Film review: Schooling The World

from the Thus Have I Seen film festival site
By Amelia Choon

Shot with excellent cinematography mainly in Ladakh and Delhi, this thought-provoking documentary takes a unique and radical look at the western education followed around the world today. The message it delivers is very clear, that while the intent of the “white men” of Britain and later on America, was to civilize the “backward and primitive people” and deliver them from poverty, western education is destroying native cultures, our children clueless and inept in their own culture, ecosystem and language and still not creating the affluence that it is supposed to provide.

Throughout the movie, there is a sharp juxtaposition of the happy and carefree villagers in Ladakh against the jaded, disillusioned and decadent city dwellers in the city of Delhi and in the cities of America. The film also displays the jarring difference between the beauty of the country with clean clear waters, lush fields and trees and the terribly polluted, noisy and ugly cities.

Many well chosen quotes from prominent educators, politicians and writers about western education are placed strategically at different sections of the film to discuss the ideas that 1) the western education was designed to indoctrinate and create molded individuals, destroying cultures and stifling creativity, 2) its main purpose is to manufacture “products” to serve the government and economy.

There are interviews with western and Indian educators, the representative of the World Bank, as well as the Ladakhi village women and the Ladakhi students who have been through the western schooling system. The value of the unique local culture and traditional education and the problems brought by western education and modernization is clearly shown. The students have lost the ability to speak their own languages and are useless when they return to their villages. The wide-spread view of the elitism of education is making the elderly feel ashamed of themselves, when they used to be proud of their own contributions to society. The students feel ashamed of their own culture and look down on it. Most of the graduates of the western education system are still unable to find jobs in the cities and end up frustrated and lost.

The pertinent questions we have to ask ourselves are: “What is True Wealth?” and “What is True Poverty?”

All in all, this documentary is well executed with a good pace and cleverly orchestrated to illustrate the point it wants to bring across. Quotations, music, interviews are all put to good use and there are no irrelevant material used. It is thoroughly absorbing and engaging. While one may seek to differ in opinion from the makers of this documentary, there is no doubting that western education is not the magical solution to end poverty and create a utopia; there are real issues to resolve on its impact on culture, on the environment and morality. I would highly recommend everyone to watch this documentary.
Mon 24 Sep | 7.30pm

[link]

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