Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Assembly Line

Ok... this is something a lot of people might identify with..

The last 3 days, I have been trying to teach my daughter Ananya some stuff she has been learning at school – about ‘Assembly Lines’. Yes, you heard right – not Fractions, not Tenses, not even States of India – things we feel are reasonable for a 4th grader to be learning in school... but all about Assembly lines... principles of Assembly Lines, advantages of Assembly Lines, types of Assembly lines – the whole hog...

This is definitely a far cry from the times when the only kind of ‘assembly lines’ a 4th grader was expected to know about were the serpentine queues of students at the morning prayers. But obviously, some educationists think differently... clearly, they think the ripe old age of 9 or 10 years is the appropriate time for 'Business Studies' - the right time to learn all about Principles of Trade and Production, Primary, Secondary & Tertiary business sectors etc. .. and also about the Indus Valley Civilization, the Vedic Culture and such things in Humanities...

In her last Business Studies exam, Ananya was asked to ‘Write the functions of money’. Drawing directly from her personal experience, she wrote, “Money is for giving, getting and keeping safely.” Quite a gem, I thought. No prizes for guessing that it was marked wrong by the teacher, and awarded a zero. Who cares about appreciating original thinking...!

Last year, we had made what we thought was an educated choice, to put Ananya in a school offering the CIE (Cambridge) curriculum. We thought this curriculum would be easier, more practically oriented and less rote based. Obviously, we underestimated the capacity of our system to make a rote based system out of everything. Their Science book has  a good design to encourage the spirit of scientific enquiry - all kinds of interesting experiments to try out, provision to formulate and write down their hypotheses, then verify with the results of the actual experiment etc. It has all of this - but all they actually do is to copy some sample readings from the textbook to a work book... so much for Science learning...

And if I speak any more about their woes in Humanities and Business Studies, I will not be able to stop myself from pulling out my hair or breaking something...

Well... what can we do now – it was our choice, after all... so we woefully debate alternatives for her future... and get whatever fringe benefits we can in the meantime... Like the wonderful Lucille Ball video I found on Youtube while trying to show Ananya videos related to what an ‘Assembly Line’ looked like... She found it hilarious and showed it to her friends in school – and a new generation discovered the comic genius of Lucy (whose shows I grew up on – DD used to air them in the 70’s...) :)
(here's the link for those who love Lucy:

So, we will continue to suffer silently – Ananya trying to mug up the Principles of an Assembly Line and spellings like 'Conveyor Belt' – and we trying to help her make some sense of what she is mugging up...

Meanwhile, here is my take on a good example of an Assembly Line... Ananya's school....



  1. Just wondering, how much education system has changed.. Now, kids have more options.

    I guess, with this kind of education, just remembering what you mug up won't remain the criteria anymore to decide brilliancy.

    Liked the pics :)

  2. Well... I have spent years and years on education - as a teacher, parent and educator... there are some initial signs of change, with some progressive schools trying to make learning less rote based...

    But by and large, the vast majority of schools and teachers still adhere to the 'mug up rules, methods and facts' approach... even in the top city schools...

  3. you are fortunate that you got this school..
    More than you, ananya is fortunate enough :) ..

    I feel reallyyy bad for other kids who will have to read and mug up all useless stuff..

  4. Ha Ha Ha! I think the cartoon is really wonderful - reminds me of Charlie's modern times -they have finally come.
    But I think there is another - and very wonderful side to it - a really spiritual side - of Ananya - I just love the supreme detachment with which she copes up with it all - and the fact that she gets it from both ends - School and home.
    Would be great to see acartoon of her in a tug of war - Ananya right in the middle and ......

    And why should schools and teachers be any different from larger society - they too are a reflection of the same. So we will keep getting what we deserve - unless we intend to do some thing about it.

    Is it possible for you (us - I am with you if there are things I can contribute to) to provide an alternative to Ananya? some thing which is "Education", acceptable by her, us, and the who ever else's acceptance we seek.

    Amsuddenly remembering Ma'am Nandita Narain who used to keep reminding us that we are a part of the problem if we are not a part of the solution