A child’s school is considered to be his or her’s safe place. A place where they make memories of a lifetime and bonds that they’ll never forget. A place where they can be in a protected environment and make mistakes. A place where they learn and have valuable experiences. All of these things help one be better prepared when the time actually comes to step out into the real world.
Think for a minute. If your school life had turned out even slightly different than it did right now, wouldn’t that alter the person that you are today? A person’s schooling has direct effects on their educational achievement, their acquisition of literacy, numeracy and scientific knowledge. Not only this, social cognitions and feelings are also influenced by what a child learns and experiences at school.
It can even be argued that this aspect is even more important than the academic gains of schooling, as cognitive and motivational value systems continue to exert an influence on individual development, which goes much beyond the school years.
However, the recent viral video showing how girls of a Hyderabad college had their skirt sizes measures before they were granted entry into the college premises shows how Indian schools are anything but progressive. While these institutions should be the flag bearers of progressive thinking, the way they are set up and their rules actually lead to a lot of misconstrued perceptions, leading to students developing conceptions, viewpoints and belief systems that actually hold no place in today’s world.
Therefore, it becomes even more disheartening to see that the Indian education system actually fosters stereotypes and messes up your mind in more ways than one. The deep-rooted gender bias in our society has further been propagated by a revised school textbook in Rajasthan.
Ample instances hinting male superiority have been found in English and Hindi textbooks. In the Hindi textbook of Class III, a chapter titled Games has three pictures showing only boys playing games indicating that games are only meant for boys.
“ I remember during our school trips, our teacher’s used to make sure that boys and girls sat separately. They weren’t even allowed to talk to each other. If we did, we were scolded by our teacher’s as if it was a bad thing and were even threatened with the fact that they’ll complain about this to our parents if we did it again. This is a proper co-ed school in Gurgaon you know. You know such things can actually create a subconscious thought that talking to women is a bad thing and something which is looked down upon. Imagine living with that ideology” said Kunal, a 20-year-old college student looking back at this school days.
While on one hand, it’s great to see all the discussions regarding body positivity, freedom to dress freely and choose who you love, it’s demoralizing to find that schools, which essentially should be leading the conversation towards acceptance and openness, are actually doing the opposite.
“My school didn’t allow girls to have like streaked hair, fancy fingernails or like even a tattoo. While I get that there is a dress code to abide by and if there’s a school policy then it should be followed, Indian schools go a bit too far with their moral policing. I remember an instance wherein all the boys who had long hair in my school were called to the school ground, and they actually got a barber from nearby who gave them a buzz cut! Now that I’m mature than I was at that point, It was what they did was really uncalled for and practically an invasion of one’s freedom” said Srishti, a 21-year-old who did her schooling from a reputed school in Delhi.
Moral policing and promoting gender stereotypes is not the only stereotypes Indian schools seem so keen on fostering. How can they ignore the caste system in a country like India?
“So I did my 12th grade from MMPS in Udaipur, which was a school that was affiliated to the region’s king. You’ll think due to that it’ll be a really good school and everything right? But trust me the one year I spent there was one of the worst of my life. We were asked to sit in class on the basis of our caste! So the Brahmins sat in front, and the rest of the kids sat accordingly behind them. Not only this, the school also promoted values of toxic masculinity. We had an instance where this group of boys got into this bloody fight and the police were called. Rather than reprimanding the boy and holding them accountable, the police simply put the fight down to hot Rajput blood brushed it off as something that is expected from boys.” Said Nandita.
If the place where you go to learn is going to promote and foster values such as violence, gender stereotypes and twisted ideals of masculinity, where do we exactly go from there when it comes to education in the country? Education institution should be places which instill the habits of social service, open thinking, acceptance, and tolerance of different views, while at the same time building personalities that will be the citizens of tomorrow.
So when you hear such stories of schools reinforcing age-old stereotypes, you really have to ask yourself the question. Are schools actually messing up with your thoughts?