Education—Evolution and Necessity for Radical Refinement

The Mind Is Not a Vessel to Be Filled but a Fire to Be Kindled

In its true sense, education is an umbrella term that comprises a vast spectrum of topics. However, for a person to be considered educated, they need not know everything. In fact, for their overall development, it is merely essential for them to have an open mind and an inquisitive nature.

An individual can be knowledgeable about anything, be it sports, arts, physics, or philosophy, but understanding a few concepts in-depth is far more important than just skimming through many of them. Moreover, as topics tend to be interrelated—each a part of a vast web-like structure—there is no limit to learning even when it is focused. However, this endless domain of knowledge acquired can be rendered useless if guidance is not lent for its adequate utilisation.

The system of pedagogy has evolved from storytelling to digitisation. [Image Credits: endeavour.ventures]

Education systems can come in handy in such scenarios. They include the basic arrangement of a teacher and one or more students, where the teacher or ‘guru’ tries to guide the student or ‘shishya’ to utilise the knowledge they have attained in the best possible way.

This unidirectional transmission of knowledge, from teacher to pupil, has remained the same for aeons, but the very purpose of education and its propagation methods have evolved since.

Education—a System Rife With Pros and Cons

In pre-literate society, knowledge was passed from one generation to another in the form of stories. The transmission of knowledge was primarily practical, and students were prepared to lead disciplined and value-based lives.

With time, the focus shifted to the needs of students and their interests. Theoretical and practical classes got equal status—the former was made critical as it helps strengthen a person’s understanding of a specific topic. The latter is just as essential as it helps one learn how to apply their acquired skills in real-life situations. As part of the widespread push for formal education, discrimination based on caste, creed, religion, gender, and other such factors reduced significantly. All in all, the percentage of students graduating became higher than it used to be and knowledge became more accessible to the masses than ever before.

However, this did not mean that education systems around the globe became impeccable. The world is not and has never been an ideal place, so different education systems inevitably have their own set of flaws. Our systems have issues across many areas—be it the pressurising environment and inadequate facilities for students with special needs, or the lack of sufficient funds and exorbitant increases in tuition fees.

Issues associated with the education system [Image credits: Hustle]

To sum it up, there are many problems in need of desperate amendment. Nevertheless, as one navigates through time, observing the changes in the system, one understands we have come a long way. Technology has had a vast impact on the means of impartment and transmission of knowledge for one.

As blackboards changed to whiteboards and then to smartboards, and laptops and pads replaced notebooks, it is clear that technology has made its way into the domain of education as well. This advancement was beneficial for both—students attending physical classes and those getting homeschooled.

With the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, there have been drastic changes everywhere. As the virus brought the world to its knees, a transition in education mode, from classroom teaching to online learning, was essential to continue the flow of education. Although online education is not a new concept, are we ready to have it as our sole mode of transmitting knowledge?

Just Decorate Your Bedroom to Look Like a Classroom and Voila!

As full-fledged online classes commenced worldwide, people realised that education is not limited to the four walls of the classroom.

These virtual classrooms are accessible all day by anyone with basic internet facilities. Students can learn anything they want to and have a relatively flexible schedule that allows them to follow their interests. As face-to-face interaction is minimised, there is a reduced chance for discrimination based on age, appearance, race, disabilities, and other such factors. Instead, the entire focus revolves around the content and the capability of students in general.

Global platforms like Coursera, Udemy, Byju’s, and YouTube, which contain an umpteen number of courses, help enrich young minds. They are accessible and highly cost-effective. Schools, colleges, and other educational institutes conduct their classes through video conferencing services like Zoom, Google Meet, and MS Teams, with lectures being recorded for future reference. Thus, individuals can work at their own pace, and this expanded access to information has provided collaboration opportunities with almost everyone out there. However, just as a coin has two sides, online classes have downsides to them too.

The Plight of the Mind

To say that human beings are social creatures and rely on each other to survive is an understatement. Institutes and offices have always focused on the importance of socialising and working with one’s peers—it helps with personality growth, builds social skills, and improves critical thinking—all essential for an individual’s overall development. Most importantly, interactions can form some of the most significant human experiences of life as a whole

A cartoon on the mental exhaustion due to stringent and exhausting online classes [Image credits: Philippine daily]

However, face-to-face contact decreased when students and teachers alike were thrust into virtual classes as demanded by the situation. This sudden and ill-adjusted transition led to a severe reduction in motivation and interest among students all over the world. With the stresses of the pandemic looming like a sword of Damocles, online classes and exams in a format that strove to keep up with an offline academic year could only lead to mental exhaustion. Online classes do not leave any scope for practical experience, and its unrevised format makes students prioritise rote learning, hindering creativity and critical thinking skills. Instead of understanding the concept, students tend to skim through all the subjects, thus further reducing their reasoning ability. This monotonous routine and the continuous loop of screen-staring and writing assessments induces anxiety, stress, and feeds the growth of poor mental health.

Students are not the only ones struggling, though, as most teachers are in the same boat. The additional responsibility of keeping students interested during online classes, while managing their own homes and personal lives have impacted their mental health as well. Their stress levels reach an incredible high as they worry over the harsh impacts of the virus, especially on people belonging to older age groups or those having slight health complications. Furthermore, their minimal knowledge of technology makes for an ironic cherry on the top and subjects them to mockery by the youth. They are bullied, argued with, and made fun of by students. Online classes serve as a perfect platform to taunt teachers for their teaching methods, accents, dressing sense, among others.

“Students create Zoom IDs in random, unidentifiable names and troll teachers. Some switch off their camera and call teachers names from these IDs, some use them to send memes to teachers,” said a teacher in a private school in Delhi.

Students, fueled by boredom, might believe that such misbehaviour is just harmless fun, but their actions have a crippling impact on the well-being of teachers.

All Work and No Play Makes Jack a Dull Boy

Attending classes from the comfort of one’s home is not as good as it sounds. Students start developing physiological issues due to incorrect posture and the sedentary life stemming from pandemic restrictions. A number of health issues are cropping up as online schooling proceeds.

Mental and physical health are interrelated. Depression, anxiety, and self-esteem issues developed due to virtual courses are, in turn, affecting the physical well being of a person. People, so bound by their wearisome routines, no longer have any time for themselves. Sitting in front of their devices all day, they have little time to follow their passions and take care of themselves. Stress eating and lack of exercise are the leading causes of rising obesity among students. Obesity further causes various health complications and body image issues. In addition to all this, constant exposure to the screen leads to frequent headaches and worsening of ones’ eyesight.

An Ill-Planned Move or a Panacea in Times of Need

Technology has advanced to great extents, but is that enough? The primary requirement for online education to succeed is access to the internet, and many people, especially in under-developed and developing countries, lack such resources. The pandemic has made everyone realise that the internet is not just an amenity but is rather a necessity. The future is at risk until we bridge the dangerous gap of digital inequity in learning.

Practical classes and online education complement one another [Image credits: eLearning Industry]

Online education is a relatively new medium, but it is gaining popularity rapidly. It cannot replace classroom teaching in areas pertaining to practical lessons or social skill development. However, in the present age, one can combine the best of both worlds—classroom and online education in blended learning.

“Blended learning is a valuable tool for both teaching and learning since it provides a variety of ways for students to absorb information and the opportunity for educators to tap into their strengths,” summed up Lesly Sagar, a student from the United Kingdom.

It promotes cost-effective and flexible learning, which helps reduce the workload on students and improve their mental as well as physical health significantly. Moreover, it keeps students motivated and interested. Thus, teachers can easily connect with and impart knowledge to their pupils.

Featured Image Credits: Pixabay