Communication is basic to our existence. Not being able to communicate means depriving our innate system of its intrinsic desires; it means depriving ourselves of our right to social and emotional survival. Survival is not just physical and political; social survival and emotional survival are as much important in making our lives complete and meaningful.
We’ve often heard the adage, “NO MAN CAN LIVE AS AN ISLAND”. We need to talk, listen, laugh, cry, gossip, discuss, criticize , crack jokes, argue, fight with people around us to have a normal existence.
WHAT HAPPENS WHEN WE CANNOT DO ALL THIS?
We eventually wither because we suppress our natural instincts to communicate and collaborate.
Some are able to take that stress positively and work around it to conquer it.
Some unfortunately, succumb to the stress of loneliness and alienation.
And when this INABILITY TO COMMUNICATE results from a lacunae in the linguistic competence of a certain language as happened in the shocking and tragic death of Hrisheek Koley, a bright physics honour’s student of St. Xavier’s College, it raises serious questions upon our education and value systems.
There are TWO ASPECTS to this problem:
1) Communication Skills which requires specialized training is not yet a part of our curriculum. Neither is Spoken English an area taught in vernacular institutions as yet.
2) Fortifying our children with “LIFE SKILLS” that can make them more empathetic towards their peers on the one hand and raise them to be strong and determined in the face of all kinds of pressures and adversities on the other hand, is still a far fetched utopian ambition for our education system.
We teach English in our curriculum but the problem is the undue emphasis on theory compared to very little thrust on practical application of the language to different situations and occasions. There might be students and adults who write in a language expressively and effectively. But when it comes to conversing in the same language especially among strangers, the same individual experiences immense difficulty.
This results from the fact that learning and writing a language well alone doesn’t amount to competent communication skills in that language. And the present curriculum does not allot any space to communication skills. To make it worse, our emphasis is always on just SCORING HIGH MARKS as even English today is a highly scoring subject. But scoring a high percentage is very different from actually being able to converse and communicate in English to forge relationships or simply get along in the urban environment.
Thousands of young boys and girls coming to study in the metropolis like Kolkata from rural and sub-urban pockets of the country, face the same ordeal year after year. They find themselves lost and lonely amidst the crowd of millennials constantly communicating in the lingo of urbanity with words and phrases like “cool”, “killing it”, “bomb”, “hot & happening”, “dude”, “swag” and so on.
Their attempt to mingle with this ” Z “Version of their own generation is often abused, ridiculed, scoffed at and finally choked, leaving them lurking in a dark abyss of depression, loneliness, alienation, self doubt, lack of confidence, embarrassment , shame and in worst cases, suicidal tendencies.
The only way to deal with these crises is to reform and upgrade our education system with a twin approach.
1)On the one hand we should make Communication Skills and Spoken English ( in Vernacular Institutions ) an essential part of the curriculum because both are specialized skills and require time and organized effort for training and absorption.
2) On the other hand, we should fortify our children with the necessary PEOPLE’s SKILLS and LIFE SKILLS which will arm them with the ammunition to fight against social, emotional and academic pressures.
This has to be done in an organized manner. We need to incorporate these very important areas in the formal curriculum as regular classes or assessed workshops and seminars, so that our children learn to make friends and co- exist happily even with those who do not speak in their lingo on the one hand; and on the other hand they learn to stand up strong and firm in the face of adversities that might challenge them, disturb them, threaten them or even defeat them temporarily.
Conflict management , stress management, leadership, focus, self analysis , team work, collaboration, empathy, emotional intelligence are areas which our education system has to embrace and encompass if it wants to be complete and raise social, happy, healthy, empathetic, responsible and successful individuals.
There is more to life than just making high scores. Understanding yourself and accepting your limitations, compassion for others, responsibility towards oneself, global citizenship, responsibility towards one’s environment, upholding relationships, being tolerant towards diversity in opinion and belief, time management, being able to contribute positively towards the family and society at large – these are the things that will ACTUALLY SEE OUR CHILDREN THROUGH a happy and meaningful life.
An education system that only caters to churning out high scoring professionals who are often depressed, lonely, unsocial and stressed is a highly faulty and terminally ill system.
Let’s reform it before it’s too late.