IntroductionWhen any child does the cramming, he or she literally loses the power to think out-of-the-box. The child's entire energy is wasted and the emphasis is on remembering whatever was learned. This creates a situation where only those with good memory power will obviously be far better than those who do not possess such memory power. What really happens in any given situation is that the child loses control of himself or herself and the child is never ever able to adjust to environs where the thinking process is activated as a rule; worse, the child is lost in the rat race in such environs. The most simple evidence of this is seen in the difference between the CBSE students and the State Board students and the disproportionately high percentage of passes from among students of the former stream. The reason is simple. The child is always taught to think out-of-the-box and the evaluation methodologies are far better in CBSE schools.
In the main, cramming leads to a) Well-set comfort zones of teachers b) The emergence of commercial cramming coaching centers c) Lack of creativity and innovation d) Zero connect between academic performance and personality development and e) Mental and psychological stress of students.
Well-set comfort zones of teachersTeachers become complacent when cramming becomes the order of the day. The teachers are those who never ever think of anything else except the simplest ways to "discipline" students to follow the basic methods of cramming. The local school examinations are always structured to elicit predictable responses and those who do not fall in line are duly punished.
However, there are some exceptions. Among the deemed Universities, the Christ University is well known to mold every student from any school in India and even abroad, to a totally different method of teaching. It reportedly expands the horizons of learning to the global context of any concept. The entire ecosystem is structured towards making the student learn the "why?' of every event or phenomenon, anywhere in the world. To give the best example, the B.Com course that the University offers also has a parallel track to enable the student to complete the CIMA course. The students are reportedly made to analyze the balance sheets of so many companies. This is totally different from the normal standard teaching methodology -- the chapter on the analysis of a balance sheet will be done in a matter of a few hours.
In such a creative method of teaching, the student is likely to explore knowledge for its own sake and not cramming at all. This is exactly how the teachers should train themselves as well. In fact, the comfort zones of teachers are so high that they resist any change. However, every effort should be made to break this comfort zone.
The emergence of commercial cramming coaching centersSchools in some specific places of India, double up as coaching centers, rather than temples of learning. In particular, there are boarding schools at Rasipuram, a small town near Salem in Western Tamil Nadu. The teachers also stay on the campus and the discipline is outright crazy. The students are made to do cramming day in and day out. Strangely, the parents of thousands of students are game with this method of coaching. All that is required is that the child should get centum marks in the core subjects. This is as absurd as it gets.
Once again, the performance of CBSE school students in the highly competitive NEET examination is streets ahead of the State Board students in any State. There are some coaching centers run by the State Governments for free. Yet, nothing happens by way of results. The reason is that cramming limits the thinking capabilities of the child and he or she will never ever be able to reason out any single concept and its application.
Lack of creativity and innovationWhy is that we have not heard of many child prodigies or exceptionally brilliant children, anywhere in India, who are capable of producing something different? In fact, there are cases of some divergent thinking reports from some corner of India. However, all such results are drops in the ocean and the larger ecosystem only supports mere cramming.
The vital question is: how is that the same students go to the USA and then transform themselves into the best of brains in that country. The reason is simple. It is because the students there think creatively, as a routine. The USA remains the only country in the world where dissent is encouraged. It is the only country in the world where the unconventional methods of innovating any product are encouraged and celebrated. Steeve Jobs is a classic example. In India, he would have faced the toughest problems. We are not used to school or college drop-outs becoming so innovative.
Zero connect between academic performance and personality developmentCramming negates all links between academic performance and personality development. It develops the herd mentality and the school environment would become a playground for the toughest competition between students who would go to any extent to merely reinforce the cramming methods. There are some glorious exceptions too.
Based as is in the small town of Cuddalore near the Union Territory of Pondicherry, is Buds and Blossoms a CBSE school run by the owners of the Chennai-based Cavinkare Pvt. limited, a leading player in the FMCG sector.
This school is reputed to be totally different. Enough emphasis is always given to the nurturing of the child and the parents are kept informed of the different teaching methodologies. Though my son studied in this school almost two decades ago, his formative years of learning in this school were just excellent. It was then a playschool. Though it is now a CBSE school, the basic philosophy of identifying the potential of the child and then nurturing it in a big way has been the unique feature of this school. Schools of this type should become mentors for other schools and the change process should be initiated. Central to this process of change should be a constant attempt to link personality development with every step of the learning process. We need to break the status quo, lock, stock, and barrel. Nothing else will do.
Mental and psychological stress of studentsNumerous suicides have happened when students were not able to bear the stress of the so-called educational system. We have heard of hundreds of careers ruined in the engineering stream, when a boy who just missed the centum by two marks, was made to study in one of the not-so-good colleges of Anna University, in Tamil Nadu.
Such mental and psychological stress is not only not desirable, but it is also really not meaningful. We need to put an end to this and educationalists at various levels should go into this subject and make all amends to change the methods of teaching.
ConclusionWe need to urgently reform the educational system and make it relevant for our changing times. Totally doing away with the cramming process may take time, but urgent steps are indeed called for to reform the System wherever possible. The need for action is now more acute than ever before. Cramming in the educational system can never be an indicator of educational excellence. Our schools and colleges need a lot more innovation to stay relevant and alive to modern realities and expectations of society.
This is an interesting article and the author has brought out the pitfalls of cramming in our educational system. There was a time when cramming was an accepted norm and students took full advantage out of this tool and methodology in their examination or assessment. Slowly the objective type questions in examinations, including competitive examinations, brought out paradigm change in this thinking and people started to realise that if they simply cram the subject and not understand it then problems are going to be encountered in giving the answers, especially where there is a negative marking for each wrong answer and there is no place for guessing or speculation.
Further, in interviews, it would worsen the situation where questions of intricate nature cannot be answered by a candidate who has so far reached there based on cramming premises. So today the situation has drastically changed and many students are going for understanding and learning of the fundamentals and then using them in solving the academic problems based on logic. We are now going through a transformation stage where the cramming is slowly giving way to the skill-based knowledge and proficiencies. Some newer fields like advanced software applications, data science and cloud-based application managements have no place for cramming. They simply require the requisite skill to succeed in those areas. In the coming times cramming would become a thing of past just to be mentioned as a historical entity.
Cramming has become the inescapable part in the lives of the students and without this, they cannot think of getting brilliant marks in their examinations. The teachers, the guardians and the well-wishers encourage them to follow this nasty process so as to keep their wards ahead of others. The net result is that despite their outstanding marks in an examination, the aspirants fail to understand the fundamentals of the lessons included in their syllabus. This process makes them dull in terms of grasping any subject and in other words, the innovativeness is lost.
The author has rightly indicated the pattern being followed in the USA where the major thrust is given on understanding the inner themes of the chapters with the application of their logic. Such a process would enable the aspirants to comprehend the essential components in a given chapter in a logical way.
In the USA it is possible to specialize in new fields. For example, a qualified Chartered Accountant went on to become one of the best Organizational Behavior and Organizational Development experts in the world. The gentleman is one Dr Pradeep Khandwala, the former director of the prestigious Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad. Such facilities are still not available in India.