The aim of education should be to provide knowledge in its real sense, not mere certificates of knowledge. 'Chauffeur knowledge' is easy to earn, which Albert Einstein's driver could display in explaining the relativity theory or Max Planck's chauffeur in doing the same with the quantum theory to gatherings of world famous scientists.
The same joke prevails with both of them. As per the story, confronted with a question from one of the distinguished scientists present before him, the chauffer wondered at the foolishness of the particular question and suggested the questioner go to his 'chauffeur' (real Einstein or Plancksitting outside the podium) for the obvious answer. Real knowledge is to understand the truth in question, not to be able to repeat the answer like a parrot.
I heard this illuminating joke of Einstein and his driver in my childhood in school. Our most adored teacher Jahanaraapa at Chittagong Police Line Institute told this as she was used to telling many other jokes in the class and thus kept her students captivated to the world of learning.
The same joke I am reading now from 'An Educational Approach to Inclusion and Quality Improvement' (published by CDIP in December 2018), a book written by Shajahan Bhuiya, a development professional currently working in the areas of education, training and sustainable human development. This time the characters in the joke are scientist Max Planck and his Chauffeur.Mr. Bhuiya has quoted the story from Rolf Dobelli's book The Art of Thinking Clearly.
The essence of the story is that 'chauffeur knowledge' is the opposite of real knowledge. As per Mr. Bhuiya's definition 'The real knowledge is to enlighten the learners to kindle lights in the minds of others anywhere and also to contribute towards inventions, innovations and plethora of many creative works that help sustain humanity on this planet.'
The compass of our education has to be set in that direction of acquiring real knowledge contributing towards kindling lights in the minds, innovations and sustainable human development. But this real knowledge is impossible without inclusive and quality education.
Take exclusion first. Excluding others is betrayal of the basic norms of real education. Providing education to a limited certain number of children on the basis of their privileged family background excluding other children just because of their family backwardness is no less than a collective crime.The long-standing system of keeping children out of the education system owing to their types of family occupation, ethnicity, caste, physical disability and, above all, poverty must be abolished both in practice and on paper as soon as possible.
Then comes the question of quality education. It is in fact impossible to think of education if it is not quality. Education sans quality is no education. There cannot be two types of knowledge: real and unreal. It can be only real; unreal knowledge is no knowledge. So quality education is extremely important. There must not be any compromise with quality in education.
Mr. Bhuiya has dealt with these important issues of inclusiveness and quality for real education in Bangladesh. Quality education is impossible with the conventional 'jug and mug' teaching-learning method, which has become obsolete in any modern education system. The author writes, 'Instead of treating the children as objects to be filled with prescribed knowledge, skills and habits, they should be treated with love and affection and the relations of teachers with them have to be "subject to subject" rather than "subject to object" in order to replace the traditional "jug and mug" method.'
'Jug and mug' teaching-learning method can create only as knowledgeable persons as Max Planck's 'chauffeur' in the story mentioned above. Real education producing the capacity of invention, innovation and creative works that are necessary to cope with the modern rapidly changing world andunpredictablesituations is what the country needs. For this, teacher-student relation has to be 'subject to subject' replacing the traditional one.
Rabindranath Tagore's essay Shikkha Shomossa (problems in education) can give us a good picture of this traditional method and the way to go beyond it. Author Shajahan Bhuiya writes of this remarkable essay: 'He has further said that in such condition, the school turns into machines which supply commodities instead of lively souls of children for their holistic development as human beings.
He has also deplored saying that displeasures start at the very beginning of their life-journey by arranging their learning in an environment surrounded by walls, closed by gates, secured by gate-keepers, pricked by punishment and driven by bell. He has advocated a system which pleases and motivates them.'
An education system that pleases and motivates learners needs to be built. So acts and deeds causing annoyance, discomfort and dissatisfaction in the learning climate should be replaced with learning for pleasure, particularly for the children. Mr. Bhuiya writes, 'When the environment of knowing is created conducive to learning with provision of positive incentives, it motivates the learners in the same way that the nectar of flowers motivates and attracts the butterflies towards them.'
If really 'education is development' as journalist and writer Syed Badrul Ahsan has written on the flap of Mr. Bhuiya's excellent book, knowledge in our school education system has to be like nectar of flowers that can motivate and attract all children like butterflies. It must be real knowledge through quality education excluding not a single child on any excuse in society. As per Mr. Ahsan's words, it 'conveys a powerful message' indeed.
Alamgir Khan is Executive Editor
of SHIKKHALOK, a CDIP
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