.
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