Recalling an Educational Journey
Education, for a curious learner, is a perpetual process of self-discovery. Here is a narrative that reminds us of this subtle journey—the process of realization and inner transformation.
By Dr. Naresh Kumar
Tracing the trajectory of one’s educational experiences is one of the most difficult tasks. One’s current state of affairs significantly influences the recounting of past educational experiences. Again, the freight carrying experiences does not halt at a particular junction. There is every possibility of a new experience to acquire special importance, and redefine the trajectory of one’s life. It becomes especially true when one passes through the ladder of formal education. In fact, as I wish to capture my experience of becoming a student and eventually a teacher, I realize that it is a story of many narratives. The collage of events that floods my mind while presenting the nuances of myriad experiences takes me to my past as well as presenet—my perpetual evolution. There are primarily two experiences that strike my mind: (i) Changing notion and purpose of education as I moved from school to university, and (ii) Acquiring the role of a researcher in the university. These two experiences to a great extent have provided me with a clear perspective of my journey towards the vocation of teaching. These are also two different events of my life. Schooling was more certain and unilinear, whereas university education was uncertain, multi-linear and full of possibilities.
Irrespective of one’s social background, every parent, we know, usually follows the ritual of enrolling his kid in a school. Not surprisingly, my engagement with the formal schooling was made possible through the efforts and dreams of my parents. Traditionally the schooling was never supposed to be an essential part of our growing up; but, as I feel with a deep sense of gratitude, my parents’ desperation to invest in my schooling was unprecedented. True, for quite some time, as I realize, schooling, for me, didn’t have much meaning beyond symbolism. In fact, till the completion of eighth standard, the purpose of schooling was never clear to me; it was a journey with no defined purpose and meaning. But then, during the transition towards high school someone rightly reminded me of the basic purpose of my education. It was also the time when I was about to reach a stage which none of my family members had ever completed successfully, i.e. passing high school. I was reminded that the purpose of my education was to get secured government employment, and if possible, something prestigious like civil services. At that juncture, it was quite encouraging and meaningful for me. It gave me a direction. In fact, its impact was such that the whole period onwards my high school was filled with hope, ambition and desire to do something great, and become a civil servant. Even the option of my subject and courses was goal-directed. Had the purpose of education would not have been told to me, I often think, I would not have moved beyond the high school level.
The next hallmark which came to my life was the long stay in the university as a student. It brought new meaning, possibly new life for me. It was the time when old convictions were put into question. Amidst this I also learnt to take hard/ enduring decisions, and remain focused. The major shift which happened during my second year stay at the university was the irresistible urge to celebrate the vocation of teaching; and it superseded my earlier goal to become an administrator. There was no second thought after that. And for the first time I felt that education which, till yesterday, was merely a means was becoming an end in itself. I was more confident and clear. My new experiences overshadowed the earlier goals. Again the discovery of the passion of becoming a teacher is remarkable as it precludes other possibilities.
It forces me to ask two questions: What is it that pushes one to pursue education? Is education merely a means to achieve goals, or is it an end in itself? There is every possibility that one may encounter both thease aspects of education during the gradual progression towards higher learning. For instance, at one stage education, for me, did not have any special meaning beyond its instrumental values; but now, as I see, education is more than ‘means’ and ‘goals’ duality. I do strongly feel that the higher meaning of education is coherently related with its instrumental objectives. In fact, the pursuit to fulfil instrumental goals may end up in a subtle discovery of a higher meaning of education. And it happened in my life.
At this particular juncture of my biographical narrative, I would like to share my experience of becoming a researcher. In an academic parlance, a researcher should have a deep, intimate and planned relationship with the subject of enquiry. It is , therefore, important to have a clear answer to these two pertinent questions: Why does one opt for a particular research subject? And what is the probable relationship between the researcher and her subject of enquiry? And for me, these questions were endowed with a special meaning. Initially, I didn’t have an idea of the subject of my research. But then, I discovered that my own self (or my inherited experiences) could be a subject of enquiry. At this juncture, it would be appropriate to recall an incident. When I was pursuing my M.Phil one of the research projects required me to work on ‘education’. It aroused my interest; I could relate to it. It was, therefore, not surprising that for my doctoral work I decided to study the educational mobility of a community to which I belong. As I see, my subject was not different from me. I became the subject of my research. I would not hesitate to add that our research is essentially the rediscovery of our real selves. A position of this kind, I admit, requires tremendous courage and conviction; but then. in the vocation of teaching its possibilities should by no means be undermined.