Recent Updates Toggle Comment Threads | Keyboard Shortcuts

  • Nooruddin Merchant 11:32 am on December 27, 2013 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: conscience, deadly, education, educational system, iqbal, learning, morality, service, sins, teaching   

    Seven Deadly Sins of our Educational System 

    Gandhi, during his life, shared the following seven deadly sins which can cripple the soul of an individual, community and society.

    • Wealth without Work
    • Pleasure without Conscience
    • Science without Humanity
    • Knowledge without Character
    • Politics without Principle
    • Commerce without Morality
    • Worship without Sacrifice

    While going through this, I also realized that if individuals and people in the society keep committing these sins, it will eventually lead to distortion of everything.

    I have been associated in the field of Education, Learning and Social Development for almost a decade now. During Deadly Sinsthis time, I experienced a number of insights and experiences of how majority of modern education systems work, both for profit and non-profit sectors. I strongly realized that education is now a commodity which is available for sale. Education, since its very inception, has been seen, offered and accepted as a moral institution, however, sincere efforts and commitment is required to re-claim its status. I have also realized that there is a huge difference between an ‘educated’ person and a ‘literate’ one. Most of what is being sold in the name of education, is not ‘education’, it’s mostly the promotion of literacy. Literacy is referred to the ability to read, write and perform mathematical tasks. Majority of projects and movements being implemented by NGOs are focused on promoting literacy not “education”.

    I, along with my few friends pondered upon the deadly sins shared by Gandhi and looked at how our current educational systems are also committing sins contributing to a degradation of societal morals. These opinions were further strengthened after going through reflections by thinkers and intellectuals including Dr. Muhammad Iqbal (poet of the East), Rabindra Nath Tagore, John Dewey and His Highness Prince Karim Aga Khan.

    1. Knowledge without Wisdom 

    One of the key goals associated rather chanted by many educational systems and institutions is the notion of knowledge provision. Knowledge by itself is the experience which is personalized and used for living. I believe most of the education and learning which happen in the institutions, merely focus on transferring and passing on information. They do not facilitate learners to go beyond consumption of information, neither do they facilitate them to create and use this information. Applied knowledge leads to wisdom and helps a person to understand him or herself better.  Knowledge or information without action is futile. The very nature of educational institution is to force the learner to memorize information. They are not provided with an opportunity of reflecting on the relevancy and usefulness of this information for them to understand life, surroundings, oneself and then contributing towards a better quality of life for self and others.

    2.     Profit without Morality

    If we critically observe the educational systems and institutions, majority of individuals working in the institution, focus on numbers and amount. Beginning right from the teacher / faculty to the higher management is engaged in improving numbers and thinking how they could improve their monetary earning. Improving earning for a better quality of life is not a bad thing, but not thinking about the customer or client and their level of satisfaction is a turn off.  Having worked in various systems, I realized that students who are not being able to pay are labeled “fee defaulters” and are made to sit out of the classrooms or sent back to home until the fee has not been paid. In majority of the cases, best facilities including well-furnished offices, clean drinking water (mineral water), air-conditioned environment is provided to the officials, and at the same time students are left in suffering

    3.     Teaching without Compassion

    Any effective learning process and institution should have the capacity to understand the people as human beings having thoughts, emotions and feelings. Most of the teaching and learning process is void of compassion and care. Students are considered to be robots or disciples following instructions and policies. In the name of discipline various inconsiderate practices are followed and observed. For e.g. closure of school gate at a specific time; if a student comes late even due to a genuine reason(s) he is not allowed to enter the school. Mostly, due to large classroom sizes, teachers are not ready or try to understand the social, economic, psychological and emotional aspects of a child.  Course or textbook completion is the sole agenda of teaching. Cut throat competition is promoted as a key to success.

    4.     Competition without Respect

    Majority of children are collaborative by nature. The current research on brain and neuroscience as well as past researches on human capacity clearly indicates that children are endowed with many talents, abilities and skills. However, there are very few or little opportunities provided to them to explore their talents. In fact, their talents are not acknowledged and respected, while students with good IQ are praised for intelligence and competitiveness. Frankly, those are considered competitive who are good at reading, writing and Arithmetic.  Other talents and abilities are only utilized for showcasing events. Students are constantly being compared to each other and compelled to follow those who are “smart” or “intelligent”. Those who are “competitive” are provided extra support and encouragement to become more “competitive” and the learners who are struggling are usually left behind. The merit is mostly demeaned over competition.

    5.     Learning without Reflection

    An intelligent, conscientious and aware person is the one who always observes and reflects on the surroundings and learning experiences. A student learns way better if provided opportunities to reflect on whatever he/she has acquired during the learning process and how it helps him or her in life. Since the emphasis of most of the educational systems and institutions is on enabling students to get good grades and percentages, the very spirit of reflection is missing. The barge of passing exams and semesters with colorful grades rob not only innate abilities of students but tune their minds to focus only on passing exams. Activities and events pertain to learning by doing, creative expressions, all are geared towards topics having very less relevance to life and living. Similarly, one may find very rare teachers who are reflective and put vigor into reflecting about structuring a dynamic learning process and implementing it. William Deresiewicz rightly said “The True Purpose of Education is to make Minds, not Careers…”

    6.     Curriculum without Relevance

    Life and nature itself are great teachers. They provide ample opportunities of learning and living. Although majority of schools claim that they are preparing students for future but the curriculum and syllabi which they offer has nothing to do with future. In fact, there is high risk aversion involved in the institution to change, modify or revamp the curricula and to make it life and future based. Much of the time is wasted on just presenting the information to the students rather helping them create new knowledge. Certainly there are creative writing opportunities provided in schools, but again for the sake of holding an activity. Students are equipped with excellent ideas and technological tools through which they can create new knowledge, but skills to create that knowledge are never included in the instruction paradigm. The world has become totally different from what it was 50 years ago, it is changing each day, but educational institutions are still focusing on the past and the knowledge created in the past. Similarly, new careers and vocations have emerged and are continuously emerging, but the curricula are unable to address those and integrate those into mainstream learning programs. Quoting John Dewey, “Education is not preparation for life; education is life itself.”

    7.     Service Without Conscience

    Seems harsh, but the provision of “Education” is portrayed as a service but without acknowledging and structuring an environment based on the principles of service provision.  I remember my own old days at school where I used to recite the famous poem of Dr. Muhammad Iqbal, “Lab pe aatii hai Duaa bana ke Tamanna Meri” (A prayer appears on my lips as desire). Like me, many students along with their teachers chant this every day in the assembly along with National Anthem, but the very essence of the message in Iqbal’s poetry is missing from the institutional practices and ethos.

    Let me conclude this piece of writing by sharing the verse of this remarkable poem with a pray and wish that our educational systems ignite this light into the minds, hearts and souls of the learning community and re-claim the moral stance of the educational institution itself.

    A prayer appear on my lips as desire
    (My life should emulate a candle, oh God) A candle burns itself to provide light to others
    (Lift the worldly darkness due to my efforts)
    (Every place should be enlightened by my light)
    (My life should decorate my homeland  similar to)
    ( Similar to, a flower decorating a garden)
    (Dear God, emulate my life like an insect)
    (I should fall in Love with the candle of knowledge)
    (My work should be to support the poor)
    (Those in pain and the feeble ones I should love)
    (My God save me from doing bad things)
    (Please guide me, to the right path) – Ameen

    • Samina 2:21 am on December 28, 2013 Permalink | Reply

      Great!! (Y):)

    • Sharese Crichton-Small 4:55 pm on January 4, 2014 Permalink | Reply

      When can change take place in our third world countries classroom??

    • Tim Dawson 12:27 am on January 5, 2014 Permalink | Reply

      I enjoyed this, but I think that you’ve got the first bit the wrong way round: literacy is the casualty of ‘education’. Literacy by your definition is a bit dry. I would describe it something like, ‘the ability to use, read and write language to give expression to ideas, inspiration and protest.’ Doing mathematical calculations is actually numeracy.

  • Nooruddin Merchant 4:43 pm on July 1, 2013 Permalink | Reply  

    Beyond Black and White Learning Paradigm 

    “How do you see learning: black-and-white or colorful?” I posed this question to teachers and head-teachers in one of my workshops. One of them asked, “What does this mean? What kind of a question is it?”. “Please do not take it the wrong way”, I responded. “Let’s accept the fact that most of the teachers and faculty members were educated and trained in black-and-white times, where learning was carried out with white chalk and black board. Black-and-white learning is a mindset which most of us have inherited from our teachers.”

    Let me share with you a few examples which I am sure we observe every day.  Copies/notebooks are white, pencils are black. Most of the textbooks and worksheets used in the classrooms are black-and-white too.  The examination and assessment systems, policies, teacher-student relationships, homework systems, parent-teacher meetings, etc. are all observed in black and white. What about teachers’ education programs, workshops and courses? Do they promote colorful learning? I am sure you have guessed what I am trying to say. Of course, it is not about colors literally; it is about how learning is viewed, experienced and fostered in academic institutions.   

    Think and reflect for a minute: Consider how a child learns outside of the classroom in the 21st century.   Children are bombarded with images, photos and videos.  They are learning and interacting through visuals aids and colors 24/7. They use cell phones, laptops, ipods, ipads, iphones, etc., which are less heavy and more interesting than static copies, textbooks and boards. They are, in short, the YouTube and Counter Strike generation. They live in an age in which they perceive and experience almost everything in colors. In the words of Peter Senge, author of The Fifth Discipline, “How has the world of the child changed in the last 150 years?,The answer is, it’s hard to imagine any way in which it hasn’t changed….[Today, children] are immersed in all kinds of activities that were unheard of 150 years ago, and yet if you look at schools today versus 100 years ago, they are more similar than dissimilar.” For sure, these schools were built to meet expectations of the Industrial Age, but in order to meet the demands and challenges of the Information age, we need different kind of teaching and learning institutions.

    So what is colorful learning and what entails colorful learning experiences? Let me share with you some of my experiences and beliefs about promoting colorful learning in the 21st century.Learning Wordle

    Learning is SYMBIOTIC: Symbiosis, by definition, is the relationship between two different species that are dependent on each other and benefit from each other. So learning should be seen, practiced and applied as a process where everyone in the learning community contributes in the development and improvement of each other’s capacities and capabilities. Teachers and parents accept the fact that nowadays children have more information and access to information compared to children at their time. But we do not observe anyone encouraging this while designing and implementing the learning processes. The emergence of global citizenship has made it essential that the learning processes, systems and outcomes be developed and implemented in collaboration to come up with a well harmonized community, country and world.

     Learning is EXPERIENTIAL and AUTHENTIC: Learning by doing has been emphasized a lot, and is considered to be the only way which can bring positive changes in the cognitive abilities and behavior. In the 21st century, experiences and exposures can be created and built not only with the local community, but the global learning community. Empowering each member of the learning community to build and participate in the authentic learning experiences is a key to success.

     Learning is Multisensory: Note taking, rote memorizing, listening to lectures and doing what has been told in the form of instruction needs to be considered obsolete and irrelevant. Most of the experiences are provided by sitting on a chair and desk, therefore, not only are they retained well, but are also alien to the innate capacities and capabilities.  Learning experiences should provide stimulation and engagement of all the senses.

     Learning is SOCIAL: The “I want pin drop silence in my classroom” approach is an outdated learning phenomenon.  Humans are social beings and they learn and develop in a social context. Let us take language learning as an example. It could not be taught, it is acquired socially. The quality of interactions and discussions including opportunities to share personal insights, bolster the learning experiences and help each member to reflect on their own practice or in fact the attitude. 21st century web technologies could become an avenue in adding value to promote this mindset.  

    Learning is KAIZEN: Kaizen, in Japanese, means “change for better”. It is taught and applied in the manufacturing industry as a process of continuous improvement. What about learning experiences provided to the learners? Unfortunately, the prevalent teaching and assessment methods are not helping learners see the learning experiences as tools for continuous reflection and action. These experiences are merely considered as content which has to be poured out when asked in the examinations.  In reality, we all know that it is through the process of continuous reflection that one is able to see the impact of learning on oneself. And, finally, the continuous improvement process applies not only to the learners, but also to all the  key stake holders of the academic institutions and off course to the family.

    In conclusion, let us engage and support everyone who is ambitious and passionate about promoting learning. Start looking at it from a different lens and colorful perspective. We all know this famous quote by Confucius, “I hear and I forget. I see and I remember. I do and I understand.” My experiences have helped me perceive and extend this to another level: “I understand and I apply, I reflect and analyze, I unlearn and then I relearn.” This could only be possible if the learning process is seen and integrated into life as a natural process like breathing.

    • Samina Tariq 11:37 pm on July 1, 2013 Permalink | Reply

      Very well written Sir!! Agreed that learning is Kaizen. Agreed all your points because after getting your workshops I personally applied these integrated method in community school. Even now I am not continuing as a teacher in school but tutoring students at home and all these method helping me in my teaching till now. children of this age is more attracting by discussions rather than reading a book or answering questions. Thank You for such a nice, informative post.

    • Ahmad Ali Shah 12:31 pm on July 2, 2013 Permalink | Reply

      Nice and fantastic as usual. colorful minds do colorful things.


    • Naureen 8:20 pm on November 18, 2013 Permalink | Reply

      nicely articulated …

  • Nooruddin Merchant 12:13 am on February 28, 2011 Permalink | Reply  


    Beyond Chalk and Board refers to visualizing learning from a different lens, which is not black and white, but multicolor.

    This is an attempt to engage practitioners and those who are concerned and passionate about learning, to share and exchange their ideas about creating meaningful learning experiences within the context of developing countries and 21st Century.

Compose new post
Next post/Next comment
Previous post/Previous comment
Show/Hide comments
Go to top
Go to login
Show/Hide help
shift + esc

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 357 other followers

%d bloggers like this: