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Should Schools Develop Brains Or Minds?

-Ruchika Bhuyan*

Over the years, there has been much argument over the "correct" approach to education. There have been fits of criticism displayed by students to the so-called "rot learning" that most schools in India, if not encourage, impose in concealment. However, what is the fallacy in endorsing this system of education? The answer is simple: memory is not reflective of intelligence. Studies have shown that while the two might be linked, memory does not stand as a good indicator of one's intelligence, intellect or IQ. Memory is the ability to retain, remember or retrieve specific pieces of information, either by reorganizing images, words or voices in the brain. It is indubitably a significant aspect of cognition. The other connotation can be a "storage unit" of the brain. Edward Awh, a psychology professor and a member of the Oregon Visual Working Memory & Attention Lab, averred, "Resolution in memory is not predictive of IQ at all."

So has education been a squanderer of time all this while? Not exactly. It would be erroneous to point fingers at schools for adopting a method which demands the power of memorization. Certain subjects like Mathematics and Science do aid in sharpening the mental faculties of students. Nevertheless, there is some rot learning involved in every subject. Where schools take the wrong turn is when they choose to develop brains, not minds. Our brain cells are lost every day without cell division, and that is why people keep forgetting things as they get older. Understanding this, we can highlight that the memory would not be the right device to educate students. One's intelligence quotient cannot be constructed without emotional quotient. Schools often fail to pay heed to the course of Value Education or development of Emotional Intelligence under the pretexts of "not having enough time", or, "completing the syllabus is more crucial", or, "it is not there in the syllabus", or, "students will not appear for it in the examinations".

School examinations can only take a student so far as to the achievement of a degree and perhaps a position of employment. However, does the child excel mentally? Does he/she know how to communicate? Is he/she social? Is he/she confident about himself/herself? This discourse on emotional intelligence also opens the door to the room of mental health. The astronomical amount of gravity that schools exert on faring well in examinations also chokes students with pressure and stress. The expectations, anxiety and stress can often choke them to death. The span of just three years, 2,403 (2014), 2,646 (2015) and 2,413 (2016) students in India committed suicide, and the primary reason cited as failure in exams. School examinations have been used synonymously to a maker or breaker of careers, or more precisely, a scale for gauging the degree of failure or triumph. Students need to know that failing in exams does not mark the cease of the world, and there are other things to life than just grades.

The National Alliance on Mental Illness(United States) has estimated that 13 per cent of youth ages 8 to 15 and 21.4 per cent of those ages 13 to 18 experience a severe mental disorder at some point during their life. The root cause of depression in this age group does not lie merely in exams, however. Adolescence is the period during which teens get attracted to a miscellany of experiences and emotions. Not every student has a perfect highschool experience. While some do not get the grades, some fail to find friendships. Some feel isolated, left out, unwelcome like they are a misfit. There is nothing wrong in being different or not being able to fit in, but there is not anyone to tell them so. Schools can partly bear the initiative to build the mental health of students by undertaking courses of emotional intelligence and value education; courses that develop the mind.

Emotional intelligence mainly covers five realms: self-awareness, emotional control, self-motivation, empathy and relationship skills. These are skills that help individuals to face the real world, to stand headstrong to challenges, to align decision-making with not only logic but also comprehension. The brain might be the vehicle of knowledge, but it cannot run without the wheels of the mind.

*Ruchika is a 10th standard student at Sanskriti The Gurukul, Guwahati. She is a writer in making and contributes regularly to the Saathi Blog.

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