“The schoolbooks hardly go into the psyche of these achievers – they do not push children to understand how these personalities found the resilience to face the challenges thrown their way, they do not push students to understand the humans – with their share of frailties, complexities, strengths – behind these achievers.“
When we think about education, the subjects that come to our mind, especially in India, are mathematics, the sciences, commerce. All other subjects are considered inferior, mainly because they do not pave the way to lucrative jobs. This is the mindset I would like to challenge. Should education be looked upon only to earn high paying jobs?
The Indian cricket team’s recent victory in the test series against Australia has left the country in awe. People who usually stay well away from cricket – and in particular, the longer form of the game – were glued to their televisions watching the nail-biting matches with great interest. The remarkable showcase of grit and resilience by the entire team of 20 players has put us all in high spirits. This was followed by the celebration of the 145th birthday of the great freedom fighter Subhash Chandra Bose, whose fearlessness shook the British empire. Right after this came the Republic Day celebrations, where all Indians paused to remember the many people – leaders, martyrs, citizens – because of whom we are here as an independent, confident nation today. The thread that connects these three events is ‘history’.
Let us take a step back and analyse the skills needed to grow up in the fullest sense – emotionally, mentally, and physically. The current curriculum in schools surely focus on mental and physical aspects. They teach logical reasoning, decision making and analytical skills through their math and science courses. Physical training, albeit a minor and often low-priority item for most of our schools, finds its place. But how do schools intend to develop a child’s emotional intelligence? Or rather do educators think about this at all?
This is where I believe history and heritage have an important role to play. When we read about Einstein and Mahatma Gandhi, we are in awe of their successes and sacrifices. We learn from not only their achievements but also their characters, their lifestyle, their outlook. We indeed encounter stories of individual struggles in primary and secondary textbooks, but again the details provided are superficial. The schoolbooks hardly go into the psyche of these achievers – they do not push children to understand how these personalities found the resilience to face the challenges thrown their way, they do not push students to understand the humans – with their share of frailties, complexities, strengths – behind these achievers.
In my opinion here are three important skills a child needs to develop, and these are offered best through education in history and heritage.
Confidence & Pride: These are essential to take on various challenges and succeed in the real world. While there are ways to build confidence through practice and mental stamina, the stories about people who have done it in the past keeps giving us energy every time pessimism hits. It helps us dust the wounds and march forward again. Walking with our chin up is an attitude sure to drive anyone forward to success, and this comes only when you understand not just yourself but your heritage. I recently met a farmer in rural South India, who is striving to keep alive the practices of his ancestors from the Chola dynasty (one of the largest empires of South India between 9th and 13th century who at their peak had expanded their influence on major portions of south-east Asia). Despite many setbacks, his fight is far from over. His understanding of his heritage inspires him to push ahead every single time he faces a roadblock.
Resilience: Going back to the Indian cricket team’s recent victory in Australia, one of the most talked about aspects was the resilience of the players in the team. Despite the long list of injuries, the youngsters went out there and showed what they are capable of. This was not just a matter of skill and technique. The Australians were immensely skilled too, but the resilience and fight in our boys
were a few notches higher. Lessons from this team performance, their grit, their willingness to go beyond personal milestones for the team’s cause, will leave a lasting impression in our youngsters. Of course, these lessons need to be complemented with opportunities to practice the skill.
Fearlessness & Selflessness: These are two characteristics that differentiate most if not all the achievers we read about in our history books and epics. From Martin Luther King’s selflessness in taking racism head-on to the most recent story of Elon Musk, an entrepreneur whose fearlessness, firm self-reliance and unshakeable confidence has led to the creation of a multibillion-dollar company. Most stories showcase ways in which people tapped into these tremendous abilities within them and emerged victorious, and there is a lot our young can learn from them.
I will leave you with this thought: with the emergence of multiple gaming companies in the last few years, perhaps there will emerge strong alternate modes of teaching children about history, heritage, and values in a relatable way paving way for intuitive learning?
Charanya is the Co-founder of Gurucool, an activity-based learning company on a mission to take ancient Indic Wisdom to young minds in innovative ways. Charanya also serves as an advisor to Mahindra University’s Indira Mahindra School of Education. Prior to this, she was the Head of Strategic Initiatives at the Hippocampus Learning Centres, working directly with schools and KG centres in rural Karnataka. She holds an MBA from INSEAD (France/Singapore) and MS from University of North Carolina, Charlotte (USA).