We suspect that the runaway success of the film 3 Idiots (2009) may have a lot to do with a scene where a defiant Aamir Khan tells a headstrong Boman Irani that he intends to teach him ‘how to teach’ chemistry. After all, it’s a grievance that resonated with students across India, where over-emphasis on textbooks, and rote learning, instead of a holistic understanding of concepts, is still the order of the day in most schools.
In such a scenario, the monthly sessions conducted by educationist Divesh Bathija at the Mira Road-based Dinasim Classes, where, since January 2012, he has been counselling teachers in schools throughout Mumbai on how to teach their students, comes as a welcome effort. “If you ask a Class 7 student about the topics he/ she studied in Class 5, it’s unlikely that he/she will remember. This happens because the student has not really grasped the concepts, but merely memorised the facts, which with the passage of time, have been erased from memory. Since the system is difficult to change, the approach needs to be changed.”
Classes for teachers
Teachers think so too. Prema Borole — a science teacher with Panna English High School at Badlapur — who Bathija has counselled, says, “The counselling sessions taught me different ways of introducing new topics to students. Be it telling stories, quoting personal examples, or playing innovative games instead of using the conventional method of reading out from the textbook or the chalk-and-talk method, the approach helped me to increase the attention span of my students.” Barole has attended three classes so far.
Charu Choudhary, Principal, Panna English High School agrees. “We have been teaching the same subject in the same way for years now. The counselling sessions provoked a fresh approach and helped us find ways to encourage students to participate actively. It made teaching and learning more dynamic.”
Bathija signs a yearly contract with schools and conducts a session every month with the teachers. “During the session, teachers tell me about the difficulties they face while explaining a particular concept or chapter to students, and I try to devise an innovative game or activity to make it easier for students,” he explains. Bathija is also in the process of starting similar classes for parents, wherein they can discuss and sort out issues they face while teaching their kids.
Parents, too, are keen to pick up new ways of teaching their children. Mayura Amarkant, who has attended the ‘Parenting Reflections’ counselling session conducted by counsellor and psychotherapist Kirti Bakshi, says, “Today’s children have access to 350 TV channels; they see parents using gadgets and are well-versed with technology. It is hard to bring them up in the same manner as we were. Counselling taught me to connect better with my son.”
She recalls how when her son Abhimanyu went from senior kg to Class 1, he found it difficult to cope with the transition to writing and would get irritated because of his mistakes. “When I discussed this matter with the counsellor, she asked me to sit down with my child and explain to him that it was fine to make mistakes and that there was a solution to every problem like he could always use an eraser to rub off if he did not get his curves right while writing. With my assurance, my son felt more secure and got over this phase.” Today, Abhimanyu’s writing has drastically improved. “The experience also instilled an attitudinal change in my son.He now strongly believes that there is a solution to every problem in life, be it while playing a game or his studies.”
Says Abhimanyu happily, “With my mom’s assurance, I very well know now that there exists a solution to every problem.”
Similarly, Kareena Punjabi, who attended the nine-session ‘Art of Parenting’ worshop hosted by the Infant Siddha Programme (ISP), in 2005 to help teach her seven year-old daughter, Bhoomika, says, “Today’s kids need to be taught differently from the way we were taught back in school.” She recalls, “I was taught to be a ‘yes’ parent — meaning that even if I had to refuse something to my daughter, I needed to do it without saying no. I was asked to talk and communicate with my daughter as often as possible. As a result, today, my daughter and I share a very good rapport and she shares everything that happens in her day with me.”
Each child is different
Bakshi, who began her workshops 20 years ago, explains, “Our culture propagates training-based learning instead of experience-based learning. Parents exert anxious stress on their kids instead of giving them their rightful space to learn.” She adds that there are three types of learners — audio, visual and kinesthetic. “Each child is different. Children who have audio and visual learning styles will read better and faster and those with kinesthetic learning style will write well. All three skills are internalised by children by the time they are nine years old. The problem starts when parents start getting worried.”
Bakshi also opines that education in India follows a generalised approach instead of concentrating on a unique approach to each child. She concludes,“In recent years, I have seen that an increasing number of parents are becoming receptive to the needs of their children. As a counsellor, I educate parents on which is the preferred style of learning for their child so that whatever the child learns is better absorbed and retained.”
Bathija too believes that parents could do with some coaching on how to coach their kids. After all, they are the child’s first contact with the outside world. “Two years ago, I was teaching a child whose mother was going through a divorce. She would constantly tell the child to study well, saying their future depended on his good marks,” he says. The child however, perceived this as a burden and wouldn’t score well in his exams. “That’s when I told the parent to change her approach — I told her to, instead, ask him to thoroughly understand and enjoy whatever he was studying. When she started doing this, the child responded well and is now doing well in his studies,” says Bathija.