I would like to share a story that I adapted from the nobel prize winning poet Rabindranath Tagore, in which he warned us of the dangers of McEducation for All almost 75 years ago.
In The Parrot’s Training, we are told of a golden cage that is built to imprison the wild and uncivilized parrot so that she can be properly educated by the king’s pundits. In addition to the 3Rs, she should also learn who is the Boss as well as be familiar with all the latest global brands.
First, the teachers tried stuffing the bird with pages of the official textbooks. That didn’t work. Then a UNICEF project came with all kinds of child-friendly and joyful techniques. They also taught the parrot about child rights.
Then the World Bank gave a loan to the king (with austerity conditionalities of course) to build a bigger cage with a nice toliet.
Still, no difference.
Then the OECD came with the PISA standardized tests and new a national policy white paper was written. Harvard researchers were invited to conduct studies on the parrot’s brain and multiple intelligences.
Then Apple gave it an iPad and a free high speed wifi connection. She even got her own facebook page.
But the parrot was not allowed to leave the cage despite her obvious distress. In fact she was scolded for being ungrateful and impertinent. Anti-depressants drugs were prescribed.
As the parrot was overstuffed with information, she internalized her label as a ‘slow learner’ and a ‘failure’ and lost her power of self-designed learning. She became totally dependent on the cage. Her dreams were reduced to being a rat in the rat-race. A deep loss of purpose ensued. Slowly her spirit withered away.
In the end, a lot of people made a lot of money on the parrot’s education, everyone benefited except the parrot.
The time has come to more deeply understand the nature of the cage and its impact on each of us and our communities in both the South and the North – beyond what the World Bank economists tell us.
It is important to crack open and re-examine our definitions of progress, success, happiness and to look at how our imaginations for social action have been colonized by the cage.
We also need to question the assumption that, if we keep adding more and more stuff onto the cage, we can actually fix or transform its fundamental nature.
– Manish Jain,
Shikshantar: The Peoples’ InstituShikshantarte for Rethinking Education and Development
83 Adinath Nagar, Udaipur, Rajasthan, 313004 INDIA