My Child does not Sit and ConcentrateAh! We remember the good old days when there only used to be a single PTV broadcast channel and that too would start with "Baseerat" at 6pm and end with "Farman e Ilahi" at around 12. Kids like us will open the TV much before the start time and would watch the insignia and later the signature tune before the start of transmission. We had nothing much to do once we came from schools except to sit down and pick up a book (or a comic) and read till it was time to go to ground and play and come back before maghrib. The most flashy material were the Archie comics. How we patiently waited for that few minutes of our favorite cartoon skit for the entire week! How we waited for that episode of Star Trek for the entire week! There used to be just four short (really short) breaks for ads after every 15 minutes at designated times for which the program episode would leave you at a suspenseful break.
I am not telling tales about centuries or ages ago. Just forty years ago! However, over the last forty years, ages have passed. Today life of a child is filled with exciting possibilities. He is now often active in the virtual worlds where he is fighting to survive in a "Mortal Combat", or trying to save his car from tumbling over bridges and ramming into buildings in "Need for Speed", or living through "Age of Empires" where he has to defend his city against enemies while growing food, generating wealth and raising an army and building embankments for defending against enemies firing with canons, catapults and other arsenal. Meanwhile, he is surfing the Internet, getting acquainted with great music, previews of the latest thrillers, watching the construction of mega structures, trying to avoid the vulgar enticements, and coming across with content that is unbelievable. He now has so many channels that one has lost count and that are continuously showing all sorts of programs round the clock. Cartoon channels banging the head of the young mind with an incessant doze of fast pace cartoons, interspersed with psychologically designed ads to keep the kid riveted to the channel.
Surfing the channel has now become a popular habit. When was the last time you watched a program from start to finish on a channel? When was the last time, anyone watched a program completely starting with the announcement and finishing with the credits and acknowledgement of the sponsors? Facebook, Blogs, Linkedin, Mobile Phones and social media have connected our kids with everyone. Kids of ten years are now frequently and even openly getting come-on messages on facebook and cell phones from the opposite sex. If we close the open channels, there are backdoor channels one can easily open. Even the government and supreme court has not succeeded in closing down youtube. How can a parent do this?
This is the exciting and thrilling environment in which today's kids live. However, we are expecting him to sit down with books whose content has not changed over the last 40 years. The material is as dull and drab as they ever were. Structurally not much has changed either in presentation or in structure except a bit of color and more pictures. The teachers are teaching in the same manner, using the same methodology, using the same examples, sitting in the same type of class room with children facing the teacher, and the teacher delivering the same kind of lecture in a timetable that is not much different in duration or structure from the past. Even the homework is being given in the same format, using the same types of homework copies with same type of questions.
Parents often force their kids to sit down every day and write a page of Urdu, a page of English and solve a few maths problems. The parents often think foolishly that what worked when they were forced thirty-forty years ago, would also work today. When kids do not comply, parents first become worried and then become furious. They forget that when was the last time their kids saw anyone writing a page with pencil or pen? When was the last time they actually sat down themselves and were seen writing one page (or a letter) with pen and pencil. Writing with pen and pencil has nearly become obsolete. We are seen either composing emails or sms text messages using keyboards or touch pads. Even keyboards are becoming obsolete. Email or an sms experience is much different, you can copy and paste, forward, spell check, use word completion etc.
And, of course, the parents and teachers are both out of sync and out of date. They neither know facebook, nor can even keep their phones charged all the time. They are too much busy with their daily chores, young infants and pressures of in laws. They don't have time to interact with the kids and listen to them or understand them.
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The challenge for us is to develop more interesting and more thrilling way of teaching. Teaching material must measure up to the level of games and social interactive media, and then surpass it. Fortunately much research has been done and there are paradigms of how to grab the attention of children and make learning more interesting than computer games.
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