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  • Priyank Sharma

What education means for a young boy/girl in the hills?

There was a village in a remote hilly area.

The place was away from the city hustle. The people in the village cultivated their own food, and had their own language, culture and traditions; they worshiped the mountains and the lakes as Gods, and their cultural practices helped them fight the extreme cold. People respected each other, lived in harmony, and the place looked beautiful and serene.

The people in the area were not “educated”, formal schooling had not penetrated. There was hardly anyone who could speak English. The government realized that the "education level" in the region is poor; thus, considering education as a basic need, a school was set up (some NGOs also took the "noble" initiative).

Children were compulsorily put into schools, and made to speak a language which they or their parents had no idea about. Their myths were destroyed through the rationale of science. Children started considering their culture as inferior, and superstitious. They could not relate to their parents or the locals. They were told that mountains or lakes are not gods. Hence, kids didn’t care about those mountains anymore. There was systematic destruction of their beliefs and the place. Slowly, mountains and lakes were filled with filth. There was construction work done in the area. Needless to say, the place was ruined, totally and emphatically.

Wade Davis, an ethnobotanist from Harvard, in his TEDx talk says: “A young kid from the Andes who’s raised to believe that mountain is an Apu spirit that will direct his or her destiny will be a profoundly different human being and have a different relationship to that resource or that place than a young kid from Montana raised to believe that a mountain is a pile of rock ready to be mined.”

Now, who's educated? The kid who never went to school but revered the mountains or the kid who got education and destroyed the hills.

There are places where natural calamities like drought aren't disasters but a way of life. But what happens when we put the kids of the place into a one size fits all geography-agnostic education system?

What happens to the knowledge systems that dealt with those natural calamities as if it was their own?

Just assessing kids on exams doesn’t help them let alone the planet. Let’s ask the questions again:

What's education for? Who's well educated?

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