We caught up with author Jerry Pinto, who was in town to attend the second edition of Children’s Literature Festival at Sanskriti School, to know his views on education.
Imagination can become your solution. By ‘building bridges’. That, in short, is author Jerry Pinto’s take on what can be done to improve the state of education in our country.
The Sahitya Akademi award winner, who was in the city to attend a Children’s Literature Festival at Sanskriti School, believes that one of the biggest mistakes that we make in our education system is sectionalising.
He explains, “For instance, storytelling belongs to an English or a composition class. This is obviously untrue. Then we believe that imagination is a part of art, or it’s a part of literature. That is also not right. Suppose, you want to become a businessman or an entrepreneur, the first thing you have to do is to look at society and see where the opportunity lies. That means you have to have curiosity and empathy.
You have to be able to say ‘what is a housewife’s life like’ and ‘how can I make it better’. It doesn’t necessarily mean you have to be a housewife. You can be a 21-year-old, who isn’t married and has never had a child.”
Next, empathy. “If you look at a housewife’s life and say ‘that’s where it is difficult’ and ‘here’s an app or process by which I can make it easy’... you are actually using skills of empathy. The next step is collecting funds for this enterprise.
This means, you have to walk into a room full of venture capitalists and tell them a story. You have to tell them what is missing in society, how can you plug that gap, what is the possible outcome... That’s telling a story. Therefore, for almost everything, you have to look at a problem, and find a solution for it. The solution is always in imagination,” points out the writer of Em and the Big Hoom.
Knowledge in boxes
However, the main problem with our curriculum, says Pinto, “is that we keep knowledge in boxes, when in fact it should spill out easily. Science teachers should be able to talk about stories, and art teachers should be able to talk about equations or mathematics teachers should be able to say, ‘It is a language that uses numbers as adjectives and equations as sentences’. Once you make these bridges, the kids would cross it. That is the failure of the school system which is all about ‘naming’ or ‘labeling’.”
The writer, who also gave Maths tuitions to kids, admits that it’s difficult to implement because of the present scenario. “We have 75 kids in one class. In that case, how do you broadbase a curriculum? We know that we need students and good schools, but we are producing very few good schools. The lower classes are going to the bad schools. Nobel laureate Amartya Sen said it well, “When you set up schools for the poor, you will get poor schools.” But if you set up good schools to which everyone has access to, then everyone in society is invested in making it the best school,” he adds.
So how does an author create a connect with a decades-younger audience, and write about topics that entice them? Pinto counters that he doesn’t “bother much.” It is unimaginable what it is like to be a child in this century or have access to what parents now call ‘screen time’.
“I can only think what I would like to write and if a child would like to read it, that is fine. I would be very offended if a child is forced to read something. I don’t want my books to be a punishment. I believe reading is a habit that kids will develop, when they see their parents reading,” he explains.
Pinto has written a book about a woman’s mental illness, as observed by a child. How can authors maintain sensitivity while writing about such major issues with kids, and at the same time get their message across?
He says, “You can talk to them about gender bias, race politics, caste and they will be willing to listen as long as you are not preaching. It is all about finding the right tone.”