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Does the Classroom Topper Top in Life?

MAHENDRI DEVI | Principal, Vishwa Bharti Public School, Greater Noida

Mahendri Devi is a seasoned, passionate and resourceful educational professional with 25 years of experience. She is currently the Principal at Vishwa Bharti Public School, Greater Noida. She has taught all age groups from K-12 in her more than two decades of teaching. She has worked in some of the premiere institutions of the country. She was an Asst. Headmistress in St. Xavier’s Sr. Sec School, Delhi, handling a team of 2000 students and 55 teachers, and was the Vice Principal in Somerville International School, Noida. When she is not teaching, she is blogging, reading or researching for the next best way to make teaching-learning a memorable and productive experience.


More than two decades of teaching and this paradoxical outcome has always baffl­ed me. There is a world of difference between performing under guided, protected, familiar parameters in the classroom and executing and sustaining in unprotected, unfamiliar, unexpected situations in life. Education should educate an individual with life-skills along with formulae and fundamentals, territories and terminologies, legends and literature.

Why do we not teach our students to research, compare, analyse, question and dare to be different? As a student, I always wondered where I would use logarithm in life. When I learned speed and distance and their co-relation, I solved the sum for the sake of solving.

As long as I remembered the steps, and my answer matched the digits at the back of that dreadfully thick maths book, I was satisfied. I realised much later what it all meant when I started driving, and I had to adjust my speed before trying to overtake, estimating the speed of the vehicle coming towards me. Then I said to myself that my early years were robbed of half the joy of learning. The booming economy, super-busy parents and overburdened teachers have given birth to a lop-sided, self-obsessed and instant gratification-seeking generation.

Today, teenagers feel awkward in a social gathering or in their own families. To avoid the unfamiliar faces and to stave off those solicitous smiles, their quick and unfailing resort is the screen in the palm. Pretending to be busy and isolating themselves shows lack of people skills. They need to be educated on patience, communication, knowing how and when to show empathy, active listening and genuine interest in others.

Not only that, people are interesting, which you realise only when you get close to them. It wouldn’t be surprising if the arrogant, seeming-to-be all-knowing school pass-outs would not even know how to apply, arrange documents, foresee problems, understand deadlines or face an interview for something as simple as a passport or visa. They must have the experience and knowledge to deal with the potential difficulties or dangers of life. Smart moves make smart people or vice-versa.

Let us allow our children to err. Children need to get stuck. Education must break inhibitions. Education must teach one to adapt. Education must make children world-ready. Books and virtual world, closed classrooms and CCTV premises only leave us half-baked and ill-equipped for life’s challenges. It is high time we amended our ways and created a system that makes learning functional and lasting.

Arrange for students to visit important offices on a not-so-busy time, to understand the functioning of departments, be it a bank, a court in session or a hospital. Give them target questions and let them find out for themselves and prepare a report or presentation. Instead of giving them readymade solutions, let them explore.

Teachers must encourage innovation. Take their homework from CUT COPY PASTE to making apps and using Artificial Intelligence to resolve life issues. Take them on a picnic or nature walk and let their imagination stretch to compose and paint the unthinkable. Take them to a vegetable market with a set budget. Let them learn to bargain, look for quality and also save.

Do they have to wait till 11th grade to learn to make a balance sheet? The syllabus should be so planned that it gives room for hands-on learning. Teachers must integrate the activities with topics done in various subjects. One field trip could be a learning base for various subjects. This makes teaching-learning not only interesting, but meaningful and productive.

Marks don’t determine one’s destiny is a cliché and it is a cliché because it is true. It is not the bookworms but the street smarts that will strive, survive and sustain.


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