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August 13, 2022 10:08 am

Of Pedagogy: Between Criticism and Creativity

Recently, two videos went viral on Kashmir’s social media. Both had three things in common: they were videos of Government school teachers, had the teachers trying a unique play-way method of teaching and both videos were criticised massively online. The teaching activities shown in the videos were part of NIPUN’s (National Initiative for Proficiency in Reading with Understanding and Numeracy), a vertical of the Samagra Shiksha Scheme of National Education Policy. The unique way of teaching did not sit well with people, however, the debate was far from one sided. There were takers as well as trashers of the teaching activity. Here are two write-ups weighing in on the issue.

Teaching Out of Tune 

By Amir Suhail Wani

THE high speed internet, fastest means of communication and a wholesale mechanisation of our lives has made us accustomed to pace and haste. Remember that Prophetic Saying “Haste is due to devil”? Well, that haste is evident from our behaviour patterns, knee jerk reactions and instant promptings we go through every now and then – majorly an offshoot of our engagement with high-speed internet, which has deprived us of our patience, calm and composure.

This is being reiterated as a passing reference, though an important one, about the cascade of reactions, slurs and remarks made against the teaching activity video that went viral on Facebook a few days ago. Teachers were shown performing an activity in chorus and people were quick to disrespect the teachers and detest the activity; mistaking the activity as some futile exercise and non-sense misadventure. Even after it was made clear that this was no simple singing and dancing activity, there’s no stopping the talk on the internet with some people  mocking the drill and others explaining its true import, academic utility and its place in pedagogy.

The video in question was purportedly a demonstration module meant to train teachers in one of the many activities which they could later enact in their classes with their students. These activities form the warp and woof of academia in foreign countries, where play-way and fun-full education imparted through activities is preferred over rote learning and traditional pedagogy. The efficacy of these methods and their ability to stimulate the learning ability of children is also well-proven.

However, the viability of these activities in our local context needs to be assessed. The first observation regarding these activities reveal that they are not organic. They aren’t indigenous methods as well. Infact, they lack the relatability factor which is so important to attract the attention of children, invoke their learning spirit and bring out the changes in students these activities aspire or purport to bring about.

They are, at the most, an instance of patchwork, a misplaced grafting. Even if it be admitted that these activities have a universal ability of transforming ways of learning, they still call for a holistic integration into our educational framework – something which is nowhere in sight. The present scenario in government schools of the valley is abysmal. Children lack access to basic amenities and the overall condition is sub-par. Therefore, the talk of play-way learning and the introduction of methods totally alien to our context raises more questions than it tries to answer.

While the teachers who appeared in the video were scoffed at, the point was missed that what was the import of activity being demonstrated in the video, its viability in our context and its possible utility and efficacy. Nor was anybody either from the commoners or among the teaching experts interested in asking as to why we can’t develop and evolve indigenous teaching methodologies –the methodologies incorporating recent trends in pedagogy but at the same time being more immediate, realistic and related to lives as we live in our context. Is anybody there to bell the cat?

Views expressed in the article are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent the editorial stance of Kashmir Observer

  • The author is a Srinagar based columnist

Teach Smart with Rhyming Bananas 

By Fazl Illahi 

I know what kind of schools we’ve been taught in. We were educated in the schools where we were taught rhyme in nursery like prose, made to sit motionless on a bench and cram. We could never understand that there’s music in poetry. Why? Because most of us were taught Urdu or English poetry just like prose.The teacher did not sing, or gesture, not at all. They just narrated and that battered our poems. We learnt them, not knowing, they could be enjoyed by singing. We were taught poems, made to cram the meaning and were tested on the “central” idea of it in the examination. That’s all.

If you can’t relate with what I say, imagine if Iqbal Bano would not have sung Faiz Ahmad Faiz’s “Hum Dekhenge”’. It did not add any meaning to it but has contributed to its wide appeal. Imagine if national anthems like India’s “Jana Gana” or Pakistan’s “Pak Sar Zameen” were not sung.  Jana Gana Mana not put to rhyme, just imagine!

Language has music in it, this music will only be heard when we are made receptive by making us, as children (not necessarily as anxious adults), to enjoy it by rhyming it as much as we can. This brings the banana training, that many people seem to be critical about, into context.

If you say that there is nothing in a banana for it to be put to rhyme and said with gesturing, that’s a problem for which the reasons have been already, at the beginning. Since you were taught your rhymes like prose and were grilled and tested in examination, what could have given you enjoyment turned into pain for you. That’s why, if a teacher trainer tries to show how you could let children joyfully imagine a banana without seeing it in a class, how to peel it in your mind and how to shake or drink it with enjoyment; you cannot tolerate it. You can never imagine that bananas could rhyme this way and they could also be enjoyed without eating. This incomprehensible concept is intolerable to you. So, you begin to troll.

It’s not about bananas. The best teachers are the ones who by way of their teachings can bring to life an apple, a mango, a fig, a car or anything in the minds of children, by rhyme and rhythm. The teacher trainer in question was not teaching hard science, hairsplitting philosophy, he was just trying to show how a banana could be brought to the live imagination of the child. Some other trainer could do it differently, or better. But the point is that a resourceful teacher can create a rhyme for apple or pear or any vegetable or anything if they are really resourceful. If I was a toddler’s teacher I would ask them what if bananas were apples with very thin peels and would taste like mangoes. “What if”, is something children love. We as adults forget the potential of “What Ifs”.

This is what it takes to teach toddlers. It’s very difficult and very different from teaching university or college students.Teaching toddlers takes real imagination and creativity, not just knowledge. Just check what nursery teachers do in Finnish or European schools. Our nursery schools are a disaster and if in this condition some teacher trainer takes initiative, why should it bother someone?. Some mistakes may be made but people must be given a chance to initiate change. On the one hand, we criticise Government teachers for not doing enough and on the other hand we troll someone who is just trying to do his best.

  • The article was originally the Facebook of the author and is being reproduced here with minor edits. Views expressed in the article are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent the editorial stance of Kashmir Observer

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