Educate to Inspire, Ignite, Illuminate

Hindustan Times

My grandparents and parents have often regaled us children- myself and a brood of cousins, with numerous anecdotes of their growing up years. From pranks played at school to the need to burn the metaphoric midnight oil, they claimed to have done it all. We would have a hearty laugh after each narration, even if it was the hundredth time we had heard it, and moved on to other family memories. This is not an experience exclusive to me alone and nostalgically recounting these memories is not the purpose of this writing. It is the ripple created in the calm waters of my mind after one of the many such conversations that I wish to share. 

While it is absolutely fine for three generations of a family to coincide in their ambitions, beliefs and goals, it is certainly not fine for them to coincide in the systems of education they have followed. What I refer to here is the same exaggerated importance given to examinations, the same pressure to excel academically, the same rat race of numbers and ranks. School structures have evolved into infrastructural wonders but there is much that can be done to improve the learning experience for students.

As a student committed to life-long learning, here are some suggestions I wish to make:

1.     Educate to inspire: The purpose of education is to motivate students to think, question and critically examine.  To that end, schools must consider student-led activities that motivate higher-order thinking skills. Inspire thought through Socratic debates, asking viewpoint questions like ‘what do you think’ in place of the factual ‘what is’. 


2.     Educate to ignite: Modern students are multi-rooted individuals. Many are third culture kids who have a wide spectrum of experiences. Imagine the diversity this can bring to class discussions. Focus on igniting deliberations and ponderings rather than regurgitating facts. Differentiated learning is the key to allowing students to learn at their pace- both the slow learners as well as the gifted ones.  


3.     Educate to illuminate: An ancient Sanskrit shloka states, “Tamso-ma Jyotir gamaya” or “Lead me from darkness to light.” A learner’s mind is a lamp to be ignited to dispel the darkness of ignorance. This illumination is a right of every single learner irrespective of class and ethnicity. Education for all is a goal we must achieve. Scholarships to renowned schools will make room for inclusivity, which will help illuminate the lives and future of students of different backgrounds.  

The pandemic has changed the face of learning. 

Many professions have unfortunately been forced to shut down during the pandemic but education is one of the few that not just survived, but also thrived. The adaptability displayed by schools, the selfless open-mindedness of the teaching community, the flexibility of the school schedule making room for asynchronous classes and the commendable use of technology have guaranteed that students not miss a beat. 

Scope for improvement is only an indication that this is a dynamic field that warrants constant attention. I have faith that like education has stood the test of the pandemic, it will continue to evolve with time. 

A student on how they adapted to virtual learning
in a post-COVID world

From the first week of January 2020, the phones chimed with several social media notifications that mentioned the outbreak of a virus called the 'Coronavirus', little did we know it was going to change lives forever. The real world seemed as usual, but the digital world was taken over by numerous cautions and warnings. The discussion around the number of cases started to dehumanise real people and families affected by the virus to numbers and statistics.

The idea of a normal had to be redefined. A sense of uncertainty and fear spread among everyone. The pandemic impacted various businesses and industries across the globe. It put everybody at major risk, and lockdown being the only viable solution, most powerful nations ordered a lockdown. An otherwise agile and incidentally chaotic world came to a grinding standstill. However, once again, the various segments of the Indian society rose to the challenge; people were resilient, robust and prompt.

A testament to the rapidly changing world was the schooling system that ostensibly transitioned to an online model. The paradigm shift in the delivery of education was new and overwhelming as our entire world had to fit in the little screens of our digital devices. The teachers put notable efforts to ensure that this transition was as smooth as possible. They made efforts to understand the know-how of digital learning and various platforms that were used by the school for learning.  It is reassuring that students were the topmost priority for the school authorities and the government bodies amidst the milling confusion. 

Our education was the foundation of our future, and our future appeared to confine to the internet. With the onus of learning more on us, we had to ensure we made the most of it. When the education system had to innovate, students were also motivated to modify their way of attending their lectures. The chattering corridors are replaced with the numerous messages on the e-learning platforms. The endless conversations with our friends in school fit into an exchange of a phone call or a video call. The noises in the background of different households replaced the noises in the classrooms. Whether this change is for the better or worse, the chances of it changing for us anytime soon seemed bleak.

Certainly, this quarantine period has made me more appreciative of the simple things in my life, such as playing football on the school field, feeling the weight of a bag on my shoulder, face-to-face conversations with teachers, and laughing with my friends during the lunch break. I can’t help but miss walking into the school gates and being greeted by the cheerful security guard, enthusiastic PE teachers, and even the cooperative librarian who assisted me with any book I needed.

However, I am grateful that I have the resources to ensure a safe and smooth transition to virtual life. This time has given me the chance to self-reflect and realise the privilege of my upbringing. It has made me more conscious of the society and its sufferings. Additionally, I am thankful for the government and school authorities to make sure that there wasn't an adverse impact on our career progression, and we could continue planning our future the same way that we had otherwise intended.

Overall, being a student in the times of the COVID-19 pandemic did seem overwhelming at times, but it is obvious that students got the most positives out of this complicated and often grim situation. It pushed me to adapt to a new and overhauled education system, it challenged me to take over the reins of my own learning, and it prepared me for thinking on my feet in an ever-transforming world. This pandemic has been a character-building experience, teaching me values like ownership, adaptability, having a problem-solving approach to life, always having a plan B, and these qualities will definitely help me all through the rest of my life.

© 2020 Adah Arora


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