XII. Of Equal Focus on Math, Science & More- Dr Ali Khwaja

Walk into a class in any school and ask the students if there are any subjects they dislike or hate. At least half the class will raise their hands. Only the toppers or those who have all-round intelligence and wide thinking will say that they are comfortable studying all the subjects being taught to them. All the others suffer from phobias, aversion, and anger or frustration when forced to study some subjects they just cannot connect to.

The basic fault lies in the system because students are not introduced to subjects properly. No one explains what the subject is all about, how important it is for their future, how relevant it is in daily life, and what careers can be carved out of it. This is an important link that can ensure better learning.

If a person joins military service, he goes through weeks and months of rigorous training that involves polishing his shoes and brass everyday, marching in parades, trekking through jungles, cleaning and maintaining weapons, learning first aid, etc. Initially, it may appear frivolous, but that is the training that makes our army one of the best in the world. Similarly, the Indian education system ensures that a student learns a wide range of subjects, goes through rigorous and repetitive tests and exams, and comes out prepared for all kinds of challenges in the world. What more, the child is also prepared to take up tasks on the global level.

At the same time, it is important to make students understand the value of every subject and its usefulness in later life.  Based on my interactions with teachers and students, I have listed down a few such points that could help you deal with a child’s aversion to certain subjects:

History helps us understand the behaviour of human beings, which gives us an insight into the future too. Remember the proverb “History repeats itself”? It turns out that we can learn a lot from the past (and the mistakes of others). We can even predict how society, the markets or lifestyles are likely to change, so that we can adapt suitably. History also builds a sense of culture and belonging. It helps us to understand evolution and thus appreciate what we have today.

Geography gives us a sense of direction, helps us get around by understanding the physical characteristics of nature and the world around us. We can appreciate diverse cultures, climate (including weather forecasting), explore every part of the world, particularly in today’s global environment wherein travel has become so convenient. We develop a sense of location, distances and areas by learning this subject.

This seemingly mundane subject gives us an insight into the social fabric that underlies our society. It tells us how to live in a civilised society, how to appreciate a democratic set-up like ours and how to improve interpersonal relations. We can understand our rights better if we learn civics. It stimulates critical thinking and helps  make our life more harmonious, even in a society that includes culturally-diverse communities and races.

All languages have an important role to play in communication. It helps us understand others and be understood by others.  They expand our horizons of knowledge and are our windows for the right thinking process. Language helps us express through writing, poetry, dramatics, debating and marketing. Through the medium of language, we connect to people from all over the world.

An international language like English is our window to the rest of the world. By communicating well in English, we can be comfortable in almost all parts of the world. Our native language Hindi binds the nation together. At a time when countries are falling apart, we can be proud of being such a cohesive and democratic nation, and can thus be proud of our national language. Similarly, the state language binds us to all the people in the state. Our forefathers have taken a lot of trouble to  re-organise the country into linguistic states and we should make the best use of it. Even illiterate people find it easy to communicate with each other since the entire state is based on one language.

Your mother tongue is the language that your forefathers have spoken for many generations. It lets you peek into their culture, ideology and values. It is something that you can cherish because it is your own identity, and it is the language that binds you to all your family members and your community. Even if you are not studying your mother tongue in school, you should learn it by yourself.

Sanskrit, the mother of all languages, takes us back to our roots and the very beginning of civilisation. As you are aware, Indian culture and heritage was far advanced compared to the rest of the world many centuries ago. And Sanskrit is the language that connects us to our glorious past. Even if you decide to settle down in a different country, the traditions and wisdom that you will carry through because of Sanskrit will be your permanent asset.

Foreign languages open the doors to other countries, particularly of progressive countries like Japan, France, Germany, who have contributed tremendously to the world, and have their own national languages. You will be able to work in those countries, visit them, learn from them or do business with them and make friends,  if you learn their language.

Science is the window to development. It ignites your curiosity and opens your eyes to the great wonders of the world. You develop an innovative mind and understand the laws of nature, how humans live in harmony with ecology and the internal workings of the Universe. It is also the catalyst for change in society. Every branch of Science like Physics, Chemistry, Biology and others helps us understand different facets ranging from measurement of space and time, to interaction of materials, to living organisms. Together, they constitute the essence of the entire world.

Math is the subject that sharpens our logical and reasoning powers, helps develop logical thinking, gives us the ability to calculate prices, manage money and understand the value of things. With a thorough understanding of Math, we can safeguard our interests and be secure throughout life. We can use it to estimate, project, manipulate data, solve intricate problems of life, compare and evaluate. Geometry gives us a better understanding of space and areas.

Research has shown that students who understand and accept the usefulness of what they are studying, are not only more motivated, but also enjoy their studies and learn better. During holidays, students can be encouraged to find out more about the subjects they will be studying in the new academic year. And when the fresh term starts, teachers can spend some valuable time giving an overview of the subject, its applications, and how it helps in life in general and in specific careers.

Role of the teachers   
Teachers should periodically describe and convince the students how the subject they are teaching would be of use to them in practical life, regardless of what career they take up. To do that successfully, teachers should be convinced about the usefulness of the subject. A motivated and committed teacher can easily ignite the minds of her students. And what we need today are ignited minds rather than robots who memorise lessons only to reproduce them in exams.

Encourage students to keep exploring a subject’s practical aspects, applications, and to give presentations or put up charts which can be useful to the subsequent batches also. It will make your work much easier.

True learning encapsulates all the elements of the world. So, let students experience everything before they embark on their chosen career.