Sunday, January 6, 2019

'A Book-less World'

Are we giving our children a 'Book-less World' and then blaming them for not having any love for reading books?

Recent encounters with some young children through a short period of two months was a long enough period to learn more about how technology is affecting our children; how we, as adults, both, as Educationists and Parents, are contributing to making the present generation all the more addicted to their devices. On a close encounter, while at a temporary job in an International School of prestige, it was shocking to see how the school allows the carrying of mobile phones (and devices, presumably for the purpose of learning) into the classrooms, while most schools lay out the rule to hand over the phones at the student's arrival at school, only to reclaim them at the end of school.

The new experience in the 30 long years of my teaching career in Dubai, in different positions and roles, I never encountered such a scenario where the mobile phones may become a big distraction within the classroom environment and stringently come in the way of class discipline, in the wake of the absence of any prescribed textbooks. 

In the absence of regular textual books as per the requirements of the Syllabus (which seemed to be beyond any sane comprehension), it becomes all the more imperative that the use of devices needs to be conducted in a highly disciplined environment. On the contrary, I observed a total lack of discipline when even in the face of a given task, the students misused their i pads and engaged on the mobile phones irrespective of the teacher's instructions. Not only that, the confiscation of the device after repeated instructions and warnings, ended up with an impolite argument and arrogance displayed by the pupils.

Much better was the world with books and without devices, when the students knew how to read and respect books and did not kick their bags with their feet! 

In the absence of regular texts, which would initiate them to read a chapter, a poem or a comprehension passage on a daily basis and lead them to do regular written work by way of answering the text- based question, there was seen a total lack of concentration and a complete absence of the urge to address the questions in a disciplined and focused manner.

All necks bent and eyes riveted on to the screens of mobile phones or i pads, as one would walk along the school corridors, it seems to be the biggest sin on the part of a multitude of prevailing factors, which are not only nurturing youngsters having a poor concentration due to excessive exposure to the devices, but, a corresponding lack of respect, and social discipline.

Being unable to write one paragraph in correct English and having to be coaxed and cajoled into producing a quality of work that is horrendous as per the high standards of technology they are thriving in, it is a bane indeed. Devoid of a decent level of vocabulary, legible hand writing and reading skills, the permission to use the devices seems to be killing all creativity, originality and respect for learning. 

Sadly enough, 'going to the Library' is an excuse for not having to learn in the class. Writing regular pieces of classwork is a burden; opening a notebook and writing down reason enough to relate to the teacher with hatred; the extreme being the nastiness to ask to be allowed to take a snapshot of the lesson conducted by the teacher on the Board!

No doubt technology can usher the present generation miles ahead but this is impossible without discipline and respect, both of which, if an Institute fails to nurture, then it is nothing short of committing a big crime against Education, Qualified and Experienced Teachers (who can be pushed to the verge of crying and breaking down) and, the most precious, new generation. 

Some of the well known International Schools that charge exorbitant Yearly Fees and pay high scale salaries to the teachers need to ensure that the concept of being 'International' is fully respected, where no teacher, irrespective of the nationality, race, color or religion is given a rough deal. The schools need to lay down the school rules more firmly, among which non-verbal cues given by the teacher need to be encouraged, and the permission to carry mobile phones in the classrooms needs to be strictly prohibited.

This will certainly help to promote a better learning atmosphere in classrooms, as the disruptive students need to be taken to task for destroying a well-planned lesson, causing, both the Teacher and the rest of the class, distress.        

An unnerving and shocking experience for an Educationist with 30 years of teaching experience, having guided students to obtain the highest grades and to reach the top most universities in the world, it has been an eye opening experience. A revelation! Hope, we can help save the present generation from becoming screen addicts and not be guilty of being responsible for pushing them into a 'Bookless world' replacing it with the 'Gadget World'!

Perhaps, it is time to draw a line between making it clear to the present generation that either they learn from the Tutor and the books or they they be self-tutored and learn on their own from their devices. If they desire to get the benefit of both, they need to be self-disciplined. 

There is no denying the fact that the role of the teacher has undergone a transformation from being a 'teacher' to being a 'facilitator'; there is nothing better than letting the new generation come up with self- expression and self-learning but in order to meet this demand, every school needs to lay down firm and clear Ground-Rules so that a sane balance may be created between the 'Book-less and the Gadget World'.

This can be a strong combination but 'deadly' if the students need to be 'convinced to learn'; they must be made to understand that they come to school, and, to the classroom, to learn...and at what expense!