Sanjay Khati is the Former Head of the Department of English and Director of Cultural Activities at Mayo College, Ajmer.
With more than 25 years of experience of teaching English, Debating and Dramatics in India and abroad, he has also established exchanges with more than ten Schools overseas, including the prestigious, Eton College, Windsor.
He is a certified Debating Coach from the Worlds Schools Debate Academy, Kranjska Gora, Slovenia.
He has written for The Times of India, is the Series Editor of Pearson’s ELT Series and trains for the Trinity College London Examination in Speech and Drama.
He has conceptualized, designed and directed over 40 full length productions wherein he has flirted with ‘Rhymed Iambic Pentameter’, experimented with ‘Ensemble Acting’ and adapted ‘Commedia dell'arte Classics’ into ‘Verse Plays’. He has also transcribed Old Time Radio Plays into stage worthy productions.
He joined Mayoor School, Ajmer on 1 April 2022.
A school primarily aims at producing (the term is jarring, more akin to an automated factory!) well balanced, well rounded personalities who can make a difference to their world as adults. ‘Education’ is too broad, an all inclusive, encompassing umbrella word that can’t possibly be fettered within the confines of the four walls of a classroom. Early on as a young public school teacher, while watching staff and students play together, I invariably found it much easier for the wicketkeeper to communicate with his slip cordon while on the pitch. Classroom was a different story. Unfortunately, today’s schooling is stifled with conformity, peripheral learning and mediocrity, where assessment is more often than not flawed and evaluation, staid and monotonous. Schooling cannot flourish with archaic practices, few of them redundant, some even decadent. It has to evolve with the changing clime and challenges. While the CCE may be a laudable initiative by the CBSE, it’ll take years for it to sediment, and that too if we work towards its effective implementation and execution. In most schools, if not all, it is a routine, mundane chore, more to do with paper work and furnishing evidence rather than anything else, an art that we seem to have mastered with élan and pride. Education, like life itself, is hard to structure and therefore it is only natural that flexible environments be created to maximize the learning experience. An exclusive boys school or a girls school is in stark contrast to what the real world is and therefore doesn’t offer a real life experience to children studying in such schools. Education has to engender real life experiences which help sustain an individual and enable him to carve an identity of his own in the real word with myriad experiences and different people having varying interests, inclinations, beliefs, attitudes and upbringing.
My perspective to school education changed dramatically after the birth of my daughter. I observed her from close quarters hungrily devouring information, her insatiable appetite for more and her impatience while demanding answers to her incessant questions. A child can’t wait for an answer and it is criminal not to entertain the queries. Thus, the first grooming of a child often begins at home, the set of experiences later augmenting the school experience.
A teacher has to dish out experiences the child can live, remember and anchor himself with. Pleasant experiences are hardly forgettable, experiences to be savoured and cherished for a lifetime. Theatre (low technology environment) might be one such experience that lasts a lifetime - the opportunity to be somebody else, live his life, think and react like him and experience his emotions, while at the core you are still you, is unique and unparallel. There is nothing that can ever replace the human capital and a lusty heart. The visible result may often be short-lived, permanent behavioural outcome, though might take time, is what we aspire for. The challenges of education need to inculcate experiences that’ll shape the young. The sum total of a person’s experience is preeminently dominated by his adolescent years and therefore the schools acquire more significance than anything else ever will.
Intelligence, core competencies, natural flair and inclination when tapped at the right time can be engineered, accentuated, sharpened and strengthened by experiences. The dynamics of modern life has rendered plain academic pursuit redundant, for we can’t quantify it when it comes to real life situations. A child is capable of surprising anybody and everybody. I have come across children, who are normally quiet and reticent in the class but perform commendably in the Listening and Speaking tasks. We have to accept the students the way they are wired and work with them in the boundaries and purview they set and define for us.
We need the best minds to provide the experience called education. In the age of crowded classrooms and burgeoning, mushrooming schools, says Sir Ken Robinson, the children are suffering from childhood. An experience is an experience, whether wise or silly, pleasant or traumatic. It does leave an imprint. The pleasant is permanent and will endure the test of time while the rest, I hope, fades with time. A good life experience justifies the money spent as opposed to so called elite schools which are more about branding or networking. A few schools do stand out amdist the clamour and din in the name of education.
Richard Bach in ‘Jonathan Livingston Seagull’ says ‘How much more there is now to living! Instead of our drab slogging forth and back to the fishing boats, there’s a reason to life! We can lift ourselves out of ignorance, we can find ourselves as creatures of excellence and intelligence and skill. We can be free! We can learn to fly!’ It is not easy to achieve for we have to create unique experiences which have never been tried, leave alone tested. Do we have the heart to do it?
This old song never ceases to inspire me and many others who feel like me. How many of us, as parents or teachers, have shared this with our children?
If I were a cobbler, it would be my pride
The best of all cobblers to be;
If I were a tinker, no tinker beside
Should mend an old kettle like me.
It might seem absurd in the prosaic existence of our lives but there is no denying the veracity of Poet W.B Yeats’statement, ‘Education is not the filling of a bucket but the lighting of a fire’ which reignites the eternal debate once again. If we reorient our mindsets and are bold and courageous enough, the liberal arts and humanities may once again be at the focus of the chaos called education. Incidentally, we may find an antidote to few, if not all, ‘fiends that plague thee thus!’