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Editor’s Note: Avanti in collaboration with Youth Ki Awaaz explored stories of teachers, students and communities that are striving to transform the education system in India. Find out more and be a part.
By Vishnu Dev:
My schooling was very boring. I used to study in a local school not affiliated to any board. I was in a batch of 1000 students, and by Class 3, my marks were the among the worst in class. Then I met another student who felt that learning just to score marks, was pointless. He started teaching me after school without thinking about marks and exams, and soon I found myself enjoying math and science.
In Class 5, I got into reading textbooks of higher classes and would just try and understand things on my own – so much so that by the time I was in Class 8 I had finished learning everything up to the Class 10 syllabus on my own!
What helped me in those days was self-study. I jumped into the ICSE and state board syllabi and by the time I went to college I was on a quest for knowledge. But it was not easy.
Due to financial difficulties, I never actually attended Class 11 and 12 but. However, I received many scholarships for tuition classes including one from Super 30, which I later joined. Super 30 gave me the exposure to meet many like-minded students. The way Anand sir teaches maths is phenomenal and I think my love for maths grew stronger when I was there. It also enhanced my own beliefs about education and the way we teach.
At a young age, teaching became a hobby. In school I used to teach my classmates and at home I taught my younger brother. In Class 9, I started giving tuitions for pocket money. When I got into NIT Rourkela for electrical engineering, I got a part-time teaching job from the second year onwards. So, I think teaching just got into my blood and by the time I reached my final year, I was very clear that this is what I wanted to do, as it was teaching that made the best use of my skills and knowledge.
After college, I started getting job offers from various coaching institutes and finally joined Avanti Learning Centres. Currently, I am posted in the JSW township in Bellary, Karnataka, where there are two schools and all kinds of students.
Some are so sharp; they grasp concepts really easily. Those students, anyone can teach. But there are others who are unable to even understand basic concepts while there’s a third section who is not interested in studying at all. The most basic challenge in teaching them, I feel, is understanding the differing skills of students. Also, early on, I learnt that motivating children to study versus telling them what to study makes all the difference.
So, I get those in the middle to focus on specific concepts that they are weak in instead of scores. For disinterested students, I try to make them first understand why they should learn by making them realise how science is everywhere around us, and how it should make you curious about why and how things come to be.
I felt really satisfied when this year, one of my students opted for Maths in Class 11. He used to be so scared of maths that he thought of not choosing science because of this fear.
I feel that education is losing its essence. As a system, it is geared towards spoon-feeding students, who in turn are studying not to gain knowledge but to score marks, get into good colleges and have jobs. Education is also turning into a commercial business.
Instead, I think education should be about learning and enhancing one’s intuition and imagination. Hence it needs a lots of innovation. For instance, I am quite fascinated by the idea of adopting a topic-wise learning approach to learning as opposed to subject-wise, as Finland has done.
Where I feel I can help change the system is by inspiring people to choose teaching not just for earning money but to help change the system, itself. I also want to continue helping students from a lower middle class, students like me, who can’t even think of a proper education. I want to be someone to whom a student would say, “Sir, because of you I didn’t give up on learning.”
I’m still in touch with students whom I taught five years ago, who are now in college or may have already graduated from NIT Patna. One such student who was very disinterested, skipped pre-boards and even Class 12 board exams. So, I started teaching her and she managed to get First division. This “disinterested” student is now a topper in her architecture college in Burla. Stories like hers are why I teach.