While browsing through the Internet, I came across the above posting on a student Facebook page recently. It attracted my immediate attention with mixed feelings. Currently, with COVID-19, educational institutions are compelled to navigate the mode of teaching to online lessons and to shift the mode of assessment to online assignments. Schooling during the pandemic [...]

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“I don’t need to go to school, I have Google”


A classroom.

While browsing through the Internet, I came across the above posting on a student Facebook page recently. It attracted my immediate attention with mixed feelings. Currently, with COVID-19, educational institutions are compelled to navigate the mode of teaching to online lessons and to shift the mode of assessment to online assignments. Schooling during the pandemic is strenuous; the world is moving towards digitalisation; learning at home is becoming comfortable. On the other hand, parents have to move with routine work, leaving the kids in a digital world. In this backdrop, the posting “I don’t need to go to school, I have Google” does not surprise us.

I was wondering how hard it would have been for a school teacher to teach discipline while teaching these kids in the school and how parents take up with their children. Has the younger generation become unruly today? Are they ahead of the teacher in the use of technology? Is the time ripe to promote online learning? It’s no secret that teenagers have access to social network sites such as Facebook and Instagram. They have mastered the art of digitalisation and use it to share their feelings openly as well as to explore the world and things forbidden for them. In this background, the question that automatically comes to mind is “will the children use it to learn or misuse the opportunity? Will they find an easier way merely to pass exams, copy-pasting notes from Google?” Are they capable of distinguishing right from wrong among the things they see on the computer screen?

I visited the international book fair at BMICH last September. One of the main purposes of this annual event is to cultivate a reading culture among citizens in particular among youngsters. I was amazed to see one area flocked by school children; the area was loaded with bundles of ‘short notes’ prepared for various subjects, meant for school children of all ages. Publishers who are so keen on promoting reading habits and educating young minds are instead promoting short cuts to make the student lives easier. Why do I say so? Children will buy short notes and make shorter notes, cram and pour back on the exam paper, will pass the exam, go to the university, and end up as dons of universities at least a few of them. The process will continue. Where are we heading? Where are we taking our children? We are fast becoming a generation inclined to instant things; instant food, instant success, instant marriages and instant divorces.

Instant learning

Now, we are slowly and intentionally or not, pushing our next generation into instant learning. Parents are keen to see their children passing milestones of life faster. The end goal, sitting for and passing exams is in focus. Virtues produced during the process are taking the backseat. In this cats and dogs’ race in education today, parents forget virtues and train their kids to pass exams, limiting their knowledge to a set of notes and let their kids stick to the Internet, assuming they are studying. During our school days, I don’t claim that we were saints; we were up to mischief, being naughty, and loafing around at every opportunity we got… Still, we respected our teachers and our parents. We knew things which are ‘bad’ and refrain from doing them, due to shame, guilt feeling, and moral obligations… We wanted to make our parents, our teachers and our schools proud… it was a well-balanced life, we studied, we played, had chit chats with parents after school. Before television took over our lives, our parents used to tell tales and recite poems at night, until we fall asleep. Good virtues sank into our minds and got deeply rooted through such night time stories and poems.

One gem of a poem I still remember;

“While eating tasteless food,

Spending sleepless nights on leaves spread floor

Covering the body with old tattered grime-covered clothes

Learn with interest for the sake of future”

Aristotle, the great Greek philosopher once said, “The roots of education are bitter, but the fruit is sweet”. After all, education is not only expanding the horizon of literacy, knowledge, skills but more the morality. A senior Professor who was happy to share her learning experience with me recalled with pleasure; “during our university days as students, we believed Professors were doing an exceptionally great job. We kept them on a high pedestal with respect. We didn’t have Internet, no PowerPoint, no multimedia projector. So we were compelled to study in the library. Professors gave long lectures with good lecture notes”. So… today we compare yesteryear intellectuals with current human capital. Employers are complaining about the mismatch between the workforce put out by universities and industry requirements.

We are proud of our history; we talk about geniuses of our ancestors; we talk about renowned academics and professionals most of whom are products of rural central colleges. Will we be able to boast and be proud once again by cultivating a generation who lacks thinking capacity; who lacks creativity, who lacks patience, and who does not understand ethical values? A vicious circle is growing in our education, with no end to deteriorating quality… without our knowledge. I like to share a quote on education by an anonymous writer which is fitting to our Sri Lankan context:

“Destroying any nation does not require the use of atomic bombs or the use of long-range missiles. It only requires lowering the quality of education and allowing cheating in the examinations by the students; patients die at the hands of such doctors, buildings collapse at the hands of such engineers, money is lost at the hands of such economists and accountants, humanity dies at the hands of such religious scholars, justice is lost at the hands of such judges. The collapse of education is the collapse of the nation.”

Facebook – a playing tool

During the lockdown due to the ongoing plague, parents and children are confined within their four walls. It was thought during the lockdown virtues and wisdom of kids would improve, but found the opposite happening. Facebook… has become a playing tool for parents as well as for kids. School-going teenagers are turning out to be unruly, love birds, and little rascals. Such behaviour and personalities are well demonstrated through social media. Not all, but some continue on these footsteps and end in becoming unruly and rejects of the society. We have ample examples of such lives lost at a young age. Are we treading the right path of shaping the lives of the younger generation? Would we ever reap those ‘sweet fruits’ for our nation through youngsters?

We need to change our education system. It is time to teach kids moral values at home and in school. We were groomed, shaped and oriented by our parents, by our school, by our religions and by our culture. At a time when we set out on a new way of living physical distancing is encouraged and online usage is embraced, we have to be mindful more than ever. It is time to walk back to those good old days of schooling, where we observed the precepts of our religions in the morning and afternoon, where we rose to respect our teachers and parents, where we were taught the importance of being a moral person. Living in a time of socializing unethical behaviours of students as well as teachers, ‘moral education’ is looming large and becoming a must more than ever to introduce in the school curriculum. As Aristotle said, “the best way to teach morality is to make it a habit with children”. Parents should be aware of moral values and train children not only in cramming short notes and sitting in front of a computer and passing exams, but to be good citizens. We expect that from the kindergarten to universities and start cultivating moral values among students for a better society. As the young boy has posted on his Facebook wall Google is there to facilitate learning, but schools cannot be displaced, instead their importance is felt more than ever. They are there to teach “MORAL VALUES” which a mindless machine cannot ever do.  

(The writer is a holder of a senior position in a state university with international experience and exposure and an MBA from Postgraduate Institute of Management, Sri Lanka and currently reading for her PhD in Quality Assurance in Higher Education Sector She can be reached at cv5imbulgoda@gmail.com).


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