‘Open the Big Questions booklet. Turn to the page, Do miracles really happen?’

Rahul raises his hand. He is a new student in our class. His father recently got transferred to the nearby Bakreshwar Thermal Power Township.

‘Sir, which subject is this?’

This question stumps me. The Big Questions booklet contains questions like,

  • Are rich people happier?
  • Will it be good to live forever?
  • Are the great stories like Mahabharata or Illiad true?
  • Why do wars happen?

Now, which subject is this, really? I understand Rahul having a problem with our approach. Till class IV, he studied in an ICSE board school in Kolaghat, another thermal power township. Like all schools, there must have been rigid routines and clear subject boundaries. If we are doing something in school, it must be under one of those subjects, right? How exactly should I make a child understand that in real-life, problems do not come neatly packaged in narrow subject boundaries?

‘Rahul, in this booklet we discuss topics which are not directly under any subject, but still important enough to discuss. Broadly, you can consider this a combination of history, science, philosophy and economics.’

Rahul’s face lights up. Looks like in this school I’m getting to study more subjects than I did in my old school, his expression seems to say.

More subjects are always better - this is a lesson I learnt of late. In the parent-teacher meetings, a standard question is, ‘In this school, kids seem to be studying English most of the times - what about other subjects?’

‘Yes, when will history and geography be introduced?’ an eager mother of an LKG child speaks up.

Suddenly, there is a clamour for history, geography, science, computers - as early as possible.

‘In the XYZ public school, they teach computers right from class I,’ somebody says.

‘And ABC International school has eleven subjects, including moral science,’ another person says.

I let them speak for some time. Finally, they look up at me expectantly, waiting for an answer.

‘How do you expect them to study any subjects at all, if they do not first learn the language well? Right after you were born, did you study geography? Or you just learnt to understand and speak Bangla? For them, English has to be like their mother tongue. If they cannot read English fluently, how will they read history? In which language?

‘And what is the hurry? The board prescribes that social science and science are introduced only from class VI. Primary level, till class V, is a time to prepare the child. They should learn to speak, read, write. They should develop a logical and analytical mind. That’s all the goal we should have till class V. Other subjects must come after that.’

‘But at least computers can be taught earlier, no?’ a father of a class I student asks, hopeful that at least one more subject will be added to the measly list of English, Math and Environment Science. Only three subjects? How awful is that? My neighbour’s kid is learning double of that.

Double, yes. Learning? No.

‘Yes, you can teach painting in computer, or playing games. But if you have to teach something real, like using internet, or using MS Office - then we must wait till their language skills are better and they are more mature.’ I answer.

‘Yes, in the other school they only teach them to paint during the computer class,’ he sheepishly admits.