Reforms in Education
Bricks and Mortar for Educational Reform, an Educational Anthology was penned down by celebrated educationist, professor , editor, and author, Muriel Wasi(1912-1995) who was educated at the University of Madras and then at the University of Oxford. A multi-dimensional personality , Muriel Wasi has indeed played several roles in her dynamic life.
The anthology contains 27 chapters titled, Bricks and Mortar, Looking for Leadership, The Essential Teacher, Censorship and Adult, Education in the Round and several other essays on significant topics. Muriel Wasi, is the author of Narrow Corridor, Transition, Too High for Rivalry, and also a very popular book titled, Legends of India.
As an essayist she is honest and practical. She believes in the advantages of Bricks and Mortar as the essential structure of a school building of the institution. The metaphor Bricks and Mortar is very appropriate. As she writes in her first essay that there can’t be good education without good secondary schools; there can’t be good secondary schools without good buildings; and that there can’t be good buildings without bricks and mortar. According to the author, A pretty school is the first step to a good school. Not only the bricks and mortar, but she has talked about the fundamentals that constitute good education such as good teachers in her essay Essential Teacher. Educational leadership as the goal of excellence begins with good education. To Quote Stephen Spender, “History is theirs, whose language is the sun.”
Bricks and Mortar as the foundation of a good school therefore eventually lead to good education. She writes honestly and with practicality forgetting romanticism to sit under trees and tents and we fully agree with her. She wrote these essays when India was a young republic yet these essays are very much relevant even decades later, even in the present era. She also sets examples of schools in the Philippines where the community maintains the school. The community indeed plays a very significant role in educating the students.
As a poet who had been an educator practically through a major part of my life, I would like to cite the poem An Elementary School Classroom in a Slum by Stephen Spender(1915-1995) The poem has concentrated on themes of social injustice and class inequalities. Muriel Wasi has not mentioned these themes of social injustice and class inequalities though there is an obvious reference.
But this issue is raised in the chapter Education and the Traditional Values.
Literature is a vehicle of ideas she writes very appropriately. It has a universal appeal and mirrors age.
According to her, Essential Teacher starts with Socrates(Essay 11-The Essential Teacher) She names other teachers throughout all ages as, among others-Rousseau, Freud, Horace Mann, Tilak, Annie Besant, Maria Montessori and above all Tagore. She quotes Tagore and pens, “A lamp can never light another lamp unless it continues to burn its own flame.” A teacher can never teach well if she or he is not learning herself or himself. (Chapter 22-Educational Values). She also cites Helen Keller and talks about her dependence on her teacher in the initial stages. We know she is talking of Ann Sullivan
Education in Three Stages is a lovely, and interesting verse.
She emphasizes what is right or wrong with college education on Humanities in India and that is very relevant. She advises to improve the college library and more so to use it. She gives how while in Jesus Mary College had planned an advanced programme in English literature with an objective of deep understanding of English literature and that library and librarian has a role to make learning a success.
Indeed she knows and talks about relationship between political values and learning at schools, She has a deep understanding of education of India.
No wonder in his foreward, Krishna Kumar, Former Director, NCERT writes, “Reading Muriel Wasi in the present moment reassures our disturbed minds. At a time when the humanities are losing ground in an increasingly instrumentalist advisory landscape, Wasi’s words help us to guard against loss of perspective. The essays included in this volume cover diverse themes, such as curriculum and pedagogy, adolescence and youth, language and theatre. The volume gives us the privilege of meeting a woman in whose personality administrative judgement and experience was enriched by pedagogic subtlety and theoretical awareness ”
How very true!
By Mandira Ghosh