Schools should care to provide comprehensive education

It is said that ‘home is the first school’ for the child. But when the same child is put in school, it becomes  imperative that home is replicated in the school so as to provide the emotional support that the child should continue to receive in the growing years. What home has been in the pre-school phase, the school should play later by creating a congenial and informal atmosphere while imparting education to the wards.

Gone are the days when school was regarded as a mere centre of educational activity manned by teachers with a strict  regime in teaching the three ‘R’s. Today, the role of school in the educational development of children has become more complex and is also under scanner by the parents, educationalists, activists and the  general public.

The responsibility of school, apart from academics, is to broaden the mental horizon of the students to make them smart, confident and responsible citizens. In the school, students are influenced by the teachers and also by other students.

The way teachers interact with children and the way they encourage children to interact among themselves enables them to improve inter-personal relations in their later lives. The school, while ensuring the maximum academic potential of the students, should also concentrate on imbibing problem-solving and solution-seeking skills among the youngsters.

A positive attitude in growing children when imparted in the class room and in the play ground, will go a long way in picking up social skills which nowadays are more important than ever before. Self esteem, fair social skills and good communication abilities are the basic ingredients that put children on the pedestal of success along with academic credentials.

The most important part of one’s life is spent at school. During this period, we  learn almost all good things that we should acquire in life. School, therefore, is the training ground for all virtues that make a good man or woman. School is the place  where we first learn how to lead a disciplined life.

Children read together, sit together and play together and, thus, school life teaches the importance of collective living and the nuances of how to adjust with others. Children learn the lessons of self control, truthfulness, compassion, empathy and, more importantly, mutual respect.

Schools open the vistas of the students to the virtues of values, beliefs and healthy habits by playing a transformative role. When the school days are over, students leave the premises with regret indicating the kind of impact it has had on them.  

School becomes a central factor in the process of character building of the yo-
ung students. Though academic excellence  continues to be a non-negotiable responsibility for every school, it also imparts
values and beliefs like compassion, respect and integrity.

Schools, by conducting debates, organising cultural activities and undertaking field trips, excursions, etc also broaden the mental horizons of students. Such extra curricular and co-curricular activities make children derive value-based education.

Physical and moral education

Physical and moral education during school life should also become an integral part
of academic education, for as Swami Vivekananda had pointed out – a sound mind can only be housed in a sound body. Sports and games should become necessarily an integral part of the school curriculum for the holistic growth of the children.

Theosophical scheme of school education as evolved by Dr Annie Besant with the collaboration of educationalists like Dr George S Arundale and Ernest Wood, envisaged a healthy combination of the three main components of education namely, academic, physical and moral.

Dr Besant, in fact, suggested that afternoons should be earmarked only for physical education. She insisted that the ideal time for imparting academic education is from 7 am to 12-30 pm and the afternoons should be devoted to games and sports.

One great value for which a school is primarily looked to is the discipline that it is expected to instill among the youngsters. The kind of discipline to which the child is trained in the school, remains invariably  during the rest of life. For children, discipline is to be made a way of life. Discipline is not limited only to money and riches; it  is a personal orientation towards life.

As the very trait is basically a habit, it can be cultivated, and school plays a major role in orienting the students towards disciplined lives. With discipline, excellence becomes a habit rather than a virtue.

Discipline will teach children how to remain focused. Student discipline in school will help them habituate it and carry it for life. It extends to personal life, career, work life-style and social life. By being disciplined, you are respected by others, you stay creative, happy, active and healthy. Students find more time in a day, stay tension free and without examination phobia, if only they are disciplined.

Many successful people attribute their success to discipline more than knowledge. Even highly talented people cannot succeed if not disciplined. Napoleon Bonaparte, the Emperor of France (1803-1815) and master of Europe, scored great successes both in military and in administration due to discipline that was synonymous with his very name.

It is said that all the 40 battles he fought and won during his life were first won in his mind with a thorough planning before he actually went to face the enemy. Nap-oleon often used to recall how much he was impacted by the school that he attended  as a young cadet. Later in life, he never failed to visit his school to pay his gratitude, whenever he was passing in its vicinity.   

(The writer is retired professor of History, University of Hyderabad)

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