Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Morning Assembly

Morning Assembly is a ritual that most Indian Public School students are familiar with. It takes place almost every day and follows a prescribed format – the hymn of the day, a prayer, a ‘thought provoking’ service and the daily announcements. It lasts anywhere between 15 minutes to half an hour. Every once in a while (usually before the holidays), there is a Special Assembly, which can last up to 3 hours long.

I have always been somewhat wary of attending Assembly. I would much rather spend the time sipping a nice cup of tea, reading the morning papers or even just going back to work in my office. These activities provoke much more thought and reflection, in my experience, than an institutionalized prayer or thought-of-the-day.

Retrospection, contemplation, knowing right from wrong…I feel they don't come from attending Assemblies. Indeed, we hardly ever had Assembly at the schools I went to (perhaps the concept isn’t as ingrained in International schools), and I turned out ok. Besides, I am uncomfortable with the idea of structuring ‘philosophical’ musings into 15-minute capsules. To me it replicates the kind of formulaic and empty thinking that has spawned so many self-help books. Is it even possible to have a new ‘truth’ or ‘life lesson’ to talk about every day? How much wisdom can anyone impart or ingest on a daily basis?

The value of Assembly, amongst many other features of the Indian education system, needs to be re-thought, especially for senior school students (as H.S. Singha argues in his book School Education in India). Fewer Assemblies focusing on specific content (as opposed to concepts) would probably make more sense for today's world-weary youth.  

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