School years are usually one of the best years of our lives. Schools not only provide education and learning that help us secure independence and careers, but also, is the place where we make friends for life, do stuff that brings a smile on our faces and cement basic mannerisms, values and discipline.
Every nation invests in education, because undoubtedly, better schools and better educational standards mean a better tomorrow. However, in India the quality of school infrastructure and education varies drastically, where on one hand there are international schools with huge campuses, modern facilities and an array of extracurricular activities, on the other hand there are schools that have only the minimum basic requirements in terms of infrastructure and resources. However, what remain same across the board (pun intended) are the schooling moments and experiences that in many ways are very Indian. Here is taking a look at some things that are very common and are still prevalent in the majority of our schools and within the education system.
- Uniforms –Unlike many countries where schools do not have uniforms, schools in India view uniforms as the basic manifestation of uniformity and equality and for mothers the perfect source of maintaining calm. Can you even imagine how much time we would be wasting first on deciding what to wear and then arguing with our families on why it needs to be worn if we had no uniform! Blue and white are the usual favorite colors of school authorities that take on different simple designs with logo pockets. The black school shoes for regular days and the white lace shoes for PT class are a standard in almost all schools. And yes, the two braided plaits are also a common product of the uniform look tests here.
- Black boards, chalk and dusters –Alright, many schools are now adopting the white boards and smart boards, however, black boards are still used in the majority of schools especially in rural schools. The squeaking of the chalk whilst the teacher is away or writing thoughtful quotes that also include cricket scores on the board when no one is looking are all a part of growing up. The decorations and drawings with colored chalk for a special occasion or admiring the straight clear handwriting of some teachers like an unachievable feat of staggering magnitude made the world seem black and white, pretty much as the board and chalk itself. There was only the right answer or wrong one, and that made things so much simpler. Only that chalk really hurt when thrown on our heads or at least messed the hair up, and the white dust from the duster made us squint our eyes and noses when the entire board had to be cleaned to enable newer insights to be chalked out.
- The granted wish – Every time a teacher enters the class, the students rise as a mark of respect and wish him or her a ‘good morning ‘or a ‘good afternoon’. Now, though the wishing sounded like a lazy tuneless song at times and though we tried to linger and create a little fuss before settling down, just so that a few more precious minutes of the class were wasted, this tradition in our schools has always been a great way to understand the meaning and importance of giving our teachers respect. In many ways, it has taught us to be humbled and thankful to those who are in positions to teach us things we do not know, and showing respect to them is just not a formality but also a well-meaning gesture, especially when we bend down and touch the feet of our favorite teachers on the very last day of our schooling life.
- Celebrations – Besides, annual day, sports day and parents’ day, schools in India celebrate two special occasions that are marked with warmth and firth on our calendars. Teachers Day and Children’s Day, celebrated on the birth anniversaries of Dr. Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan and Jawaharlal Nehru respectively, are two days that are even better than holidays. On Teacher’s Day the students prepare for the teachers and on Children’s Day the teachers prepare something special for their students. It is on these two days, that appreciation, love and bond that we share with our teachers and vice versa are evident in plays, songs, dramas, gifts, flowers, picnics and so on.
- Lunch break – The canteen selling eatables in school bring water to our mouths and can give the best of hotels a run for their money. Of course, the food is usually bad, or at least not that great, but it is hard to beat the price, those indescribable yet unforgettable flavors and the group gags that follow. And the dutifully located ‘chaat’ and other knickknack sellers that camp outside the school gate have forever attracted flocks of uniformed beings with watering eyes, smacking lips and news papered delights cupped in their hands.
The Indian education system has had a history of stalwart institutions as Taxila and Nalanda in the past and the ‘Gurukuls’ have for ages been mentioned in epics and Indian literature as sacred havens of imbibing knowledge and life lessons. In the modern times, our schools, colleges and universities though being influenced by global education standards and methods, still pretty much hold its locally grounded charm.
However, the long benches in classrooms, the ding dong of the class bell, the capped peon who knows more about chemistry experiments than anyone can imagine or the exclusivity of staff rooms are all a very essential part of our schools. And hence, to all our schools, who shape our lives in myriad ways, with love.