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October 17, 2019 Thursday 11:27:20 AM IST

Mark of a School

Cover Story

p { margin-bottom: 0.1in; direction: ltr; line-height: 115%; text-align: left; }Each educational institution has a culture. It is the direct reflection of what it primarily stands for. The socio-economic needs of the society tend to determine what an educational institution is standing for. The very texture and content of the culture of any institution is a collective response to society’s needs.

Yet, an efficient school system meticulously weaves its culture in such a way that it can be easily ‘absorbed’ by the students. A student will be in a dilemma when he perceives any mismatch between the culture he has been born into and the culture of the school he is thrown into. School cultures must seek adequate compatibility with the subcultures, namely, home, society and community. The relevance of a school begins to fade away when its culture has nothing to do with the expectations of the society in which the school is embedded.

Focus on performance

Fundamentally, school culture is shaped by the vision of the school about the kind of education it wants to impart. If a school values academic performance above all - specifically the grade/marks the student scores in the examination - its culture will have a ‘demanding’ tone. Such schools will have some pre-determined standards which they spread among the students. The school instructs students to abide by its academic norms and standards if they want to be appreciated and approved by the teachers. Students’ performance in the examination will decide their fitness to the school culture. Often, in this approach, students’ natural and innate propensities are overlooked.

Such performance-oriented ambience is always surrounded by an air of competition, not of excitement or experimentation. It is literally suffocating to the students. Students' self-esteem suffers seriously whenever they fall short of their friends, in terms of performance. Several students who pass out from such institutions carry a flawed/immature personality and may even seek psychological/psychiatric help to move through life.


Performance-oriented culture grips a school when it is in the survival mode. For a school to be in the good books of the future (as well as present) parents, it must produce enough pass percentage year after year. Parents always prefer schools that churn out the maximum number of A-graders. If a school can’t rise up to parental expectations, it is in an existential threat. When educational institutions are spawning like mushrooms in every nook and corner of the country, almost all schools are in a struggle for survival.

Programmed teachers

The struggle for survival permeates into all activities of the school and the noble act of teaching too is not spared from its grip. When the teacher’s perception is marred by anxiety over producing maximum pass percentage, he/she begins to function like a robot programmed in advance for training students’ brain to regurgitate clear-cut, readymade answers for the questions which are likely to come up in the examination. Creativity in teaching or excitement/enjoyment in learning becomes a myth. The creative impulses of the students go unnoticed and many of them crave to escape from classrooms by hook or by crook. They feel fed up. This, in turn, triggers an ever-widening gulf - intellectual as well as emotional - in the teacher-student relationships.

Job market - a timely saviour

Luckily, this ‘demanding’ nature of ‘fit for all’ culture of educational systems is in the dock now. The world has awakened to the futility of scores or the level of the performance recorded in the certificates of students passing out from various educational systems. Examination-oriented systems that do not follow effective evaluation process have little to promise to the skills and resources the modern world is badly in need of. Verily, it is a silver line of hope.

The job market of the globalized, technology-driven world never permits entry for graduates or post-graduates merely by verifying their credentials recorded in the certificate. The employers are looking for candidates who can ‘apply’ whatever he/she has learned from school/college. They need individuals with a creative bend of mind and intellect, who can see what others can't; who can implement their proficiency or skill in their specialized areas to manifold working situations; who have better leadership qualities and who can step out with novel solutions to the issues - old or new.

Everyone - even a street peddler - has a Google browser in his chest pocket, so close to his heart. It is only a touch away from his touch screen. So, the employers in the job market do not want a person with his brain stuffed with mere knowledge and information. They need human intelligence that can go beyond artificial intelligence. Individuals who can transcend from hackneyed, mechanistic, pre-determined ways of dealing with things, will conquer the field. Individuals with expanded consciousness will rule the roost.

AI to refine school culture

The arrival of artificial intelligence is a promising sign. It has the power to catapult the fundamentals of school cultures into new areas. Schools will have to wipe out the learning/teaching culture designed merely to overload human memory with information because the society is no more in need of information as it used to be from the individual source.

Under the new definition, the schools that prepare students for grade-oriented performance will lose their significance. Parents will search for schools that foster the overall development of their wards. To be precise, they will scan for the institutions that provide equal importance to intellectual, emotional, behavioral, artistic, social, creative and even spiritual dimensions of development of their wards. Then only can they ensure that the intellect of their wards is different from that of artificially intelligent robots. The schools which are hell-bent on the grades students score in academics at the cost of overall development will be forced to rewrite their priorities.

Thus, the future schools will rediscover their lost glory. Long before the British Raj could monopolize our classrooms, the Indian school education system had been more inclusive and life-oriented. If described from the viewpoint of Montessori….our education system was….

Not something which teacher does, but a natural process which develops spontaneously in the human being. It is not acquired by listening to words but in virtue of experiences in which the child acts on his environment. The teacher's task is not to talk, but to prepare and arrange a series of motives for cultural activity in a special environment for the child” (The Absorbent Mind, Maria Montessori)

Our education system will walk back to see what it has lost during its journey towards modernity. It will become more inclusive, holistic. It has to.

Dr. Jeny Rapheal

The writer is a Teacher and Psychologist Read more articles..